Santa legacy lives on as Ottawa man takes up mantle

Ottawa's Michael Morin, a lifelong public servant, is nearing retirement — but a new job is just beginning.

Famous red suit first belonged to Jimmy Lomax, who spent decades playing Santa for charity

Michael Morin, who is portraying Santa Claus for the first time this year, poses in his vintage Santa suit. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)

Ottawa's Michael Morin, a lifelong public servant, is nearing retirement — but his new role is just beginning. 

Some say he's made for it.

Morin, featured in a CBC Radio documentary on The Current, will slip into a vintage Santa suit this year, completing the look with shiny black boots and his own — very real — long, white beard.

It's Morin's first holiday season being Santa, and he's preparing to spread his love of Christmas to everyone he meets. 

He's got big boots to fill, in more ways than one. The outfit first belonged to Jimmy Lomax, Hamilton's legendary Santa, who was admitted to the Order of Canada for his decades of work with Operation Santa Claus, a charity Lomax ran with his wife.
Larry Lantz as Santa. Lantz died in 2013 and passed the suit on to Michael Morin. (Supplied)

When Lomax retired he passed the role on to Larry Lantz, who wore the suit until his death in 2013. Lantz co-founded the charity Santa Canada, which sought to help terminally ill children celebrate Christmas one last time, no matter the time of year.

Morin first met Lantz during a social gathering in the summer of 2013, Lantz's husband Myke Hutchings said. 

"Larry was very quiet that night," he said. "Michael tends to be a very quiet individual too, so they just sort of gravitated towards each other."

As Lantz fought pancreatic cancer, Hutchings asked him what he'd like to do with all the Santa paraphernalia. 

"One of the last things he said is, 'I want you to keep the Jimmy Lomax suit and give it to Michael Morin when he's ready,'" Hutchings said. 

And now, Morin is ready.

"I knew the suit belonged to Larry, but when I found out where it originally came from, I was really humbled by the whole thing, to think that I'm following in the footsteps of these great Santas, these great people," he said. "I do feel like I'm part of their legacy."

Getting ready to be Santa took about two hours the first time, Morin said. He uses theatrical hair paint to whiten his beard, and makeup to make his cheeks rosy. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
Morin is carrying on the tradition of Larry Lantz and Jimmy Lomax, who dressed as Santa wearing the same vintage suit and brought Christmas to children in hospitals and disadvantaged communities. 'I do feel like I’m part of their legacy,' Morin said. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
Michael Morin gets ready for a charitable visit as Santa Claus. 'My own memories of Christmas are so amazing,' he said. 'Any occasion is a great occasion to bring the Christmas spirit.' (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
Even before inheriting the Santa suit from Larry Lantz, Morin had this pair of shiny black boots. He added the furry tops to make them more authentic, he said. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
Morin shows the belt he wears as part of the suit. He figure the entire outfit is about 45 years old. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
'[The suit] is really stunning,' Morin said. 'It’s made of wool, lined with satin, trimmed in sheep skin.' (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
Michael Morin as a child during a visit to Santa Claus in the early 70s. 'I have really amazing memories of Christmas because of my dad,' Morin said. 'He would actually go on the roof and make sleigh tracks and reindeer footprints, and stomp around.' (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
Morin's Santa costume includes a set of genuine sleigh bells. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
Michael Morin is portraying Santa Claus for the first time this year, wearing the same suit worn by Jimmy Lomax, who spent decades being Santa for charity in Hamilton, Ont. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)