Becoming Santa: Ottawa man carries on legacy of vintage red suit
'I'm following in the footsteps of these great Santas,' says Michael Morin
Originally published on Dec. 22, 2017.
"It's almost like a magical coat."
That's how one of Ottawa's newest Santas describes the red vintage suit he inherited.
"I think the spirit of giving is just embedded in the fibres of the suit."
Meet Michael Morin, a lifelong public servant nearing retirement — and beginning a new role.
This holiday season marks Morin's first outing as Santa, donning that vintage suit, completing the look with shiny black boots and his own — very real — long, white beard.
Two Santas: From Jimmy Lomax to Larry Lantz
He's got big boots to fill, in more ways than one. The outfit first belonged to Jimmy Lomax, Hamilton's best-known Santa, who was named to the Order of Canada for his decades-long work on Operation Santa Claus, a charity Lomax ran with his wife.
Lomax wore the suit for the last time in 2009 and died two years later.
When Lomax retired, the suit was passed on to Larry Lantz, who wore it until his death in 2013. Lantz co-founded a charity called Santa Canada, which helped terminally-ill children celebrate Christmas — year-round.
Morin first met Lantz at a party in the summer of 2013, according to Lantz's husband, Myke Hutchings.
"Larry was very quiet that night, and Michael tends to be a very quiet, very private individual too," said Hutchings.
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.'- Myke Hutchings
"So they just sort of gravitated towards each other. I had a household filled with people, a household filled with big brash personalities, and Michael and Larry just sort of connected that night."
'He basically chose me'
As Lantz fought pancreatic cancer, Hutchings asked about his 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.'"
As soon as I put it [Santa suit] on, I I feel their spirit.- Michael Morin
Morin says he found out about the suit about two years after Lantz died.
"Based on the little conversation we had on that front porch, he basically chose me."
And now, Morin is ready.
"As soon as I put it [Santa suit] on, I I feel their spirit, their energy with me, and I believe that helps propel me into this. I feel them with me."
For Morin, becoming Santa makes Christmas even more special.
"I knew the suit belonged to Larry, but when I found out where it originally came from, I got really humbled by the whole thing, and to think that I'm following in the footsteps of these great Santas, these great people," he said.
"Yes, I do feel that I'm part of their legacy."
Photos: Morin's 'Santafication'
The documentary Becoming Santa was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson with help from documentary editor Liz Hoath.