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Posted on Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive at Briarwood Mall

By Lisa Carolin


Emmy and Maris Rhizal of Ann Arbor visit Santa and Mrs. Claus at Briarwood Mall.

Lisa Carolin for

Santa and Mrs. Claus are wasting no time this year. They assembled a North Pole outpost at Briarwood Mall on Friday to get a jump start on Christmas.

"We need to make sure we have time to see everyone," said Santa Claus, who has visited Briarwood Mall for the last three years. "I love Ann Arbor, especially when the kids from the (University of Michigan) hospital come to see me."

Families were trickling in to see Santa this morning, and some said they didn't expect him this early.

"We were very surprised to see all the Christmas decorations here," said Tom Hill, who was visiting from Florida. He was with his 18-month-old granddaughter, Kaitlyn Edwards, from Ypsilanti, who saw Santa and seemed to take it in stride.

"She's a little wary of Santa but likes the animals and the setup they have," said Kaitlyn's mom, Kimberly Edwards.

The Rhizal family from Ann Arbor just happened to be shopping at the mall when 7-year-old Emmy and 4-year-old Maris spotted Santa.

"We just read 'A Christmas Carol' and watched 'Miracle on 34th Street,'" said their mom, Deb Rhizal.

"I asked Santa for a $40 dollar gift card for a horse ride," said Emmy Rhizal. "Maris told him she hasn't decided yet what she wants.''


18-month-old Kaitlyn Edwards of Ypsilanti meets Santa Claus for the first time.

Lisa Carolin for

Leela Aiyagari, a 5-year-old from Ann Arbo,r was at the mall with her dad and little brother when they unexpectedly encountered Santa.

"I asked for a hula lessons outfit for me and an Elmo Rock Star for my brother," she said.

Twins Amelia and Emma Paxton, 5-year-olds from Manchester, were at the mall for haircuts when they spotted Santa and put in requests for a journal and a doll for Amelia, and a bell and a toy car for Emma.

Sisters Sophia and Julia Satarino from Milan asked Santa for Barbies and Zoobles. Their 10-year-old cousin, Paige Funchioni, asked for the number one request Santa has received so far: a Nintendo 3DS.

For younger children who found Santa a little overwhelming, Mrs. Claus was there to help put them at ease.

"I'm not quite as intimidating as Santa so I can walk up to children and not scare them," said Mrs. Claus. "The children are so much fun and the teenagers are a blast, too. I tell them they're not too old to visit with Santa."

Santa and Mrs. Claus said they have been together for more than 30 years. Their secret: "We want to be together the rest of our lives, so we ignore the little stuff," explained Santa.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at Briarwood Mall through Dec. 24 and invite families to join them for breakfast on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 8:30-9:30 a.m. The cost is $6 and supports The Family Hope Fund at the U-M C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.



Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:03 a.m.

Santa is suppose to be in the center of the court mall, not off to one side near Von Maur. I was appalled and so was my child, now a teen, who still believes but loves watching the little ones really get into it. This is the only upsetting thing to me is putting Santa in the corner. No one puts Santa in a corner. Come on Biarwood, get with it and put him where he really belongs. Center stage.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

Reminds me of a funny ONION piece on an "off -season santa" enterprise...

Tom Joad

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:13 p.m.

I have a rather stringent demarcation point for all holidays, Christmas season begins day after Thanksgiving and runs until Midnight Dec 25, thank you very much


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

Since this is Ann Arbor, home of "progressive people" doesn't this offend the NON-Christian world that you worry so much about? You get upset when they want to put an American flag in every class room but this is OK? There seems to be a disconnect.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

Reality check. Contemporary Santa & Mrs. Claus are about gifts & shopping and not associated with any religion although Christians like to claim this activity as their "perk" (akin to Easter Bunny & Easter). Sure it culminates with the exchange that happens to take place on Christmas day but were it not for tradition the retailers would probably like to move that date up as well so participants have more of a sense of urgency about shopping. Choose your poison.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 5:27 a.m.

I have to say, though, those little girls look very sweet and happy on Santa's lap. The photog caught a very nice moment there. I hope the parents got a copy of that one because it's a keeper.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 5:23 a.m.

Egads, this reeks of the tacky commercialism of everything that's um, holy, as it were. Christmas is not about the shopping! And for children, for whom it is somewhat or maybe mostly about Santa and what he brings, now they have to wait for another month and a half or so before he actually comes? Don't fall for it, people! Boycott the mall.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 3 p.m.

Nordstroms is a bit out of the way but they've stated they will not change to the holiday marketing until the day after Thanksgiving as tradition dictates. Support them online & in person.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 1:12 p.m.

Gotta agree. It has always been hard enough with bombardment of commercials for toys that last about a week. Now it starts in Oct with 3 months of I want that.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 3:19 a.m.

Oh, what the heck, @jcj. Let the kids have their materialistic, delusional fun.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 3:24 a.m.

I don't begrudge the kids their fun. But the parents that start exploiting Christmas earlier every year drive me nuts. Like the ones that are too lazy to take their Christmas lights down, but instead leave them up all year. Talk about tacky!


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 11:42 p.m.

Um, I just wanted to note that Santa and Mrs Claus should have been together for more than 30 years (like hundreds) seeing as Santa is as old as time. Gees


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 11:35 p.m.

Whatever happened to arriving the day after Thanksgiving? Pretty soon we'll be seeing Santa and the Mrs. at the Fourth of July Parades.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 10:10 p.m.

Call me scrooge if you will. But this is ridiculous! The reason they start earlier and earlier has NOTHING to do with Christmas! It has EVERYTHING to do with sales. I am sick of hearing frosty the snowman before Thanksgiving.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:06 a.m.

As for sales? I am now hearing a lot of stores are opening up at midnite and Briarwood is in on this one as well. Guess we are now calling it black midnite?


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 12:17 a.m.

Garbage! Its all about the sales they hope to generate by having people in the mall earlier. Lets have the Easter bunny show up in Feb!


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 11:14 p.m.



Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 11:14 p.m.

You're right, that is pretty scrooge-like. As stated in the article, they want to make sure they have time for everyone. They have limited hours that they are there, and I've witnessed long lines wrapping and wrapping around of families waiting to see Santa. If you don't like it great, you dont have to go. If you don't like Christmas music then great, don't turn your radio to those stations. And even if the store at briarwood have carols on its not like they are blaring through the speakers so loud you can ignore them. I've always found them to be a nice volume for background music.

Linda Peck

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

What a great story! Thanks for publishing it! Happy Holidays everyone!