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Local resident “hooked” on portraying Santa year-round

Teresa Mejia and Hannah Schuman, Staff Writers

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Santa Claus comes once each Christmas, but Manteo resident, Le Hook, spreads holiday cheer everywhere he goes all year long.

Hook, who is frequently referred to as Santa Claus, has been suiting up for 15 years. He started his career as Santa when he lived in Montgomery, Alabama. A friend asked Hook to dress up as Santa for a winter concert. After the concert, a NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] nurse approached him to ask if he would take pictures with the children as they were going to be in the hospital over the holidays. It didn’t take long for Hook to realize he was in for something special.

His stint at the hospital began his journey as Santa Claus, and he now fondly refers to it as the “best job in the world.”

“As Santa you are surrounded by love from almost everybody and you get to spread happiness to all these children,” Hook said.

When Hook first began acting as Santa Claus, he did not maintain his prominent beard. Instead he would only grow out his beard during the months of November and December.

“It [my beard] wouldn’t get long enough so I started letting it grow longer, the length it is now is about a year and a half of growth and I keep it trimmed to this length [mid-chest] so I can cross my arm without getting tangled in it,” Hook said.

Hook moved to the Outer Banks in 1978, but it wasn’t until 2002 that he began  portraying Santa Claus here. The first few events Hook did here were for Toys for Tots and  at the Christmas Shop.

For Hook, bringing joy to children in the community continues past the holiday season.

“Since I [always] look like Santa [because of my white hair and beard] when I see little children during the year and I can tell they recognize me as Santa, I carry stickers with me that say ‘You have met Santa’ to give out,’” Hook said.

Young children often see Hook and stop in awe because of his uncanny resemblance to Santa Claus.

“Last week I was checking out at Food Lion and one aisle over this little girl, about 6, turned and saw me and froze in place with eyes as big as saucers!” Hook said. “I couldn’t leave her like that so I went over and patted her on the head and asked her if she was being good because I was always watching.”

The young girl received a sticker from Hook before he returned to his place in line. Because of situations like this, he always has a sticker handy. He says he typically gives out 300-400 stickers a year.

“As I said before that I carry Santa stickers with me at all times and I am constantly on the lookout for children who have the look of recognition,” Hook said.

The first Santa suit Hook ever bought was from Target. He purchased it one year on Dec. 26 for half off. As of today, he owns eight Santa suits and does events throughout the holiday season. This season he is booked for 35 appearances. His season began at Belk on Nov. 11. Other events include, appearances at Blue Water Grill, The Christmas Shop and the Manteo town of Manteo’s annual Christmas tree lighting and parade.

“The parade is my favorite [event] because the whole community is there, not just children,” he said.

Having the ability to provide joy for children and their family has been the motivation for Hook to continue his pursuit as Santa. From giving children stickers when they recognize him in the street, to taking pictures with them for the holidays. Le Hook has prioritized the happiness of others which in the end has influenced his own happiness.

”So you see as long as I look like Santa, I feel I need to embody his spirit whenever children recognize me! I can do no less,” Hook said.

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Local resident “hooked” on portraying Santa year-round