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On the nice list: Minnesota man is Santa Claus for NYC's rich and famous


In New York Mills, Minnesota, Patrick Kilby is woodworker and casket maker. But when he goes to New York City, he's jolly old St. Nicholas.

He's got the beard, the belly, the glasses and the workshop. He has the looks – and the personality.

“His BS’ometer is pretty full all of the time,” Karen Kilby, his wife, told InForum. “He’s a joker.”

Which makes him a hot commodity during the holiday season.

The 52-year-old plays Santa Claus for the Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

He's also St. Nick at private parties for the rich and famous – including Whoopi Goldberg and the music group the Lumineers, according to his Facebook page.

For the other 10 months out of the year Kilby runs Sugar Creek Woodworking, where he refurbishes furniture, and A Simple Pine Box, where he makes pine boxes for caskets. (Read more about his "other" life on The Really Big Questions.)

So how did this fun-loving casket maker become Whoopi's Santa? Eight years ago he made his debut as Kris Kringle at the Fergus Falls mall and liked the gig, so he hired an agent. He then got a job at a mall in south Florida and was eventually invited to join the Santa elites at Radio City Music Hall, where he's been working for the last five seasons, InForum says.

“When you’re in the red suit, you can get away with anything,” Kilby told InForum. Whether dressed up or not, “wherever I go, I’m Santa. I come back home to be Patrick.”

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Sleigh full of cash

Some Santas bring home a sleigh full of cash during the holidays – they can make $6,000-$10,000 a season in a mall and $100 per hour for appearances at private parties, Robert Mindte, owner of, told CNBC.

Timothy Connaghan, who runs the International School of Santa Claus based in Los Angeles, told the Huffington Post mall Santas can make between $8,000 and $12,000 a season, depending on if he has a real beard. That compares to the $2,300 a retail clerk paid $10 an hour would make if they worked full-time for 40 days, the publication says.

Information on the exact number of Kris Kringles in the U.S. isn't available, but nearly every mall in the country hires at least one jolly man with a bowl full of jelly to take pictures with families and shoppers – Mall of America is one of the malls which hires two Santas every year, according to Market Watch.

Although there's potential for some decent money, it can be a hard job. Time Magazine looked at what it's really like to be Santa, noting beard bleaching is tax deductible, the suit can be hot and sometimes kids break Santa's heart.

HLN has listed some "confessions of a mall Santa" for readers to enjoy.

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