Discover All Things Regional in Central PA’s art and culture scene. Join hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich as they make artistic discoveries throughout the midstate. From music and visual arts to theatre, museums, literature and more! Listen every Wednesday and Friday on witf 89.5 and 93.3 for features highlighting the best and brightest cultural happenings in the region.
Louis Meevers-Scholte and Uriah Schroll
Photo by Joe Ulrich
This time of year you can see red-suited and white-bearded Santas in shopping malls and department stores all across the land. Louis Meevers-Scholte has been donning the jolly red suit every December for 45 years now. At 81 years old, the white beard is his own.
But for him, Santa Claus is not just a role he puts on. It is his aspiration to be what he calls a "real" Santa. And that requires a year-round effort.
Throughout the year he collects food and toys to be able to distribute to needy children and homes. He says he has a whole roomful of toys, and estimates that he gives out about 3,000 gifts over a Christmas season. For him, it's an expresssion of his faith. He always tells the children that it may be Santa who gives them gifts, but it is God who provides the gifts to Santa.
After 45 years, Louis has lots of stories to tell about his life as Santa. For example, there was the little girl who when asked what she wanted for Christmas, told him that her father was very ill, and she wanted him to be well again. Louis told her that this was beyond Santa's ability, but that he would pray with her and ask God to make her father well. A week later, he says, the girl came back to thank him because her father had recovered. Louis told her not to thank Santa, but to join him and together they would thank God.
Louis is also a self-taught muscian, who plays a Hammond synthesizer and improvises his own songs complete with lyrics. He can't read music, and seldom plays his own songs the same way twice.
He has just released an album on which he tells a number of his true Santa stories and plays some of his orginal music. It's called 45 Years of My Life as Santa, and is available at CDBaby and other digital outlets.
The album is on a local label called So=Pi, which is a one-man operation run by Uriah Schroll. According to Schroll, his goal is to work with artists to bring out something genuine in their art without regard to popularity or sales. He has been recording Louis's music for ten years now, and the Christmas album is just the latest.
Louis Meevers-Scholte has had a remarkable life. He was a child during World War II in Nazi-occupied Holland, and tells of the deep privations he suffered. He speaks of how his father, a Jewish member of the underground resitance, was tortured and killed before his eyes when he was ten years old. He relates a series of remarkable adventures through which he made his way to America as a child, and eventually brought over his Christian mother.
Louis had embraced the Christian faith of his mother, but was filled with deep bitterness for all Germans. When he moved to Pennsylvania he found that his neighbors were German -- Amish, in fact. Louis lived among them, worked with them and became friends with them. He credits this friendship with the Amish with helping him overcome his bitter hatred for Germans.
Those stories of his life are not on his album. But they are an unspoken part of his wish to become a "real" Santa and share his faith with children who need hope.
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