The customers at Books For You on Eighth Street were all snuggled in the stacks recently, when to everyone's wondering eyes should appear ... no, not a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.
Nevertheless they knew in a moment it was St. Nick.
But this Santa wasn't wearing one of those red-and-white outfits.
"These are my dress-up clothes. The red ones are my work clothes," said Elric Winterer, who had just bounded through the door. And yes, Winterer is his real and appropriate last name.
He was dressed in elegant heavy burgundy and gold brocade. The tapestry costume is the epitome of Father Christmas, a 15th century English precursor to Santa.
Elric was not making a paid appearance. He wears this costume every day in December to grocery shop, gas up the car or do other chores.
"I do it because it is fun and I cannot be stopped," says Elric, a retired Florissant techie. "I get a lot of smiles and giggles."
His wife Janet, who calls herself Elric's "elfish" wife, sewed his outfit three years ago as a Christmas present.
She made herself a matching outfit. Each one took about eight hours of labor on her old metal Singer. She got the $75 a yard brocade material for about half-price.
"It was still sort of expensive. He's a Santa-sized guy," she laughs.
Janet only wears her own costume occasionally. She made them for a party, not realizing Elric would recreate himself as Father Christmas each December. They belong to the Society for Creative Anachronism, a worldwide nonprofit history education group that recreates the art and skill of pre-17th century living.
The clubs are called kingdoms. "We are in the Kingdom of Outlands, and the Barony of Dragon Spire," Elric explains. "Most of the people in our group are professionals. It's a hobby that gives us a release from stress."
They both enjoy ancient crafts, such as card weaving, jewelry making and leather work. He made her purse and necklace. She's created for a friend a medieval sewing kit, compete with beeswax and bone needles.
The surprised bookstore patrons were fascinated.
Elric was sitting in a corner when Rebecca Vnasdale came in. "Wow. The artistry is incredible. I didn't think he was real."
"Who me?" Elric said with feigned surprise. "I talk. I walk."
Elric also carries pencil and paper. Kids often run up to tell him what they want for Christmas, and he dutifully writes it down.
Gretchen Godlberg, bookstore owner, said, "I love it. They infuse the atmosphere with the spirit of Christmas."
Contact Carol McGraw: 636-0371.
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