French Quarter's "Secret Santa" spreads joy to hundreds

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wwltv.com

Posted on December 25, 2011 at 8:33 PM

Updated Sunday, Dec 25 at 8:42 PM

Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS - While many are spending Christmas with their families, one man spent the day spreading joy to complete strangers.

It's a sight in the French Quarter that may make you do a double take. Four men dressed as reindeer, driving pedicabs, led the way Sunday for a very special passenger: Kris Kringle.

For the last four years, Santa has made his final stop in the French Quarter.

The man, who refers to himself only as Kris Kringle, carries bags filled with nearly one thousand gifts. He gives one to every child he sees in the French Quarter on Christmas day.

 "I felt like 'Oh my God, he's so cool, he's actually real!'" said Genesis Munoz, an 11-year-old from New York who received a gift outside Jackson Square.

"We never expected to get a gift from Santa, so it's exciting," laughed Roopa Byrichetty, whose young son received a gift. The family was visiting from Houston.

"There are families that take pictures of me, they want to give me money," said Kringle. "I don't take money. This is out of the kindness of my heart, and it does bring tears to my eyes at the end of the day when I go back to my home."

Kringle said the presents were either given by anonymous donors or purchased with his own money.

"Every boy and girl needs to start believing that there is really Santa," said Kringle. "I mean kids pull on my beard, it does not come off. They can pull on my hair, it does not come off."

But behind Kringle's beard and red suit is a darker reality.

"I ran into a health problem about four years ago. I was diagnosed with lung cancer," said Kringle.

Now in remission, the French Quarter's Secret Santa said spreading joy on Christmas is what keeps him going.

"Everybody has a purpose, and this has been my purpose for the last four years now. This has been my wake up, and this is what I do and I'm going to keep doing it until there is no more."

And that's why Kringle gives those who spend Christmas away from home that much more reason to believe.

With help from anonymous donors, Kris Kringle also gives gifts to children in hospitals throughout Louisiana and Texas.

He hopes to have a bigger celebration next year complete with a Santa's Village, a sleigh, and reindeer.

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