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The Man Behind the Beard

In “The Man Behind the Beard,” Pasquale (Pat) Ficcio tells of his life growing up in Newark, New Jersey. Pat deserves the title of Santa Claus, or at the very least, Santa’s Dedicated Helper. He has been dressing up as the jolly old man since he was a very young man. 2019 marks the 69th year that Mr. Ficcio has delighted and entertained children and adults alike as Santa Claus.

The “Man Behind the Beard” is truly a heart-warming and nostalgic look of Santa Claus. With Pat’s stories of his experiences playing Santa through the decades, it becomes clear that the joy experienced by children never changes. Playing one of the world’s most beloved figures of all time has been a privilege for Mr. Ficcio that will never be duplicated!

The book begins with the story of St. Nicholas and the story of Santa Claus through the centuries. Pat then tells his story and how it all began. It was in 1948 that 17-year old Pasquale first donned the traditional garb of the beloved Christmas figure. The occasion was a Christmas play at Saint Michael’s High School in Newark, New Jersey. As Pasquale tells it, “Everyone else was playing elves and since I was the chubby one, I volunteered to be Santa.”

Since then, Mr. Ficcio has only missed two appearances as Santa during the last 67 years. In 1951 and 1952, while stationed in Germany, the red suit and beard clashed with his military uniform, but since then, the spry 88-year old has given and received great joy during each Christmas season. Pat appears in various locations in New Jersey and for the past two decades, Santa has been joined on his visits by Mrs. Claus, his wife Camille. The two met through a friend after Pat’s first wife Clair passed away. Camille, whose maiden name is Averna, also grew up in Newark. Less than eight months after the couple wed, Camille made her first appearance as Mrs. Claus and for the past 20 years, the couple has prepared together each year for the visits.

Pasquale has had thousands of children recite their Christmas wish lists to him over the years. Some of the most common requests in recent times have for video games and Legos, but when a child is nervous, they often simply ask for whatever Santa has on the sleigh. Whenever that happens, he tells the children that Santa will have a surprise for them on Christmas morning.

In addition to stories and trivia about Santa from around the world, there are some favorite recipes from Santa and Mrs. Claus, most of which have been gathered from the Italian Santa, ‘Babbo Natale.’ This is a book that every household should have, for it will bring the generations of families together reliving their own Christmas memories rekindled through the words and stories in “The Man Behind the Beard.”

Pat and Camille as Santa and Mrs. Claus will be making four New Jersey appearances this Christmas Season. On Wednesday, December 4th, they will be at Davy’s Hot Dogs on Howard Blvd in Mount Arlington followed on Saturday, December 7th at the Ridgeview at Mt. Arlington Community on Ridgeview Lane in Mount Arlington. On December 15th and 22nd Pat and Camille will be at the Windlass Restaurant, 45 Nolan’s Point Park Road in Lake Hopatcong.

About the Author

Pasquale Ficcio’s book about his life and experience playing Santa Claus is co-authored with Candice Smith. Pat’s father Carmine was born in Calabritto, in the Province of Avellino, Campania, Italy. His mother, the former Teresa Sierchio, was a first generation Italian American. Pat was the President of the Holy Name Society of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newark and is a Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus. He was married to his high school sweetheart for 42 years, spending 30 of them in Chatham, New Jersey. He is the father of a son Tom Ficcio. In 1999 he married his second wife, Camille.

Candice Smith is the author of the popular “Christmas Candi: A Guide to Year-round Holiday Bliss” and has written thousands of articles, many of which involve motorsports. She is a former history and social studies teacher. Candice and her husband Ryan are the parents of three children.

“The Man Behind the Beard” is published by Softpress Publishing and is available through Amazon.