Hopatcong local Candice Smith has written her second book called The Man Behind the Beard that focuses on our local legend Pat Ficcio from Mount Arlington, who has played Santa Claus across New Jersey at nursing homes, children's hospital wards, retirement homes, churches, and schools for over 70 years.
Santa Claus - also known as Pat Ficcio - and Mrs. Claus - his wife Camille live in Mount Arlington and frequent all of the local places like Davy's Hot Dogs, the Windlass, and the Miss Lotta Cruises. It was on one of these “Christmas in July” cruises where author Candice Smith met Pat Ficcio dressed in a Hawaiian Santa shirt leading the Christmas Cheer - after the cruise they innocently exchanged numbers.
Inspired by a call from Santa Claus
Over the next couple of years, Candice would see that someone called Santa had called or tried to Facetime. Pat would also get the same thing, where his phone would indicate that he had received a call from Candice. But the funny thing is that neither one actually called the other person.
It wasn’t until July of 2018 that Candice picked up one of those calls from Santa and found Pat on the other end, who stated “I want to write my life’s history, and I want you to do it.”
In looking back at this, Candice wonders if there was some type of divinity in keeping them connected.
The idea for the new book was a natural for Hopatcong local, Candice Smith, who had already authored the popular Christmas Candi: A Guide to Year-round Holiday Bliss that was just published in 2018.
For the next year, Candice worked interviewing Pat about his life story and experiences playing Santa. “I was amazed by how much passion he had and the amount of information he had to share.”
“During the interview process I found out what Pat’s life was like in the early 20th century. His father was an immigrant coming to the United States, learning the language, going to work. He regularly sent money home to his hometown in Italy to help build a new daycare center.”
Pat Ficcio as Santa Claus has been talking to children for decades, hearing wishes, receiving adoring hugs, and being asked endless questions about the North Pole, the toy-making elves, and Santa’s diet of cookies and milk. As Santa Claus, Pat Ficcio has visited underprivileged people throughout New Jersey and is a regular at nursing homes, children's hospital wards, retirement homes, churches, and schools.
"Santa has been part of my life since high school when I was asked to portray the role of Santa, writing this book has been a lifelong passion to share. I have so much passion and joy for this world; I just want to share it with everybody. I hope you enjoy the book of my journey through life as Santa Claus!” Pat Ficcio.
The Man Behind the Beard – Must Read of the Decade
In The Man Behind the Beard, Candice Smith (author of Christmas Candi: A Guide to Year-round Holiday Bliss) traces Santa Claus from his origins as Saint Nicholas to his life in 21st Century America. She’ll also introduce you to Pat Ficcio, in his own words, the man who has portrayed Santa Claus for over seven decades!
This heart-warming, nostalgic look of Santa Claus, coupled with true stories of Americana through the eyes of Ficcio, reveals a portrait of the ideal Santa Claus never witnessed before.
Treat yourself to a treasure-trove of Santa Claus stories and meet the real-life Santa Claus from New Jersey in The Man Behind the Beard.
But what is it like for Santa Claus? How does he feel looking at the line of children waiting to see him? How does he deal with Herculean requests and doubting Thomases?
For the first time, the information is available exclusively through the book The Man Behind the Beard. The book is available now on Amazon – and don’t forget to say Hello to Santa next time you pass him in town.
This book is dedicated to every child, friend, and family member in my life. If you believe, you will receive the pleasures I have shared making you happy.
- Pat Ficcio
I dedicate this book to all who believe in the Magic of Santa. Those who are Santa’s helpers, those who keep Christmas secrets, and those who still look out the window with expectant eyes on Christmas Eve, you are absolutely correct, Santa Claus exists!
- Candice Smith
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