The answer is always, “yes.”

My wife, Jill, much to her dismay, can attest to the fact that her husband is one of the biggest Grinch-like, bah humbug, anti “warm-and-fuzzy Christmas feelings” guys around.

I cringe when I hear Christmas songs in stores. “All I want for Christmas is You” – I’m not buying what you’re selling in this case, Mariah.

“The Christmas Story” marathon? I think I’d rather stick my tongue to a frozen pole or eat a dinner ruined by the Bumpus’ hounds.

Christmas cookies, well, maybe I won’t turn my nose up at any holiday-related treats.

Despite my devotion to getting through the holiday season as quickly as possible, when questions inevitably arise about my iconic last name, I can’t help but smile.

Yes, I love my last name. Having a surname associated with the North Pole’s most famous resident has been fun as long as I can remember.

It was always exciting to know The Landscape Center by Evanovich, when the business was located on South Park Road across from South Park Shops, would put “Mrs. Santa bought her tree here” on their marquee after my mom, brother and I stopped in for our yearly holiday patronage.

Seeing kids I meet around this time of year, or ones that my wife teaches – she’s now a reading specialist at Bower Hill Elementary School in Peters Township – get excited by my last name is always a treat as well.

I’m always asked in those instances if Santa is real and if I know him. Let me put those answers in print, yes, and for those believers out there, I’ll be sure to get you on the nice list.

Having my last name can also be frustrating.

Try ordering a pizza around this time of year with the name of Santa. Several times a year around the holidays, members of my family get left with an empty stomach from hang-ups or pizzas that never get delivered.

To the restaurants of the South Hills, it’s not a prank. There are genuinely Santas living among you, and it’s time for you to take a lesson from the many children who enjoy my last name this time of year much more than I do – just believe.

And if this issue of South Hills Living is any indication, there are plenty of residents around the area who believe in spreading the holiday spirit.

Profiled in Harry Funk’s cover story are the extraordinary efforts of Joe and Beth Hancsak of South Park to portray Santa Claus and Gertrude. The amount of holiday spirit the couple spreads each year is unquestionably inspiring.

For those looking for a different type of holiday dinner, Brad Hundt looks at several of the South Hills’ Chinese restaurants who put their own spin on meals during the yuletide season. For many who don’t celebrate Christmas or are merely looking for good Chinese food on Dec. 25, these establishments have long provided mouth-watering gifts for the taste buds.

This issue of South Hills Living also provides plenty of options for those looking to supplement Santa’s gift offerings left under the tree this year.

Francesca Sacco profiles many of the gift options from local businesses, while my fellow editor, Trista Thurston, examines many of the best gift ideas to leave pets’ tails wagging this holiday season.

As always, Trista and I welcome your story ideas, suggestions and feedback year-round. We can be easily reached at 724-222-2200 or by email at jsanta@observer-reporter.com or tthurston@observer-reporter.com.

Thank you for reading and happy holidays.

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