When Red Rose’s parish, St. Thomas More, asked him to play St. Nicholas eight years ago, he didn’t have to think twice because he had been playing Santa since he was 10. Rose’s real name is Francis but he earned the nickname “Red” when he was young because of his red hair. He donned his first Santa costume at age 10 to help his godfather hand out candy canes in front of his elaborately decorated home. Since then, Rose has played Santa regularly for parties and family events. On Dec. 1, Rose put on traditional vestments with the help of associate pastor Father Matt Compton, added the beard, miter and crosier and headed out to greet children and families at the parish’s annual pancake breakfast. “He’s just a really, really nice guy,” Altar Guild member Debbie Ksycki said of Rose. “We were in a pinch quite a few years ago and we asked Red [to be St. Nicholas] and he said, ‘Oh sure!’ He’s very personable. He’s very friendly. He’s genuinely a really good guy that we really think the world of.” Ksycki said they couldn’t do the event without him now because he’s the “cornerstone of the thing.” Rose poses for photos with children during the free event, which the Altar Guild has held annually for over 40 years. They ask for free-will offerings and hold a toy raffle with all of the proceeds benefiting the Women’s Center. Rose doesn’t just greet the children. He walks around and meets everyone at the breakfast, young and old. Playing St. Nicholas is a joyful thing for Rose, who grew up in the parish, attended school there and was an altar server. He continues to be an altar server and sacristan today. “I ask the children if they’ve been going to church and if they’ve been praying to God. I ask the children if they’ve been good all year round,” Rose said. “I wish Catholic parents would talk to their children more about St. Nicholas around Christmas, not just Santa Claus, who is a fictional character. And making Christmas more about the birth of Christ.” The real St. Nicholas lived in the fourth century and was bishop of Myra in Asia Minor. Legend has it that he provided dowries for the three daughters of a poor man so they could avoid prostitution. Over the centuries, families started giving gifts on his feast day, Dec. 6. Devotion to St. Nicholas evolved into Santa Claus, who is the popular figure bringing gifts to the world’s children on Christmas Eve.