The Santa Claus at the Carson Mall said he has heard some "heartbreaking" requests from children this year that are uncommon in his 35-plus years of listening to Christmas wish lists.
Mr. Kringle (he declined to give his, um, secret identity for this story) said that out of the dozens of children he has seen this season, most have requested the usual list of toys and games, but others tell a different story.
"So a lot of these kids, they just want their mommy and daddy to get back together," he said. "And some would like a new bed, a blanket for the bed or something like that.
"Other ones are more common, they want toys like Batman or Nintendo."
"But most of them are family oriented," Santa said. "Usually it's all for Christmas toys, but this year when they get into these family things, there's something wrong in Carson. You don't get that. Not from kids."
As they sit on his lap, St. Nick said he asks children why they request items such as a new bed.
"I ask them where they sleep," he said. "Some say they sleep on the floor or they say they sleep with their mommy."
While he said he had no way of telling the cause for the increase in the heartwrenching requests, whether they stem from a troubled economy or not, he added it is important to have a sense of humor and a smile.
"The majority are looking for toys," the man in the red suit said. "But it's that 1 percent that gets you. Those are the killers when you hear their little stories."
Newspapers around the country have reported similar trends this Christmas given the effects of high unemployment nationwide.
In Tennessee, they're hearing more requests for food and coats, such as a 5-year-old boy who asked one Santa for a stick to make his own guitar, The Tennessean reported this week.
The economy prompted the Los Angeles-based Kringle Group, a professional organization for Santas, to e-mail its 1,900 members on how to deal with children who talk about financial problems at home.
"I know it's hard, but we have to make the child feel good," said Tim Connaghan, the Kringle Group's president. "Number one, Santas have to acknowledge the children when they are saying they need a coat or if they say they are not getting toys. You have to sympathize with them. And we have to do all that in about a minute."
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.