BRONZEVILLE — Fans of Dreezy Claus can now get a handmade collectible ornament of Chicago’s most famous Black Santa.
The limited-edition ornament is available to buy on the Dreezy Claus website. The 4-inch collectible is $40, not including shipping and handling.
Dreezy, a.k.a. South Side native Andre Russell, said the idea for the ornament came a few years ago when he was on the site of local artist and friend Khleo Morris. When he asked Morris if she could make an ornament of Dreezy Claus, she was more than happy to help, Russell said.
It takes Morris about a week to make each Dreezy Claus ornament, using wood, yarn and cloth. Russell has sold 20 mini Dreezy Clauses so far, he said.
“It’s really cool because it’s supporting Black business, as well. I didn’t see a lot of cool, cultural stuff that wasn’t ‘cookie cutter.’ I wanted something unique. I didn’t have Black ornaments growing up. My grandparents were traditional, so it was regular ornaments and tinsel,” Russell said.
The past few years have been quite a ride for Russell, whose holiday alter ego has become a local celebrity. He’s made the morning talk show rounds and was the first Black Santa to light the city’s Christmas tree in 2021. His coloring book is a hit with old and new fans alike.
Knowing that an ornament in his likeness will be on Christmas trees this season means a lot to Russell, who has enjoyed watching the families he’s worked with grow.
For some, he’s the only Santa they know.
“One family in particular, I do a family photo shoot every year. I was with her and her family. The young man was 2 years old [when we started]. Now he’s like 5, and there’s a little brother. Now there’s a picture of me with them before the baby, when the mom was pregnant, and then with the baby after. It’s really cool,” Russell said.
While some tots are skeptical when they first meet Russell as Black Santa, he wins them over, he said.
Russell recalled one toddler sizing him up at their first breakfast meeting, then inviting him to a game of building blocks the following year — and beating him. He’s looking forward to this year’s rematch, Russell said.
Russell has also expanded the Black Santaverse this season, hiring a Claus-in-command to make appearances (like the Highlander, there can only be one Dreezy Claus).
With Dreezy Claus in such high demand every holiday season, Russell said he needed help spreading holiday cheer. Having a second sepia-toned Santa has also allowed Russell to heal after his recent foot surgery, he said.
“He may have two or three assignments in December, depending on what’s going on,” said Russell. “I had a few people that I was looking at, but he was the one that was consistent and trying to get back with me.
“This isn’t something where you can throw just anybody in there. They’ve gotta be good with the kids and with the families. They’ve got to have a good presence and that [Black Santa] look.”
With their schedules being concurrent, Russell said he won’t be able to see his new sidekick in action, but he hopes to get feedback from families who spend time with him this season.
Russell said he’s also kicking around the idea of turning Dreezy Claus into a family man with a Mrs. Dreezy.
For now, the Black Kris Kringle is gearing up for another busy holiday season. He will be at My Block, My Hood, My City’s Be The Light event Dec. 2 and at Pookie Crack Cakes Dec. 17.
Russell is also looking forward to the annual Christmas Day toy giveaway hosted by Mothers Against Senseless Killings, where he will lead a caravan of volunteer elves through the South and West sides to deliver gifts.
While Russell is “80 percent booked” through the end of the year, he’s still open to making a few extra appearances if folks are in need of cheer.
“Never hurts to ask. If I have the time, I’ll do it,” Russell said.
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