Vermont family featured in HBO’s ‘Santa Camp’

Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 5:03 PM EST
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - A new documentary debuts Thursday on HBO Max called “Santa Camp,” and it features a central Vermont mom and son.

Thursday, the world will meet the next generation of professional Santas. The “Santa Camp” documentary explores the training that happens during the summer in the woods of New Hampshire to teach Santas and Mrs. Clauses how to bring holiday cheer.

But even the New England Santa Society admits, the image of old St. Nick is getting a bit dated itself. But a Vermont Santa hopes to help change that. Meet Santa Fin Ciappara, a Santa with spina bifida. His mom, Suki, says filming was done in their Barre home and they were also invited to Santa Camp.

But the documentary also explores the challenges facing other Santas, including a Black Santa and a trans Santa, while trying to bring diversity to the holiday tradition. It also captures the backlash they sometimes face from people who didn’t want to see a version of St. Nick that isn’t an able-bodied, older, bearded white man in a red suit.

Fin uses his iPad, gestures, and his voice to communicate. It’s something that Suki says can be a challenge, except when he has the big red suit on. “Santa Fin is maybe the only Santa with disabilities in the country. We hope to change that after the movie comes out,” she said.

“I was happy and excited to see myself in the movie,” added Fin.

Both of them say they hope their story inspires others to open their minds to the possibility that Santa can be anyone. “Be nice to people who are different,” FIn said. “Believe in your dream and don’t give up.”

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: As a Mom Suki, what does it mean to you to see your son chase his dream like that?

Suki Ciappara: He was pretty persistent and it’s been pretty amazing how all this has transpired. And it’s really really because he did not give up on his dreams. and just as his mom, I felt like it became mine, too.

If you want to meet Santa Fin, he has a few appearances coming up:

Dec. 3 -- CVFUN Holiday dance at Bethany Church.

Dec. 9 -- He’ll arrive in a sleigh! a the Savoy Theater in Montpelier for the local premiere.

Dec. 16 & 17 -- Berlin Mall.

Dec. 22 -- Woodridge Nursing Home in Berlin.