But for Chris Burd, 27, of Cottage Grove, Minn., sitting on Santa’s lap – only to find out 13 years later that the man is now your father-in-law – was a bit “creepy.”
“That is 100 percent who he is. If there was a Santa Claus, it would be him,” Burd told ABCNews.com.
Elmer Abbas, who is now Chris’s father-in-law, has been dressing up as Santa Claus for the past two decades. Abbas said he really enjoys getting into the Santa role, playing him at numerous small town functions, with his real, full white beard and oh-so-authentic big, red Santa suit.
“My mom was Courtesy Liz Burdgoing through old photos and said she thinks one of my old Santa pictures was me sitting on my fiancé’s dad’s lap,” Chris told ABCNews.com. “And I just told her she’s nuts. So later in the week I went over to the house and saw it and decided it wasn’t him. But later on, I took a closer look and was like, ‘Oh my God. That’s Liz’s dad.”
Chris and Liz Burd had just gotten engaged last December, right around the same time Chris’s mother, Charlene Burd, was pulling out pictures from past Christmases to use for a holiday scrapbook gift.
“Right after we got engaged, my now-mother-in-law was looking through pictures and at first glance was like, ‘No, that cannot be,'” Liz said. “In the six years we had been together, this picture had never come up. She [Charlene] looked closely and thought, ‘Wow. That looks like Elmer.”
Turns out, it indeed was Elmer, dressed as Santa Claus in 1998 at Maplewood Mall in Maplewood, Minn., the only year he’s ever been a mall Santa.
“That was the first year that I convinced my family that enough kids had told me I looked like Santa so I could get a job at the mall,” Abbas said.
Chris was 13 at the time, and says he only went to the mall to appease his 3-yeCourtesy Liz Burdar-old sister.
“His sister was a little girl. Otherwise he wouldn’t have done it alone,” Liz said. “Even geographically, it’s such a coincidence that he went to that mall. He’s originally from Ohio and had just moved here.”
When Chris saw the picture, he says he was in disbelief.
“It was just really kind of a strange feeling. I have met him so many times, and then just seeing him in the picture, to realize I had met him 13 years before was definitely weird,” said Chris.
The coincidence was too funny not to share with their friends, so the couple decided to display Chris’s 1998 Santa photo on his father-in-law’s lap, alongside Liz’s 1998 Santa photo on her dad’s lap, in a prominent spot at their Sept. 1 wedding.
“It was fun to tease my future son-in-law about sitting in his father-in-law’s lap. And I think I probably made up a couple of stories about what he wanted for Christmas,” Abbas said.
“He says he remembered a little boy asking for a beautiful wife,” Chris joked. “People were amazed how messed up it was. My groomsman said he was so creeped out by it, but thought it was hilarious. He said it was fate. I had no choice but to marry that girl.”