Start the Holiday Season With the Spirit of Santa

Start the Holiday Season With the Spirit of Santa

Is Santa real? According to one Shenandoah University professor, the answer is an emphatic, “Yes.” This holiday season, Assistant Professor of Theater and Director of Shenandoah Conservatory’s Acting Program J.J. Ruscella, MFA, releases the novel “Kris: The Legend Begins,” the untold origination story of the man the world calls “Santa.”

Christmas holds a special place in Ruscella’s heart, and through his experiences playing Santa at numerous events he encounters many adults who still respond to the story of Old St. Nick.

“I realized there’s a story to be told for the adult who yearns for Santa to be a hero to them. And so, I started looking for that story, and it hit me in 2001,” said Ruscella.

It has been a labor of love for Ruscella, who is overjoyed that the novel has been released for the 2012 holiday season. However, this book is only the tip of the iceberg for Ruscella and his penchant for Christmas. There’s also a children’s book in the works, and the novel is actually based on a screenplay that has already been created.

A quick visit to will show just how committed Ruscella is to spreading the spirit of the season. Here you’ll find 25 videos featuring Santa (played by Ruscella) that are organized into an Advent calendar. The videos were directed in part by Ruscella and in part by David Nixon, producer of “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof” and “Letters to God.”

“The idea is to tell everyone to remember that during the holiday season, don’t let the hustle and bustle distract you from the real spirit of Christmas,” said Ruscella. “Our hope was to create heartwarming depth and significance to the season. The message from the stories is ‘Be the Santa In You’ – the idea that no one person can truly do this alone.”

Each day, individuals can open a new message from Santa. Videos range in topic from the names of the reindeer and where the name “Santa” originated, to more serious topics such as the true meaning of gift-giving and how to handle a bully.

“I have a particular heartstring for Christmas. I believe in the general goodness of humanity and I believe Christmas has the ability to draw that out of people,” said Ruscella. “It’s my hope that the Advent calendar will become a tradition for families, and that they’ll come back every year to view the videos.”

Ruscella will sign copies of his book on Saturday, Dec. 8, from 2-5 p.m. at Books-A-Million on South Pleasant Valley Road in Winchester and on Sunday, Dec., 9, from 1-3 p.m. at the Winchester Book Gallery on the corner of Piccadilly Street and Loudoun Street.