Brianna Stark, 7, wrapped her arms around Santa's jolly belly last week, leaving no doubt to those who watched that the best gifts come packaged as a hug.
Even when it's for a large man dressed all in red and visiting from a faraway place called the North Pole.
But the students are used to Santa's visit, as he drops in each year at Seeliger and Fremont elementary schools. He comes with a group of volunteers from Telephone Pioneers, a collection of employees and retirees from the telephone company. They also bring cookies.
"The (students are) always excited for Santa's visit," said special-education teacher Ellen Boyd. "From the minute they start seeing all the decorations and singing Santa songs, they get in the mood."
And Santa always comes with his sack full of gifts.
Brianna, who climbed up into Santa's lap to tell him what she wanted, received a stuffed pink dog that matched her pink pants and top.
"I got a doggie," she said.
Jasmine Clayton, 9, also got a fuzzy stuffed dog, which was soft like the texture of her own play clothes. When asked what was the best thing about Christmas, Jasmine, munching on treats, said: "Eating cookies."
Other students received stuffed animals like tigers and bears - given to Santa by the Telephone Volunteers to help with the high toy demand.
Tyler Roberts, 10, said he thinks the best thing about Christmas is the presents. When asked what he wanted, he immediately said: "iPod."
Students visiting with Santa came from two classes at Seeliger: kindergartners through second-graders from Boyd's class and third- and fourth-graders from Charlene Summers' class. Older special-needs students are in a class at Fremont, which Santa and the Pioneer Volunteers visited later.
"It's funny when Santa arrives," said Boyd. "It's so chaotic, but if you concentrate on just one (student's) face, it's like they light up with 'It's real.'"
After students received their gifts from Santa, they munched on green-sprinkled Christmas tree cookies and yellow sprinkled stars.
They also receive one other visit each year from a second holiday figure the Telephone Volunteers scare up - the Easter Bunny.
"These (Telephone Pioneers volunteers) come here twice a year," Boyd said. "They bring everything. I, as a teacher, don't have to worry about anything. They bring everything - Santa, the cookies, the snacks, and clean up afterward and just leave us with happy kids."
Pioneer Volunteers include Lee and Mary Ellen Radtke, Dee and Tom Ferrara and Mary Wright. Each of the students had their picture taken with Santa Claus.
After Santa left, Johnny Petersen, 5, sat next to Tyler, and asked him where the red-dressed man had gone.
"He's going to have to go back to the North Pole," Tyler explained. "I would love to go there because of all the toys."
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at email@example.com or 881-1219.