There is incredible power in that special red suit. And to anyone entrusted to portray the man who wears it, that power bears great responsibility.

It might not be as form fitting as Spider-Man’s red threads, but there is a superhero status that empowers all of us who have been entrusted to don The Red Suit of Santa. Worn correctly, with proper reverence, the suit can transform the wearer. All cares diminish. The suit makes you something greater, perhaps helps one realize that the magic of a child’s belief is one of the greatest powers on this earth.

Given what I do for a living, I’ve seen firsthand people’s reactions to presidents and celebrities. Santa has them all beat. Except for maybe that time when I visited Baystate Medical Center pediatrics with Muhamad Ali.

My alter ego for many Decembers has been Santino Clausio Cignoli. It is a role and responsibility that I have taken on with as much dedication as any other, perhaps more. Santa can make an everlasting memory or impression on a young life, and many older ones too.

It started when my dear friend Bo Sullivan, then talk show host at WHYN-AM, called to ask if I could wear the suit. The person who usually portrayed Santa was unavailable. The station had hosted a live call-in and open house for young believers for years.

Live radio. Children. I thought of Springfield supporter Art Linkletter, known for his national television show: ”Kids say the darndest things!” What could go wrong?

Instead, it turned into what could go so right for this humble practitioner of channeling St. Nicholas. That first show went well and for the next 30 years I’ve had the honor and blessing of playing The Man in Red at various events.

WHYN-AM hosts Bo, then Brad Shepard and Adam Wright, all helped to make the Santa Show better each year. When change came at WHYN, it was WAIC and WMAS-FM that provided Santa with airwave venues. Santa live at the Basketball Hall of Fame WMAS studios!

When my dad, Luigi Cignoli, retired, he helped me in my business. Dec. 1, he took on the additional portrayal of Santa’s helper. I loved listening to him on the phone with children’s relatives and even children themselves calling to make sure Santa knew how good they were. His grandsons, Jake and Sam Roberts, had special access to Santa.

Via e-mail and wonderful advance-show support from The Reminder and The Republican, we got the word out to parents, grands, aunts and uncles, to send us their children’s names. We asked for inside info that only Santa could know; their favorite pet, sibling’s names, was Grandma called Abuela or Babcia? Teachers’ names, special good deeds, helping at home, naughty or nice? All this added to Santa’s credibility and ability, in-person or over the air, to make it real for each child.

Those mornings, show time, was magical. Our first live caller for years was my Classical High School English teacher, Susan Danton, reminding to be especially sympathetic to the naughty kids, because, after all. …

As well-prepared as we were for a child we knew would be calling, there were always surprises. The child who decided they no longer wanted anything on the list they had sent Santa. Instead, please just help grandpa to feel better. My daddy is in the Army. Can you visit him in Iraq? Mom says no dog, but you’ll bring me one, right, Santa? Do you know where Huntington is? Me and my sister are in Ludlow, visiting from Chicago, do you know we are not home?

And the children and families that came in person. The looks on their faces, priceless. There is credibility to talking to Santa with a live microphone when you just heard him on the car radio on the drive in.

So many special visitors. Mayor Sarno, every year, laden with delicacies prepared by his saintly wife, Carla, stuffed shrimp to homemade wine (Santa would never sample it with children present, and learned not to stain the beard purple by using a straw). Judy Matt, Mrs. Christmas herself, always with Bright Nights news and goodies, and reassurance that the lights would burn bright as a beacon for Santa’s sleigh. From a governor to a U.S. senator, a bishop to a bar owner, all knew the joy of wishing Western Massachusetts children and family’s good tidings on air with Santa.

Rabbi Gerry Gurland and my friend Candy Glazer would come in and share Hannukah greetings. Sheriff Cocchi added a whole new level of joviality. Dads like him know how to talk to children. But always it was the children who came in who brought the magic with them.

A favorite show was when my best friend Dave Siano arranged for his sons and nephews to be at their Noni, Edith Siano’s, house. The four, Andrew and Steve Siano, Brian and Eric Chapdelaine, were sitting on the floor in front of the radio. Santa had the scoop on all of them, direct from Noni. All good reports. But that Brian! He had done something, and Santa told him he had to do better. The poor boy ran wailing from the room: “Noni finked me out!” Dave called and Santa reassured Brian on-air that all would be well. Forget Elf on the Shelf, Noni was always watching!

Sept. 11, 2001 changed things. Broadcast stations were closed to the public. My dad and other elves worked harder and helped us in our advance outreach. When the show was over, I’d stay in character for hours and call children who couldn’t get on air with Santa, reassuring them that their voices would be heard. They heard the same voice and “Ho Ho Ho,” the jingle of bells that they had heard on-air. And they knew. They believed. The Magic is real.

The gig became bigger. Friends, family, organizations, Shriners, Boys & Girls Clubs, Santa Zooms during the pandemic, The Westfield Christmas Tree Lighting. Westfield knows how to keep Christmas (well-done Bob Plasse and team!). Santa, riding in a fire truck, would join a huge procession of folks in holiday costumes. Arriving at town square to a thousand-plus fans! Then into the gazebo for individual audiences with several hundred children. Wonderful!

Spirit of Springfield events, Bright Nights, The Big Balloon Parade, and a special Amtrak train ride, Spirit of Springfield’s own Polar Express were wonderful. Santa rode down Springfield’s Main Street in SFD 1, the ladder truck, in the bucket, sometimes with chiefs or commissioners, Cassinelli, Conant and Calvi. Even Santa would have to duck going under the railroad crossing over Main Street (terrifying!). What a blast for a kid from Pine Point, er, ah, from the North Pole, to ride in a fire truck down his hometown Main Street. This Santa still makes the trip to Western Mass. every year to record the soundtrack for WELF Radio at Bright Nights.

Priceless. For the radio show, it was worth getting up at 4 a.m. to get into makeup and The Red Suit. Three hours of live radio wearing the heavy suit, beard and wig could be exhausting. But every precious little voice, every wide-eyed child’s smile was energizing. It was worth buying the professional suit, wig, beard and regalia to portray Santa.

I’d often be asked the charge for an appearance. None, ever. I’d be willing to pay for that incredible privilege. In this weary world, an opportunity to perhaps afford some small solace. At a time of joy, a chance to enhance the cheer, the spirit, the love.

An honor. A privilege. To put on The Red Suit. To know the sacred trust placed in the wearer, to listen to the sincerest hopes and wishes of those little ones, and older ones, who believed. To share hope then. To remember to this day, every call, every visit.

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Thank you for the gift of believing.

Disclaimer for young readers: This article is just about one fellow who helps Santa before he must travel the whole world on Christmas Eve. Keep believing!