Chicago Tribune

At a children's hospital, a Jewish family carries on its Santa tradition — 47 years and counting

CHICAGO - Michael Mesirow's earliest memory of Christmas Day is in a back office of La Rabida Children's Hospital in Chicago, helping his father tug off the heavy black galoshes and hang the red velour suit he had worn that morning to visit young patients.

At age 5, he recounts, he asked his father when it would be his turn to lead the family's Christmas tradition, though he didn't quite have the aging process figured out.

"When you're a little boy and I'm an old man, will I play Santa Claus?" young Michael asked his father, Paul.

Paul Mesirow didn't just assure his son; he made him promise to continue the tradition, a treasured if unusual ritual for their observant Jewish family. So when his father, debilitated by Lou Gehrig's disease, was unable to continue as Santa in

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