Santa Claus is in big demand this time of year, but he always seems to be able to carve out time to spend in Fairfield, often accompanied by his lovely wife, before the big day.

For such travels, he eschews the usual sleigh hauled by reindeer and is chauffered around town by a fire truck -- to the downtown welcoming festivities on Sherman Green, the town's tree-lighting ceremony on Town Hall Green, breakfast at the Recreation Center and personal visits as he delivers presents to lucky children via his pre-holiday "Express."

"Oh, my husband is so busy, especially in December, but once we're in Fairfield, it's just so wonderful," Mrs. Claus told the Fairfield Citizen in an exclusive interview. "Fairfield is perfectly lovely in December. We try to see as many folks as we can, and at as many places."

The fire trucks come in very handy.

"The reindeer prefer to fly very late at night, so the jolly fellows at your Fire Department very graciously bring us around to visit everyone," Mrs. Claus said. "That is such a great help.

Before the tree lighting at Town Hall, Santa and Mrs. Claus could be found inside Fire Department headquarters on Reef Road. Waiting for the appointed time to climb aboard the ladder truck, the couple drifted toward the open bay door -- they're used to much colder weather, you know. Cars drove by, horns honking and Claus and the Missus would respond with hearty waves.

A car pulls up, and out jumps a family. Santa and Mrs. Claus dash out into the rainy weather, happy to pose for photos.

There were photos inside the firehouse, too, and there would be even more when they got to the green and the large crowd that awaited. And they'd be back the next weekend, making a stop at the Fairfield University Bookstore, and so Santa could take part in the Santa Express gift package deliveries.

So, just how do they find the time to hang out here, only a few weeks before Christmas?

"The elves play an enormous role in Santa's success," the Big Guy told the Fairfield Citizen. "While we are visiting all the boys and girls, they are building toys, grooming the reindeer and polishing the sled, so that gives Mrs. Claus and I time to spread the Christmas joy with the kids."

Grownups, and possibly some especially discerning children, might notice Santa doesn't always look exactly the same. But that's not because he's different, Santa revealed.

"Santa Claus," he said, "lives in the eye of the child. Today, I may look one way, and tomorrow another. It's what the kids see."

And it's "seeing the children's reaction, watching their eyes glow at that `Jolly Old Guy,' " that makes being Santa Claus a very special job, he said.

On a recent Sunday, Santa was at a different firehouse, this time on Jennings Road, getting ready to make some of those personal visits, and raise some money for charity in the process. He thought about some of the things children have asked him for in years past.

"One kid asked for his father to come home," Santa said, because he'd been serving overseas in the military. "He did make it home," Santa added, with that well-known twinkle appearing in his eyes.

Sometimes, Santa said, youngsters ask for food, or tell him they don't need a present, just bring something for their sister.

For those who grow when confronted with a large man with a bushy white bead and a bright-red suit, or those who have yet to fill out their wish list, not to worry.

"Santa's always looking for food, so you can just leave your list on the refrigerator," he said. (Hey, Christmas Eve is a long night for Santa, and a person gets hungry.)

Those cookies that get left by the tree help.

"I get a lot of questions about cookie-making this time of year, so you may be surprised to learn that I bake no cookies for Santa," Mrs. Claus said, "the kids bake them. My most important job is knitting -- hats, scarves, gloves; some children do ask for socks instead of toys."

Of course, for some children, visiting Santa Clause can be a bit, well, overwhelming and instead of a picture of a cherubic child perched on Santa's knee, parents may end up with a photo fail -- a tot as red in the face as Santa's suit, crying and kicking to get free.

"We probably don't look like grandma and grandpa, so I can understand how we can be a surprise to small children," Mrs. Claus said. "Sometimes we come to see the children right at nap time, or too close to luncheon, which adds to their upset."

Mrs. Claus said she's no slouch when it comes to technology, "so parents might consider handing me their iPhone, and let me take a lovely photo with Santa, with the whole family."

Santa has some advice of his own.

"Both Mrs. Claus and I have been around for a long time, we read the kids well," he said of his years on the local Santa circuit. "The parents should try and let us interact with the kids. The parents can stress the kids more by saying things and forcing them -- tell me the child's name and we will start telling them about the North Pole, the elves, the weather back home, and most kids start relaxing and come over."

Oh, and kids, don't worry that Santa is hip to the latest trends.

"Santa has 37 nieces and nephews," he said, so he knows his Elsas and Annas from the popular movie, "Frozen."