Twas the week before Christmas,
and all through the malls,
We were sizing up Santas while decking the halls.
This one dressed in rayon, from his head to his foot,
his pants were all sticky where old candy was put.
This Santa looked odd, with a bend in his back,
he seemed a bit scrawny, in need of a snack.

But one Santa twinkled with genuine jollity,
untroubled by questions of elf inequality.
His droll little mouth uttered nothing to dread,
the beard on his chin was tied tight to his head.

It’s so hard to find a good Santa these days, he
has got to stay jolly amid Christmas crazy.
Then there’s the line! And the elves:
Are they cheerful?
Or will this afternoon leave your toddler all tearful?

So check out our picks for Santas aplenty,
for memories and laughs, whether you’re
three years or twenty.

Santa at The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City
Meet a convenient, Metro-accessible Santa with a prime spot smack dab in the middle of the food court. Ask for a bike, and then get some orange chicken once you’re done.
Elfitude: No extra helpers in attendance on our visit, but the full-size civilian workers were full of Christmas cheer.
Candy Cane Lane: Our visit occurred on a quiet day, but Santa occupies food-court-centric real estate, so at a busy time the noise could be deafening.
Beard Quality: A more modern, metrosexual Santa, with short, sleek hair and a neatly trimmed beard, both snowy white.
Scream Count: None, but we did see adorable baby twins getting their picture taken. Awwww.
Overall Score:
Excellent personnel, but the awkward location counts against this Man in Red.

» The Fashion Center at Pentagon City, 1100 S. Hayes St., Arlington; Thu., 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri., 8 a.m.-5 p.m., photo packages range from $15-$50; 703-415-2401. (Pentagon City)

Santa at Prince George’s Plaza
Santa is magic, so it makes sense that he could change his look to reflect the beautiful spectrum of children all over the world. Why most Santas in the D.C. area look like the Quaker Oats guy, then, is a real mystery. But, keeping it realer for the region, P.G. Plaza offers one of the region’s only African-American Santas amid what can only be described as a terrifying Candyland board game tableau come to life.
Elfitude: No real elves to speak of, unless you count the lady from the key-cutting kiosk taking photo orders, or the sullen teenage photographer repeatedly squeaking a dog toy at his young subjects.
Candy Cane Lane: This Santa keeps late hours, and the line wrapped all the way around the court on a recent Friday night — about a 35-minute wait. At least you’re conveniently sandwiched between two jewelry stores.
Beard Quality: This youthful and slender Kriss Kringle is “naturally bearded,” with cropped salt-and-pepper whiskers.
Scream Count: Santa very patiently convinced an understandably reluctant little girl onto his velvet-and-silver goth throne.

Overall Score:
Note: This Santa did not seem like one who would suffer the foolishness of teens or ironic 20-somethings.

» Prince George’s Plaza, 3500 East West Highway, Hyattsville; Thu., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., photo packages range from $20 to $45; 301-559-8844.

Santa at Tyson’s Corner Center
The region’s most traditional mall-based Santa experience naturally involves fighting gridlock traffic and seething mobs at Tyson’s Corner Center. You’ll get all the suburban festiveness you’ve come to expect, if what you expect is a full-on attack of crowd-based claustrophobia.
Elfitude: On a busy Sunday, a full-sized elf who is no way getting paid enough amused kids with bubbles, magic and gentle razzing of passers-by.
Candy Cane Lane: Peak-time wait was an hour. But there’s an Auntie Anne’s within scarfing distance.
Beard Quality: Excellent, full beard with hippie long hair.
Scream Count: Only two meltdowns counted; this Santa was excellent at encouraging reluctant lap-sitters. Also has a GIANT chair, so entire families could (and did) get their picture taken at once.

Overall Score:
Thanks to the superior elf and the lovely parting gift — your choice of a Rudolph coloring book or a Tyson’s-branded “The Night Before Christmas” story.

» Tyson’s Corner Center, 1961 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean; Thu., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; photo packages range from $15-$50; 703-847-7300.

Waterskiing Santa at National Harbor
The waterskiing Santa and his kneeboarding reindeer glide into their 25th year of keeping the X-treme in X-mas as they rule National Harbor with the jet-skiing Grinch, Frosty the Snowman in a dinghy and more.      
Elfitude: Elves will work the line before the main event handing out candy canes and directing chilly parents toward coffee and shopping options on the harbor
Candy Cane Lane: Prime viewing spots along the water are first-come, first-serve, but after the performance kids can line up to get personal pics with a toweled-off Santa.
Beard Quality: Is the beard real? According to Santa’s media elf, “Uh, no.” But Santa packs a full wetsuit under his traditional finery, so we are sure the stunt beard is an all-weather, high-performance model, too.
Scream Count: There is always the possibility of a 1967-Evel Knievel-at-Caesar’s-Palace moment. Maybe have the Circle of Life convo with the kids before heading out.
Overall Score: MG
» National Harbor, 150 National Plaza, Fort Washington; Friday, 1 p.m., free; 301-203-4189,

Written by Express’ Shauna Miller and Kristen Page-Kirby