It's a good time of the year to be a bearded man. Santa Clauses are in demand, appearing in department stores, at the Zoo, in corporate offices (yes, there are corporate Santas), in grottos, in underground caves (
I was promised an interview with one of Dublin's Santa Clauses through a mutual friend, who works as a professional elf (certified: he's even had elf and safety training…
har har). But he proves a little difficult to track down. It's a busy week–"all ho-ho-ho and go-go-go", in his own words–and I imagine it's exhausting work: the beard maintenance, the constant making of lists and checking them twice, the pushy parents and risk of catching colds from school children…
Reddit threads tell of bizarre requests Santas cannot promise to deliver on: wishes for 'unicorns' and 'to destroy all Backstreet Boys CDs', curiously, feature. And even if a child doesn't request a mythical beast as their present, relatively normal items like the Singing Elsa Doll from Frozen, this year's most coveted present, are going for double their retail price on Ebay and igniting brawls in shops.
There are even non profit
Santa schools to make sure Santas don't get it horribly, horribly wrong (my favourite thing about this time of year is the ropey vintage Santa pictures that do the rounds online–sleep well, readers!). But things are different today, in the age of Standardised Santa Testing, and the Santa I speak to works very hard to keep alive a magical tradition dating back as far as 1890. In the festive spirit of things I dodged the big question of whether or not he's 'real': the beard looks real, at least, and for me that is enough...
Hello, Mr Claus! So, first things first, where are you working this year and how long have you been appearing in Dublin?
I have been allowed to use the Aviva stadium as a base to bring presents to all the good girls and boys– I'll be there until December 23rd. I have been appearing in Dublin for many, many years and will continue to do so, so long as the girls and boys stay good...
What are children asking for most of all this year? Have you had any odd requests?
No really strange requests. They're asking for Elsa dolls a lot, also Minecraft games and Xboxes and lots of iPads. And a lot of new bikes.
This is subject to much debate–do you prefer to go by Santa or Santy?
Santa, of course. The children call me Santa but the tall grown up children call me 'Santy'.
Have you brought a team of elves with you to the Aviva?
The elves in the aviva have been very good because they are all hard at work in the sorting office making sure all the letters and presents are in order (
you can visit their postal room as part of the tour!).
Tough going! Also, is it difficult finding parking for a sleigh in Ballsbridge?
The IRFU allow me to park my sleigh there. And there's plenty of grass for the reindeer to eat, they're letting them graze there too.
Have you had any rugby players in asking what they'll get for Christmas?
All the little boys that are coming in ask for rugby jerseys and boots… No big rugby players have come in yet, though.
Do children ever ask for things it'd be impossible to get, even for Santa Claus?
Oh yes. Just today there were lots of requests for tickets for One Direction and signed programmes from all the boys. Also lots of requests for days off school.
Do you have to explain, 'Santa says stay in school'!?
I tell them that to get really good at school they'll have to study, and that means staying in class...
What would someone actually have to do to end up with a lump of coal on Christmas day?
The person who ends up with a lump of coal doesn't listen and is always cheeky and wants things all the time.
Oh dear. Do you get many of those people?
Some. But not all the time, there are lots of really good girls and boys… The elves always let me know how good they have been since last year
A list of all the children in the world has got to be difficult– have you upgraded from the traditional handwritten list?
I have gone very high tech and have a satnav built into my sleigh and have all the lists for all the countries that I go to on my ipad. The elves work on my tech, they built in Google Maps for navigating around all those high mountains and buildings.
Is it tough getting down chimneys, also? It looks tricky.
Ah thats a very special trick that can't be told. The elves taught me how to get down chimneys quick and back up again. I get really small and big again,
Elf mad skills! Also, what should children leave out for you on Christmas eve? My family used to leave out some cake and carrots for the reindeer..
Oh yes, some very good children leave me some cake and Cadbury's Roses and bottles of beer. But Mrs Claus has Santa on a very strict food allowance of one mince pie and a glass of milk… Rudolf and the reindeer love carrots but they also get nuts and mixed seeds.
All very healthy and low GI. Feeding so many reindeer must get expensive.
Ah I have those crafty elves to thank for that, they buy up hay in bulk in the North Pole.
Recession-era Santa-ing! Clever. What do Santas do the rest of the year? Do you keep the beard and red suit year-round, or do you go incognito?
Santas do lots of things in their off time, we keep the beard and get a good sleep in our time off as well. I mostly spend time getting ready for next year.
Is Dublin a good place to be Santa?
Dublin is a really great place to be a Santa. There are some of the best people in the world here, and they make my job so easy because they are such great fun!
Many thanks to our Santa contact Stephen Doring. Santa is appearing as part of the Santa Tour at the Aviva Stadium and is accepting visitors up until December 23rd.