HO HO HO!

2011-12-16 12:33

With his busiest night of the year just a week away, Santa Claus is frantically completing his list of naughty and nice children, getting the reindeer sleigh ready and his factory, that runs on elf power, is in full swing. <strong>Gayle Edmunds</strong> was lucky enough to get a few minutes with Father Christmas before his yearly toy drive.

Your family business stretches back to your Grecian ancestor Saint Nicholas of Myra. Tell us about how he started the tradition of giving?
He’s quite a relative to live up to. He was a fourth century Greek Christian who lived in a place that is now in Turkey. His big thing was giving gifts to the poor but (those who are) worthy.

Your roots aren’t entirely Christian and another of your ancestors, Odin, added some pagan beliefs to the mix?

That’s true, the Germanic folk believed in Odin. His eight-legged horse Sleipnir is the folkloric ancestor of Rudolph and the eight other reindeer. Children used to leave their boots filled with sugar, carrots and straw next to the chimney for Sleipnir to eat during his Yuletime journey through the sky.

Your current name, Santa Claus, is the American version of Britain’s Father Christmas. Why did you adopt it?
Well, in 1773, the American press used the name for the first time and I figured it was the most inclusive form of my name.

You see, it merged the traditions of the Dutch with those of the French and Scandinavian and the English.

So it was easier to just go with that. Though, I still use Father Christmas a lot. He’s not me though, he was an uncle of mine who personified the Christmas spirit.

In 1821 you gave an interview to poet Clement Clarke Moore. Do you think you gave too much away?
Ho ho, that’s funny. I didn’t really give him permission to write all that down. His story, The Night Before Christmas, didn’t do me much justice, calling me “chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf” with “a little round belly” that “shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly”.

But you know, I don’t really mind as I am a little overweight?– you would be too if you ate as many mince pies as I do.

You received more than 2.2 million letters from European children a couple of years ago and that is just a sample of your post. How do you get through it all?

I have a lot of help. Not only my trusty elves, but postal people around the world. For example, since 1912 Operation Santa has been running at one of New York’s biggest post offices which makes sure that the letters get read and where appropriate, the children’s requests are put out to charities who can help.

Nowadays, of course, many letters come as emails. The Canadian volunteers answered 39 000 emails for me, but they still got more letters – over a million. Some children in South America still attach their letters to helium balloons, and the flying reindeer retrieve those.

The elves interpret the smoke signals sent out by the British children who still traditionally burn their wishlists to me.

Finally, how do you prepare for your exhausting Christmas Eve schedule?
Thankfully, we have all year to prepare so the reindeer do speed training every day and they make sure they are flying fit. The elves make toys all year to make enough – population growth has really upped their workload.

Mrs Claus makes sure I diet – so I don’t feel too bad about all those pies, biscuits and cakes. All these play havoc with my cholesterol, but I never could say no to good baking.

There are only six days left to get your letter to Santa: Santa Claus’ Main Post Office, Santa’s Workshop Village, FIN-96930 Arctic Circle.

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