Santas of the world gather in Copenhagen

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The Independent Online

Europe may be baking under a summer heatwave and Christmas is still six months away, but that doesn't mean that for those involved, preparations aren't underway.

This week, the Danish capital Copenhagen is hosting the World Santa Claus Congress, the busiest date in the Santa networking calendar.

Santas from around the globe have gathered at the Santa Moot in the Elf Wood in Copenhagen's Bakken amusement park for the 52nd year of the Congress, which is open to professional Father Christmases only.

And just in case the public thought that being Santa was all about handing out sweets and mastering reindeer maneuvers, the organizers of the event say that behind those big beards, there are some serious issues at stake.

Convention spokesman Jens Peder Tornvig told AFP that the group's debates, for instance, are centered around one fundamental question - what date Christmas should be celebrated on.

"All seems to indicate most are in favour of December 24, but a minority wants to stick to December 25 or January 6, the date of Russian Orthodox Christmas," he said.

Similarly, although Santa Clauses from all over the globe are expected to be in attendance, the continued absence of the Finnish Father Christmas (over a row over the "real" Santa) is a schism in an otherwise very jolly world.

Nevertheless, seasonal cheer isn't hard to find in the Elf Wood, "where it is Christmas all year long."

During the festivities, which run until July 21, the Santas (along with the wives and children) will be baking Christmas cake, dancing round Christmas trees, holding charity events and participating in competitions, culminating in a parade through the streets of Copenhagen.

In the future, Copenhagen could have to compete with the rather unlikely destination of Kyrgyzstan for the affections of the world's Santas, after Swedish engineers concluded that the Baltic nation would be the most efficient starting point for his annual round.

To celebrate, Kyrgyzstan invited Santas from around the world to the International Winter Festival of Santa Claus and His Friends, and although only ten showed up, that number had doubled by the second year of the festival in 2009.

http://www.worldsantaclauscongress.com

If you fancy participating next year, it could be time to head to Santa School - the world's oldest is the Charles W Howard Santa School in Midland, Michigan online here: http://www.santaclausschool.com/

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