Claus ... and effect

Never work with children or reindeer, the saying almost goes. The demeanour of five of the capital's Santas suggests why.

It's an odd convention that - once a year - allows small children to come into collision with strange old men in a grotto; that allows (no, demands) that Jessica and Joshua climb on the knee of someone they have never met before, whisper secrets in his ear and be given gifts in return.

Odd from the child's point of view. It is one thing to believe that an unseen but omnipotent man visits all children on Christmas night, leaving gifts. As with the tooth fairy, the mystery is complete; nothing can spoil it, unless a clumsy or drunken daddy be caught - arms full of presents - slumped over the fireguard, or impaled on the poker.

But to meet Father Christmas, to smell his smell, to touch his red coat with its white lining, to experience the human particularities of his grog-blossom nose, or his sagging jowls, his sad, bagged eyes or his faltering hands, must surely jolt the child out of any easy belief in the legend. To make faith even more difficult, the child is expected not just to encounter Santa once, but to meet him again and again, always in a different incarnation: at the department store, the school bazaar, the new, purpose-built super- grotto.

It is odd from Santa's point of view, too. Santas don't believe in Santa Claus (except the one in Miracle On 34th Street). By and large they have no personal stake in the children's belief in Santa, either. To some - the more professional - it is a warm, comfortable (if highly seasonal) way of making a living. They may even take a pride in the material of their costumes, the fluffiness of their beards, the timbre and resonance of their ho-ho-hos. To others it means a temporary shelter, a bit of spending money and company. For the amateurs it is the consequence of being press- ganged by tyrannical women, who will point out that they have done all the shopping, office party arrangements, cooking etc, and that the least a man can do is stick cotton wool on his face and be nice to the kids for half- an-hour.

But I wouldn't do it. The clothes are sweaty, the beard itchy, the children querulous and quarrelsome, the parents maudlin, the posture uncomfortable, the food poor, the drink non-existent, the pretence wearisome.

And I wouldn't do it because, somehow (odd this - oddest of all, really), it would spoil it for me. How can I be Father Christmas?

peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

    £16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

    KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

    £100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

    IT Systems Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

    £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits