My Cultural Life: Santa Claus
It's business as usual for the man in red. A touch of Wagner is as cultural as he gets
What cultural pursuits do you indulge in to take your mind off the mammoth task ahead?
There’s a popular misconception that I’m all egg nog and Bing Crosby, but how annoying would that get day after day, month after month, year after year? I love a good ‘nam film, as it happens. Nothing gets the blood up like watching Charlie being singularly unable to surf.
I don’t go to ‘those’ countries, you know. It’s not PC these days to say, but I don’t distribute to non-Christian countries. They have their own minor-remunerative packages. It’s a case of simple market efficiency, localised operators providing key services at competitive rates.
I also like to take in the odd opera. Wagner’s Ring Cycle always gets me and yes, I have been known to have it on the in-sleigh stereo when I’m up and away on Christmas Eve. Back to movies. Have I seen Jingle all the Way? Indeed I have not. As I said, I don’t ‘do’ Christmas. (Checks with PA). I am Christmas!
Is there a particular piece of music that helps the journey go faster?
I’m really glad you asked me that. A musical pick me up is ‘Ride of the Valkyries’. Mr Wagner again. It gets me all stirred up. I like to imagine I’m an actual Valkyrie – whatever that is – and stand up in the sleigh and everything. (Checks with PA). To be honest, that’s a bit of a health and safety issue, not to mention an insurance liability...
The work uniform isn't broke, so why fix it? But fur is so last season. Is there a particular contemporary designer that we might see redesigning the Claus costume anytime soon?
You’d have to ask my sponsors about that. I just whack on the red and black. There was talk a few years back of a Gaultier-style conical bra being drafted in, to be worn on the outside of the old red tunic. That was when things weren’t going too well and I’d developed what the Mrs would call excessive ‘yule-moobs’. But otherwise, I wear what I’m told – me and Kate Middleton both! You have to remember, we have a brand to protect.
We don’t need to go unnecessarily upsetting the market with sudden sartorial sea changes. We’ve tried occasionally to update according to focus group approval. For example, Alexander McQueen was drafted in just before his untimely demise – his designs, my god! Let’s just say he took the words ‘re-vamp’ a bit too literally. I’ve also been asked to tell you that I no longer wear seal fur but baby-seal imitation weasel fur. Baby seal wasn’t playing well with our core demographic and weasel is cheaper – we live in financially straitened times.
You're in the business of giving out gifts. Have you been dropping any hints to Mrs Claus this year?
You’d need a hint strapped to a kango-hammer for Mrs Claus to catch on. She's as slow as a Lib Dem conscience. Take six years ago – she got me a George Formby box set. What had I been angling for? A George Foreman grill! She finally got round to getting it the other year, but I didn’t need it then. Thanks to zumba, I'd got my weight down to the contractually arranged 16 stone.
Besides, those grills are really uncool now, aren’t they? Sorry I’m digressing – it just really annoys me. But this year, ‘er indoors’ will be sticking to socks I think. She does nothing but knit all year. At least I think they’re socks – they might actually be elf gillets. Again, it’s a bone of contention.
If you could have three cultural figures from throughout history round to Santa HQ for dinner, who would they be and why?
Again – excellent question. First off I’d have John Stith Pemberton, a great man. You probably won’t have heard of him, but he was a sterling lad and a top druggist to boot. That was back in the days when ‘druggist’ wasn’t a dirty word. He’s also kind of the reason why I’m in a job today. Look him up.
Next to Pemberton, I’d have the Olsen twins. I know that's really two guests, but I could get them to sit on the others knee, couldn’t I? They’d bring that badly needed shot of feminine lightness to proceedings. I’d love to hear about how they’ve made it through the rough times and the good times with equal grace. Fascinating, uplifting stuff.
Finally, and by no means lastly, I would invite Adolf Hitler. Hear me out on this one. I know what you’re thinking: fascist monster, mass-murdering megalomaniac, but do we really know how he was around the Christmas dinner table?
I’d love to know what made him tick. Was he a real veggie for example? Again, fascinating stuff there. Then, after stilton and grapes, we could team up for Boggle against the Olsens. Pembers could referee with his keen druggist’s sense of balance and measure.
Your weight has always been discussed in the press. How do you feel about your body?
Well, as I think I’ve mentioned, I have certain legal obligations in that department. But, and here’s the big ‘but’ (if you’ll excuse the pun): if my mercenary attitude towards my own body means that just one other chubby man thinks ‘I’m not a fat freak after all’, then I should probably be charging him.
What was the hardest gift request you've ever had to deliver?
1974, Michael Jackson. Enough said. I blame myself for what happened later.
You've been widely criticised for outsourcing your production line to the Arctic Elves. How do you justify this?
Look, you’re talking like we live in some kind of communist fantasy world. Where there is a need, there will be a service provider. And when your operation successfully expands to the extent ours has, you can then help spread the wealth by putting that service out to regional tender.
The arctic elves simply delivered the best, most cost-effective tender and met with all of our ethical rules of compliance. It justifies its-elf – sorry, couldn’t resist!
But seriously, face facts. We live or die by the unfettered market. We’re not in the business of providing a national elf service? Sorry! Just got carried away there... I really sleigh myself sometimes though! You can keep that bit in actually.
Who is your favourite reindeer?
Rudolph! That loveable scamp! He’s a wild one for the mince pies and reindeer games. To be fair, he/she (we’re equal opportunities up here you know) is contractually obliged to live up to the song lyrics. It was quite a bit of HR wrangling to get the details nailed down let me tell you.
It’s very, very hard to enforce a glowing, shiny nose on reticent employees these days without the unions getting involved. Which is why we banned union membership amongst the reindeers. But Rudolph is the reindeer with the biggest (legally sanctioned) narrative learning curve, yes. You can print that.
When it's all over, where does Santa Claus go to recharge the batteries?
Well it’s the de-briefing with the shareholders and Coca Cola execs on Boxing Day, then it’s off to Bermuda – we have a humble little tax-exempt hovel there. And yes, I do wear the shorts. It’s Bermuda!