I can hardly believe it but I appear to have achieved the impossible and actually tracked down the elusive Mr Claus. I interviewed the world’s oldest Christmas elf a few days ago so, grab yourself a mince pie and join me around a virtual log fire, as I offer a privileged, seasonal peak into the life and times of Father Christmas!
Father Christmas had agreed to our interview at the last minute, under the conditions that there be no pre-publicity and definitely no photos. Barry, Santa’s head elf (or Tinsel-head Bazzer, as he’s affectionately known) was dead set against Santa breaking the habit of a lifetime, and actually meeting a mere human, in person. Once I’d assured him that no, I wasn’t associated with news media of any kind and no, I wouldn’t be putting a negative ‘spin’ on the Santa story; then Bazzer was all smiles.
It was a dark and stormy night when I arrived at the little known village of Tawle-Storey-on-the-Wold. Santa had chosen to meet me in the depths of the English countryside, feeling that London would attract the paparazzi. An occasional flurry of snow fell from a starless sky, as I checked my directions for The Cock and Bull, a public house situated at the top of Hogs-Wash Hill road. I was beginning to think Santa had led me on a wild goose chase, and felt sorely in need of christmas spirit by the time I walked through the pub’s doors. The place was half empty and I headed straight for the bar. Passing a candle-lit recess, I heard someone call my name and there was Father Christmas, squeezed in behind a small table, large as life; one hand gripping a pint glass, the other clasping the biggest mince pie I’d ever seen. He beckoned me over. After commenting on the frightful weather, I produced my hand held mic’ and turned it on. ‘No good pointing that thing at me, my dear, Santa said, ‘nobody’s every been able to capture so much as a Ho, Ho, Ho,on any recording device but, by all means, give it a go.’ I lay the mic’ on the table and grabbed my notebook and pen. Santa took a mobile phone from a red, fur trimmed pocket and placed it on the table. ‘Well, fire away my dear’ – and our interview began.
ME: I’d like to thank you for agreeing to do this interview Santa…… is it OK to call you Santa by the way; Father Christmas seems a bit too formal.
SANTA: You can call me anything you like dear – St Nicholas, Sinter Klass, King Frost, Old King Winter, Sir Christmas, Captaine Christmas, Kris Kringle. I’ve re-invented myself more times than Madonna, without flashing my christmas baubles either; wouldn’t want to put anyone off their brussels sprouts.
ME: I noticed the mobile phone. Surely a person with magical powers doesn’t need such a device?
SANTA: Ah the phone, it’s my prize possession. Barry got me this as a novelty item last christmas – the mini games are fascinating don’t you think? There’s a really good santa one on there at the moment. It was my new year’s resolution actually, to learn more about human technology. Cyberspace is a real winter wonderland, if you ask me.
ME: I was surprised you agreed to meet me so close to Christmas eve. Surely this is the busiest time of the year for you and your helpers?
SANTA: Not 2014 my dear. I’ve given myself a break this year. Opened an Amazon Prime account. They do one day delivery on over 7 million items you know. Amazing isn’t it? Everything’s ordered and paid for – I checked twice – and set to go out christmas eve…..piece of christmas cake. I haven’t felt this relaxed since the Puritans banned christmas in 1644.
ME: Christmas was banned! How on earth did they manage that?
SANTA: Oliver Cromwell that’s how. He, or rather the Godly party, passed an act of parliament banning mince pies – yes, mince pies! They’re a well known source of debauchery and sin you know. They also banned singing, dancing, drinking and giving your best mate a present too. Mind you, they had a point with the drinking. People mostly used December 25 as an excuse for a massive booze up – some things never change, do they my dear? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the odd tipple myself, but in those days it seemed like half the population were permanently sloshed. My job was to oversee the festivities and I still remember one particularly obnoxious, 17th century lout. He set off a firecracker, aiming it right at me. Hit me right in the jingle bells, it did – I made a mental note to strike his descendants off the naughty and nice list forever, I can tell you. The god squad had always had it in for my annual mid winter knees-up though, which is why they announced that Jesus had been born on December 25, hoping to lend a bit of religious sobriety to the proceedings. Anyway, I digress. Christmas didn’t get started again until 1660, by which time I’d nearly forgotten what all the fuss was about.
ME: Did you find it difficult getting back into the swing of things?
SANTA: Not really. The extended holiday meant I could renovate my log cabin, by the Lake of Dreams back home in Foreverland. It was an idyllic time really but still, there are only so many coffee mornings with the Tooth Fairy and Old Father Time that a person can take; and when you’ve got Death as your next door neighbour…..well, you’ll understand that I was more than ready to get back to work.
ME: I’m sorry, Foreverland? I thought you live at the north pole.
SANTA: Ah, you’ve got Thomas Nast to thank for that. He spread that persistent rumour in 1861. I can tell you, quite categorically, that you would never catch me living in a desolate, frozen wasteland. No, I live with all the other magical, symbolic figures in Foreverland. You just follow the first star on the right and straight on until morning. It’s right next door to Neverland. I can get you an interview with Peter Pan if you like, he’s a good friend of mine. Jesus lives near the third star on the right, by the way, but he’s a real recluse. Actually, I tell a lie. He asked me round for christmas dinner in 1864, but all I got was a watered down glass of wine and a wafer thin slice of stale bread – never again, as I said to Donner and Blitzen on the ride home.
ME: I must say you’re looking very rosy cheeked and healthy for someone who must be over a thousand years old. In fact you don’t look a day over 65.
SANTA: If, by ‘rosy cheeked and healthy’, you mean FAT, then I’d like you to know that I haven’t always had a weight problem. That was the fault of Haddon Sundblom, an American illustrator, who came up with the jolly, red giant in 1931 for Coca-Cola. Ever since that iconic figure appeared, I’ve had to keep up my weight and wear the red suit, or children would be sorely disappointed. I sometimes yearn for my Pagan days, when I was lovely and thin and wore a simple green cloak and a crown of holly. All I had to do was show up unexpectedly in some country bumpkin’s dwelling and cadge a free meal; and they even thanked me for it. But people are never satisfied are they? Eventually the Victorians came along and BANG, christmas became a real money spinner. People had been hanging holly and ivy in their homes for years, but the Victorians went one better and decided that what you really needed was a bloody great tree in your living room. And that tree had to have gifts around it – and that’s when the work really began. No more apples or oranges in a simple stocking, or a lump of coal if you’d been very naughty indeed. Anyway I digress yet again. The Victorians upped the ante even further by introducing christmas cards and the christmas cracker. Then the fake Santas started appearing everywhere – I sometimes wonder if you humans really need me at all.
ME: How did you cope with the change in your job description, when all this consumerism began?
SANTA: Good point, I’ve had my work cut out ever since the Victorians made the family and gift giving the focal point of christmas. I had to go from being a one man operation to a commercial enterprise, employing thousands. Fortunately, Foreverland is crammed full of pixies, elves and fairies, so I had no trouble amassing a workforce. I had to find myself a team of reindeer too, ever since Clement Clarke Moore wrote ‘Twas the night before christmas’ in 1822. But I’ve absolutely refused to move to the north pole – wouldn’t last a minute there with my gout and arthritic knees.
ME: You’ve clearly embraced the digital age. Does this mean the end of Santa and his sleigh flying across the night skies? Children love looking up at the sky searching for Santa, or listening out for the jingle of sleigh bells on christmas eve.
SANTA: No, I’ll never give up flying across the night skies. It’s in my blood. I’m related to the Viking gods Odin and Thor, you see. Old Thor loved travelling across the skies in his wagon pulled by a couple of goats, especially at the time of Yule. To tell the truth, I’m glad for the opportunity to get away every December 24. The winter solstice isn’t exactly Death’s favourite time of year. He can’t stand all that human partying, eating and general joie de vivre. I’ve given the workforce a holiday this year, but I’ll be harnessing up the reindeer and taking a tour of planet earth just like always. I’ve borrowed a ton of tinkerbell’s fairy dust, thought I’d sprinkle some over all the rooftops as I fly by; that’s a nice touch don’t you think?
(At this point Santa took a call from his mobile phone and requested that we end the interview.)
ME: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me Santa, I really appreciate it. I’d like to wish you a very merry christmas and a happy new year.
SANTA: A very merry christmas to you too my dear. Can I just take a quick photo for my Facebook page? Wonderful! Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll just magically disappear.
And with that Santa slowly de-materialised into thin air, right before my eyes.
Santa was correct by the way. There was nothing on the mic’ at all, not even the sound of my own voice, but I did find a lovely, miniature, wooden reindeer in my coat pocket when I got home.