Berlin faces Santa shortage as Christmas nears
[ 2006-11-29 09:00 ]
A child and a man dressed as Father Christmas in front of
a special Christmas post office in the German village
of Himmelpfort, November 13,
Berlin is facing an acute shortage of Santas four
weeks from Christmas, the head of a Father Christmas placement
agency said on Monday.
The director of Berlin's "Heinzelmaennchen" agency
that acts as an intermediary
for 5,000 families that order the 20-minute visits from a
real live Santa Claus each year on December 24 said he was having trouble
getting enough qualified help this year.
"We need at least 300 Santas to meet the demand but we only have about
100 signed up so far," said Rene Heydeck, 40.
"We prefer chubby men, of course, ideally with a real beard but we're
not picky and take what we get," he said.
The Santas, many of whom are students, earn 28 euros (19 pounds) for
each performance -- bringing in a sack of presents provided outside the
door by parents and handing out the gifts. They start at about 3 p.m. and
are finished by about 9 p.m.
The 300 Santas visit an average of 10 to 12 families, although some
have managed up to 20, Heydeck said. In return, the Santas must buy their
costumes for 45 euros and have to pay the agency 15 percent of their
"If they're quick, they can earn a nice sum," Heydeck said of the men,
who range from a student of 20 to a 72-year-old retired professor "with a
real beard" now in his 28th season. Children between 2 and 7 "still
believe in Santa," he said.
"In a lot of families in Berlin it's a tradition that carries on even
after the children grow older and stop believing," Heydeck said. "It's hard work and sometimes you have to run faster if you fall
behind schedule. But it's great fun."
placement : the finding of
intermediary : one that acts as