It’s Christmas time and the name of one man is on everyone’s lips. Step aside, Jesus. Santa is every kid’s favourite guy come December 25.
While there’s only one St. Nick, there are a lot of Santas.
Hundreds of guys worldwide dress up as Santa, accompanied by a fellow Mrs Claus, to bring joy and cheer to all who hear the signature belly laugh.
Yet what is life as a professional Santa Claus really like?
UNILAD spoke to celebrity Santa, Nigel Harvey, who answered the questions everyone always asks him once and for all.
Harvey (pictured in costume below) became a professional Santa ‘quite by accident’ after a pantomime company he was working for went bust, leaving him ‘with no work over the festive period’.
Nigel fell into playing Santa for corporate gigs, adding:
Little did I realise putting on that costume would change my life.
Since, Nigel has become one of the most sought-after Santas in Tinsel Town and beyond, appearing on TV in Pointless as well as the Strictly Come Dancing 2017 Christmas Special.
So, what does Santa embody, for a guy like Nick?
He explained ‘Santa is a combination of all that is good’:
He brings hope and joy to people no matter who they are, young or old, and from whatever religious beliefs – the character is all loving and inclusive.
As Santa, you can bring hope and magic to all. Someone could have had a tough year and with a few kind choice words, you can turn it around for them.
One of Nigel’s favourite parts of the job is the ‘huge responsibility to get it right’:
You meet children and adults that really believe you are Santa and share very private things.
They may tell you they’re missing a parent or a loved one this Christmas due to them being in Heaven and you have to turn a sad situation into a positive one.
Also through my charity work I meet a lot of terminally ill children and you have to bring light to their darkest hour.
Describing the emotional exhaustion of the festive season, Nigel added:
My worst day was when I had the news Henry Allen – an absolute angel of a boy I had met – passed away.
He’d suffered with Neuroblastoma – a very cruel cancer. I now help support the Henry Allen Trust whenever I can in his memory.
The Henry Allen Trust helps families going through similar experiences with their children.
Evidently, Nigel has to fight against some unjustified preconceptions:
The biggest preconception about being a pro St. Nick is it’s easy and anyone can do it. There is a lot more to it than ‘Ho Ho Ho’.
Not to mention the constant line of laundry Nigel tackles, having to make sure his costumes – a ‘very large and hot fat suit under my Santa Robes’ included – are fresh for each gig, as well as ‘keeping the wig, moustache and beard clean from the spirit gum I have to use to attach it to my skin’.
Yet this doesn’t stop Christmas being Nigel’s ‘favourite time of the year’ even though he doesn’t get the chance to celebrate it until well into the new year!
The pay helps, with Nigel saying corporate gig pack packages can be ‘very good for the right performers’, which allows the professionally trained actor to play Santa for his favourite charities for free.
Funnily enough, the Santa gig keeps Nigel flush well beyond the festive season, providing ‘a constant stream of income’ thanks to the commercialisation of the holiday.
Nigel explains he books work all year round through Hire Santa:
Due to TV companies preparing throughout the year as well as advertising campaigns, by the time we get to February and March, I’ve already had photoshoots and recorded some TV Christmas Specials.
Retailers also launch to the media in July what they’re bringing out at Christmas and I’m usually there to make it more festive.
I also do ‘Summer Santa’, Santa on vacation for some companies who start promoting their campaigns for Christmas in the Summer.
However Nigel prefers to work with people in real life, saying he books gigs with adults and kids alike:
People tend to think Santa is just for kids but when adults meet me, you tap into their inner child and they get just as excited as children.
If it’s the first time a child has met you it can be slightly scary for them, but with a gentle voice and support from parents or guardians, I seem to be able to turn it around.
He says the worst is when ‘parents force their children to have a picture with you, regardless if the child is screaming or not’ and you get a picture of a smiling Santa with a child screaming their head off.
Yet, ever professional, Nigel manages the situation by making the photo ‘look funny with my fingers in my ears, for example’.
Thanks to his love of mince pies, the first of which he enjoyed in August this year – the hardships are all worth it.
Settling an office-wide debate for UNILAD, Nigel told us Santa’s favourite tipple:
Cherry, Brandy or Port – even milk is a good option. I’m usually teetotal but do like the taste of Port.
If everyone left the same out for Santa, Christmas Eve would be a bit dull for him!
Now, for the Holy Grail of Christmas questions – does Nigel really believe in Santa?
Without hesitation, he replied:
Of course I do. I just fill in when he’s too busy! Santa is real. His spirit is inside all of us and when we all let out our inner Santa, the world seems to be a better place.
Heard it here first, kids. Merry Christmas!
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A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.