I’ve had some pretty strange days working on this show over the years, but today is up there with the strangest of them. We were attending the International Santa Claus Congress. In July. In a heatwave.
It’s been taking place at the world’s oldest amusement park, Bakken Theme Park, for decades and involves people who work over the festive season as Santa Claus coming from all over the world to hang out and swap tips during their least busy period of the year. Despite the 30 degree heat, there they were when we arrived, about 40 or 50 of them in full Father Christmas regalia standing around a massive Christmas tree. They really do come from all over the world. There were Santas from Canada, the USA, Sweden, Germany, France, the UK, even Japan (he was particularly impressive, as he’d brought along a gang of Geisha girls who followed him around the park singing and banging drums). The whole amusement park had been decked out with little festive touches, and many of the staff in the cafes and restaurants were sporting santa hats.
We were there to take part in the Santa pentathlon, and after a warm up on the Santa Claus obstacle course (where you have to throw yourself down a chimney and run across some wooden icebergs to deliver a present to a small child) we got stuck in, in full Santa costumes of course. Chris and I raced round the park fighting our way through holidaying Danes making the most of the good weather and went head to head in the water pistol shooting range and various other fairground attractions, with a constant crowd of ‘Ho-Ho-Ho-ing’ Santas cheering us along. At one point they all started picking on me for being too skinny, but undeterred I persevered and was crowned champion at the end of the day.
Couldn’t wait to peel off my costume. How or why those Santas do this every year is beyond me, but I’m glad they do because it’s a beautifully bonkers spectacle to behold.