Christmas is here and I’m in Santa’s grotto, dressed in my finest red suit to make kids’ wishes come true.
A 12-year-old mooches towards me, head bowed with a sceptical look in his eye. Peering at my portly figure and wispy white beard, he asks flatly, “If you’re the real Santa Claus, what’s my name?”
But he’s in for a surprise. I whisper, “Sometimes Santa Claus is much more than what you see – it’s what you believe in. And I’d never forget your name, James.”
The boy’s eyes open wide in awe and in this brief moment, the magic of Santa is real.
I’ve always held a special place in my heart for Christmas. When I was small, the then Santa Claus – who I took over from – brought me a little teddy bear. It’s still one of my most treasured possessions.
I loved to dress up as Santa during the holidays. Aged six, I was given a knitted red suit by my grandmother and I would act the part when little ones came to stay. I was always going to be a performer.
When I grew up I became a children’s entertainer and travelled the world as a professional opera singer until one day, someone noticed my jolly figure (I’m naturally a little rotund).
The man told me, “You’d be a wonderful Father Christmas for our party.”
I practically begged to do it and fell in love with Santa all over again. That’s when I knew he was my calling.
I have friends in the movie industry, including make-up artists from the Harry Potter films – and together, we worked out how to transform me into a Santa Claus that everyone could believe in.
A little rouge really works wonders! It’s the most remarkable feeling when I see Father Christmas staring straight back at me in the mirror. Something takes hold of me and I embrace the man who brings love and happiness to all.
I have two identical suits, worth £30,000 each. The detailed buttons and handmade leather belt are 18-carat gold-plated and the suits are hand embroidered with ornate Christmas designs.
The boots alone are worth £3,500 – made to fit my exact foot shape – and I have a full supporting cast of real reindeer, too.
As flying animals go, they’re not too naughty!
The Santa suit that I wear is so heavy that I have to wear a special cooling suit underneath. But there’s no padding – I’m afraid it’s the result of eating so many mince pies, chocolate bars and chips.
It’s tough keeping Santa a secret, but my dry cleaner does a good job. Every year around February I send my suit off on a six-week break. He gives it a careful clean and hides it from view. No one must know where Santa washes his suit!
Is my beard real? I couldn’t possibly say! There are some secrets Santa can’t reveal.
I’m not the Santa you see in supermarkets or shopping centres – as wonderful as they are. I perform at dinner parties and weddings, make Christmas movies, entertain celebrities and pay home visits to some of the world’s most high-profile people.
No one’s asked me to appear on a roof or jump down a chimney yet, but I’d be up for it!
Each year (Covid permitting), I travel across the country and around the world from Singapore to Canada, China and Hong Kong. Before Covid hit, I visited every single continent in 12 months, including Antarctica.
The fun of being Father Christmas gets me through it all. It’s a full-time job – I’m in my suit most months of the year – but I manage to catch a bit of ITV daytime viewing between delivering presents. Nothing beats a bit of Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, but Mrs Claus prefers Corrie .
Mrs Claus travels with me all year round. I’ll be looking at festive decorations in June, and in November I fill the house with eight Christmas trees and countless glittering lights.
People say the house is exactly how they imagined Santa’s home would look. It smells of pine and mulled berries, too.
One of the ironies about being Santa, though, is that it takes away Christmas for me because I’m so busy working. I eat
13.8 billion mince pies on Christmas Eve alone. That’s no mean feat.
My festive schedule is very demanding, so I do need all those mince pies. I get up at 4am and come home to Mrs Claus at 1am the next day. There are all those presents that I have to deliver – I need an oxygen mask to keep up.
Then Christmas Day begins at 5am. I spend the morning with a famous member of the England squad, before meeting a Hollywood A-lister, who lives in the UK. I also visit some famous faces at a royal residence – their children are a joy.
I’m given guidance, but I break the rules and bypass “Ma’am” and “Sir”. Santa is everyone’s friend, he wouldn’t use those words. I treat people with respect, with a bit of cheekiness thrown in.
During home visits I’ll sing Christmas songs, use my “Shrek” humour to entertain the adults, and wow the kids with some magic tricks. I blow bubbles, catch them between my fingers and pop them on little sticks – they then turn into real lollipops!
I also have some quiet time with the children and listen to their wishes, then I’ll introduce them to my reindeer in the garden.
When my work is done, I return home to the North Pole at 5pm to make a turkey dinner – my roast potatoes are the stuff of legend.
Mrs Claus and I will then cosy up and binge-watch festive films. My favourite has to be Santa Claus: The Movie with Dudley Moore. And you can’t beat The Muppet Christmas Carol .
It’s the special moments that really warm my heart. I remember this one Christmas when a lad came to see me. His father had died and he asked me, “Can you bring Dad back?”
I explained softly, “There are some things that Santa Claus can’t do. But death doesn’t mean that something goes away. As long as you remember your father and keep happy moments in your heart, he lives within you.”
The young man understood my words and that meant the world to me.
Along with those special times, there are silly ones, too, and it’s very hard not to laugh. One child once asked me for world peace, and all the little ones copied him until the final little boy declared proudly, “I want world peace… and a gun.”
And it’s not just kids who believe in Santa – I have fun with adults, too. A few years back, I switched on the Christmas lights in Dublin.
I stayed in a hotel and heard a huge argument in the room next door. Santa doesn’t usually lose his temper, but I banged on the wall and bellowed, “Look here, can you keep it down for goodness’ sake?”
The next morning I donned my red suit and as I left my room, the couple next door appeared, too. The chap looked sheepish. He nudged his wife and whispered, “Look love, it was Santa who shouted at us last night.”
Some adults can be pretty mean to their kids. One Christmas I was asked by a celebrity to sneak into his house and surprise his little boy. I held the letter he’d sent up his chimney to the North Pole and his face was a picture.
I told him, “You might wake up tomorrow and think this was a dream. Hold it in your heart, and take this [a gold button etched with SC] to prove that I was here.”
Weeks later, the dad airbrushed me out of all the pictures and claimed his son had made it up, but the child had that gold button, he was convinced. The chap’s promised me he’ll confess to his son when he’s older!
A long time ago I had a vivid dream that I put on my costume and transformed into the real Father Christmas. It wasn’t long after that I began my journey to become him.
Being Santa really matters to me. I’m not just a bloke putting on a suit. It’s symbolic and important to people. I try to bring the magic to everybody who gets to meet him.
All I really want for Christmas is family, friends and a good cup of tea.