For countless young Kiwis, it’s not Christmas in New Zealand without the annual trip to the mall to pose for a photo with Santa Claus and rattle off your extensive wishlist.
But there’s a chance the Santa chair at your local mall could be empty this year, as the recession appears to have hit Santa’s workshop.
That’s right, there could be a nationwide Santa shortage by Christmas, with fewer and fewer people signing up to don the big red suit.
Santas and Santa’s helpers have dwindled in numbers over the past three years since Covid-19 came to our shores, particularly among those in the older generation - who were more vulnerable to catching the virus and thus less keen to tackle crowded malls.
So this year, talent agency Scene to Believe is launching its annual Santa Recruitment Drive early in a bid to fill up the hundreds of positions that are available throughout the country.
Scene to Believe’s head Christmas character recruiter Viviana Diaz tells the Herald they are hoping to get the numbers of Santas and elves back to “pre-pandemic levels” in 2023.
“Every year, we have more and more people asking for Santa photos and we are opening more stores, and so that’s why we’re looking for more Santas, to really fill the positions,” she says.
“We struggled during Covid times, but now after Covid, some people are more aware of the risks [of] being around people, so we lost some of our Santas during those years. So, this year, we really want to increase our Santa population.”
Diaz acknowledged the cost of living crisis might also be partly responsible for the shortage, saying, “I think people are struggling, maybe financially, and they’re looking for more fulltime jobs.”
“But in saying that as well, we’re looking also for more retirees - people that have retired before and are coming back to looking for a Santa job.
“So that’s why we’re putting it out there that people can, if they really want to, come back from retirement just to work for a season.”
Taking on the role of the legendary figure is no small feat - with the dreams of countless Kiwi kids at stake, what are some of the (Santa) clauses on the job description?
“So, we’re looking for people that love working with children - they enjoy making people happy,” Diaz explains.
“But it’s very important that they have a working with children clearance, that everything is checked so they can work around children.”
And if you don’t happen to have a long white beard, that’s okay - you’ll be given all the gear you need to look the part.
“They don’t really need to look like Santa. We provide the professional suit and the beard and the wig. So they will look and act like Santa, but they don’t need to be someone that looks like Santa [themselves],” Diaz adds.
Aspiring Santas do, however, need to be available for training - dubbed “Santa school” - from mid-November until Christmas Eve.
“We have Santa school in October. So we train all our Santas with our Santa ambassadors in every city [where] we have Santas. They come to Santa school just to learn how to work with children, [and] how to also work with pets,” Diaz says.
To Kiwis young or old mulling over whether to sign up, Diaz says it’s the perfect role for anyone who enjoys working with kids and putting a smile on people’s faces.
“People that do it, it’s because their passion is about making other people happy. They love working with children, so they don’t see it just as a job. They enjoy doing it at the end of the year to give that joy and happiness to other people.”
So get practicing your hearty ‘Ho, ho, ho’ - you can apply to become a Santa this year by calling the Santa hotline on 09 886 6699, emailing your application to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting Scene to Believe’s website here.