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Arts Post
Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 12/06/2011

Christmas chaos: This week in department store Santas

This week, department store Santas are managing children’s expectations, getting surprised by musical flash mobs, being forced into early retirement after 18 years of distinguished service, and consoling elves who quit in a huff.
When Cliff Snider, who's been playing Santa since he was a teenager, gets a big-ticket request, he typically answers: "There's an awful lot of children asking for that this year. What else do you want?" (Tom Copeland - AP)

• Santa puts Groupon on naughty list: In London, one of Santa’s elves quit when an “angry melee” erupted at a Christmas display when Groupon oversold tickets to a holiday train ride, causing long lines and hostile parents. “Children were crying and upset,” said the organizer of the event. “One man even verbally threatened the lady who is dressed as a Christmas tree.”

Santa gets on Skype: Parents in Toronto who don’t actually want to bring their children to the mall can sign up for a 10-minute Skype session with Santa instead. Some parents are disappointed: “The fact that a kid can’t get on a Santa's lap, have him put his arm around him, hear his real voice, cuddle up to him and have the whole experience is a real shame,” one woman told the Canadian Press.

• Santa finds polite way to convince children they don’t need expensive gifts; blames it on elf named Rupert: Because of the economic downturn, mall Santas are being coached to handle sensitive situations where children ask for gifts that cost more than their parents can afford, or if they ask for immaterial things like a job for their parents. One Santa says that if children ask him for an iPad, he’ll tell them that his iPad elf, named Rupert, is “way behind production.”

Santa loses mall gig after 18 years; children don’t notice: The Concord Mall in Wilmington, Del., told Santa Claus that his contract was up after 18 years, he told his local NBC affiliate. Four-year-old Jacob does not know the difference, though, and he asked the replacement Santa for a transformer and “a surprise.” The laid-off Santa is now occupying a New Jersey mall; Mrs. Claus is occupying the North Pole.

• Santa proclaims himself “The Robert DeNiro of Santas”: There are Santa Claus acting academies, did you know? The curriculum includes history of Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus; proper dress and use of makeup; experience for radio and television interviews; “Santa sign language”; live reindeer habits; and “Santa flight lessons,” according to MSNBC. “Real beard” Santas are at the top of their craft.

Santa target of friendly-but-menacing musical flash mob demanding to sit on him: From Improv Everywhere, in New Jersey.

By  |  12:15 PM ET, 12/06/2011

 
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