Friday, July 11, 2008

The Spirits of Xmas.

What is it with the Father Christmas suit. As soon as a group of normal, well meaning people pull them on, all hell breaks loose. Today's Telegraph has a substantial article about the 'civil war' between the Fraternal Order and the Red Suit Society, two rival gangs of Santa Claus's in the US. There promises to be a riot at today's annual conference of the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas which takes place in Kansas. Accusations of profiteering, unethical behaviour and even Claus-on Claus violence are rife. The Internet based exchange of information on belt supplies and beard dying has become a war zone. The story's on Page 16.

Now you may think this sort of thing could only happen in the US. But No. Something much worse has happened in my quiet part of Rural Wales. A few years ago an incident occurred in Newtown, in Montgomeryshire. It was the first Sunday in December - middle of the peak packaging season for every Father Christmas. There had been a 'Santa Run' around the streets of Newtown at lunch-time, when a world record 3700 Santas had taken part. I completed the course in around 25 minutes and came in about 25th. I joined a few other Santas for a post-race pre-Xmas drink in the Sportsman, and then went home for lunch. Unfortunately some of the other Santas decided to stay on for a liquid lunch, and did a William Hague plus (which involves at least 14 pints). At around 9.00 some Claus on Claus violence broke out, which finished up with several fully suited Santas fighting like dogs on Severn Street. There were injuries, arrests and the story made news across the world. The most amusing aspect of the entire story was that the police spokesman, who became a star on Sky News, was named Police Constable Slaymaker. Every word of this is true.


Anonymous said...

The true gentlemen of the Santa world in the US abhore the conduct of the president and vicepresident of AORBSInc. They have proven to be pathological liars obsessed with control of what was once a fine fraternal organization. Contact if you'd like the real story.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - Thanks. I find it amazing that anyone reading my blog should be able to share such information with us.

Santa said...

Hello Glyn, I'm Santa Ian, a professional Santa from Australia here to help sort out some of the confusion in your posting.

For starters, that 3700 runners were wearing Santa suits doesn't make any one of them a real Santa so calling them "Santa Claus" is just being cheeky. In truth you and they were just runners and the fact that some of them got into biffs after you left still doesn't make it a Claus-on-Claus situation.

Amongst professional Santas there is a saying, "Santa isn't the man who is wearing the red suit, Santa is what's coming from the heart of the man wearing the red suit." Or to paraphrase a famous William: "Clothes don't maketh the man."

To us, being a professional Santa hasn't anything to do with what you charge, or whether you charge, for your services, it is about how you approach the role, how you ensure that your suit and your behaviour are at their best. That your goal is to bring Love and Joy and Hugs to the children, and to the children-at-heart, that you might meet with during your day. That is what being a Santa is all about, the rest is just extra to the role.

Sure some of us might charge but that's because you have to put food on the table and you have to pay for the suit and the grooming and the rest of the things that go to make a credible Santa. I don't think you would believe just how many hundreds it costs each season to look your best. You only have 5-6 weeks to recoup that cost and have enough to tide you over for the next year.

The story you quoted isn't accurate and somewhere along the way further inaccuracies have crept in. Let me help clarify some of this for you.

The Red Suit Society was started by Santa Tim Connaghan some years back. It is simply an informal listing of those Santas who have attended his Santa Schools. It is just a list, there are no meetings, no forums, no contact between members. You will never find any statements made from them. You will never find any actions planned by them. To suggest so is ludicrous and just poor research by the original journalist.

The original gathering of Santas was the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas (AORBS). When there was the breaking away there were a number of other groups set up. These include the International Order of Santas (IOS) and the Fraternal Order Of Real Bearded Santas (FORBS).

The FORBS group was originally the Orange County Chapter of AORBS from Orange County, California, and most of the membership are former members of AORBS. To suggest that there would be fisticuffs and such behaviour from either AORBS member or FORBS members is again ludicrous and indicates poor research by the original journalist.

Yes there are claims and counter claims about financial mismanagement, stealing or mis-appropriation of property and other to-ing and fro-ing. Typical of when any community minded organisation breaks apart, there will the Them and the Us; the side that you hear from will be the Us and their side will be in the right and the other side, the Them, will be in the wrong.

Once some of these cases get to Court then the truth might come out, until then it is a matter for the members or former members of the organisations involved to make their own minds up on what has been presented to them.

The journalist, whose story has been quoted by the Telegraph and yourself, seems to have had one goal in mind, not to seek the truth, just to do a hatchet job on Santa's everywhere! That's not journalism, that's just gutter press. I can assure you, he had plenty of conversations with members from all sides of the fence, and loads of documentation provided to him. He chose to ignore most of it and go for sensationalism over facts, dirt before truth.

Please don't play their game by adding to the confusion, Santa's everywhere do what they do because they want to spread Love around, and the world needs men and women to carry on the wonderful work that Saint Nicholas demonstrated back in ancient Myra.

Real Santas claim a link to this wonderfully generous man and we try to continue in his footsteps in bringing Love and Joy and Hugs to all. How can that be seen as wrong?

If you, or any Santa's, or Santa Helpers, want any information on this situation or on where to find help and advice I would be honoured to assist them: santa dot ian at gmail dot com

Glyn Davies said...

santa - Thanks for one of the best comments this blog has ever received. I admit that my tongue was buried deep in my cheek when I posted, but I didn't have any intention of doing a 'Hatchet Job'. I don't think any of this will do any harm to the public's opinion of santas. Carry on distributing your seasonal pleasure.

Anonymous said...

Santa is a cocoa cola marketing symbol enough said

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

I remember the first time I saw Santa. He was 'all read and white at the same time'.

We were ushered by our teachers into the school hall. The teachers looked excited to us small kids. I couldn't help notice that our teachers were glancing and smiling at each other. A buzz was in the air and made for a fantastic atmosphere of expectation.

We knew something was going to happen, but we had no real idea. Then Santa came in. We were awe struck. We lined up and each one of us received a present from Santa. 'Might sound like a cliché, but meeting Santa was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Thank you, teachers of Cefn Onn Infant School. You tried so much, and somehow you achieved so much. You loved us and did your best by us. We who remember you salute you, our glorious teachers of Cefn Onn.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Foot note: Did Santa forget about Cefn Onn Primary School? Cefn Onn Primary School, in Llanishen Cardiff, is set to close (David James, South Wales Echo, 15 July, 2008), “Cefn Onn Primary School, in Llanishen, and St Anne’s Church in Wales Infant School, in Roath, were the two Cardiff schools that will definitely close as a result of the decision by Cardiff council’s executive board yesterday.” 'Sad' is all I can say; I will never forget Cefn Onn and its excellent teachers.

Santa said...

I have just read the comment about commercialism and Santa and I'm sorry but I feel it has to be addressed.

"Santa is a cocoa cola marketing symbol enough said"

By Valleys Mam

I am really sorry you feel that because you have been misled by the marketing. Santa has been around for many hundreds of years, in one form or another. Santa has worn a red suit for most of this time although Father Christmas was often seen in a green suit harking back to his appearance as a winter solstice visitor in Druidic times.

The Cocal-Cola company loves telling people that they invented Santa, they are wrong. Nobody denies that they helped make him more popular but Santa is far more than just a marketing agencies creation.

If you were to research this you would find that the Santa as expressed by the artist for Coke, he has 5 buttons down his front and fur around his neck and to the hem of his jacket.

By far the majority of Santas around the world follow the 'bishop' style of suit with the fur in a line down the front and no buttons showing. That syle comes through from Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra.

Yes, shopping centres and big stores capitalise on the image of Santa for Christmas in the hope of making a pound or two in the Christmas Season. Most of us real Santas know in our hearts that this is the only way many children are going to see Santa so we accept the commercial trappings in the goal of spreading our love and hugs as widely as we can.

Valleys Mam, please don't fall into the trap of believing the commercial hype, the real Santa is alive and well and still the lovely man you used to know as a child. Look into your heart, remember the great joy that Santa would bring, and find a way to share that joy with the young ones of today, they surely don't get enough chances to be innocent children so you can help share that with them.