How to Make Father Christmas’ Nice List (with the Big Man himself)

For eight years, Carl McFarlane has been donning the Big Red Suit and Santa-ing his way across the land. But ho-ho-how does he manage it?

sant interview

When and how do you start to get in the Christmas spirit?
A good old Mince Pie and an urn of Mulled Wine! Only joking. Getting fully “Ho-ho-ho!” usually starts around August—following a long holiday with Mrs Claus—when contracts are finalised for grottos and personal appearances. Then there are panto scripts to be learned and research to be done on children’s current “must haves.” Getting seven Big Red Suits dry cleaned (one for each day), pristine white gloves and boots polished and ready is also a must. Image is everything in this line of work.

How do you get yourself pumped before you don on the suit?
Before any event, Santa goes for a swim, steam and sauna where possible and has a big plate of some nice food to get into the Santa mindset. Then the transformation of getting ready begins: over 1 hr getting into the suit, prosthetic belly and cooler (it can get hot in there) are a must! Where possible, I want to make the visit of Santa personalised to each child and as inclusive as possible. Once I practised sign language for a whole week and then sent a personalised video message to a local deaf child reassuring him he was on the nice list. His parents were so pleased, it was great.

Is there any things you need to avoid to make sure you stay jolly during the season and in your grotto?
Being jolly is part of the job! But Santa does need to have plenty of coffee on tap—especially being in the big red suit for 10 hours each day!— and to avoid flatulence-causing foods like curry and mushy peas. Trying to navigate the toilet is a task in itself!

What do modern children want for Christmas?
Some are very grateful for any present, but some want the lot: The latest iPhone, a real dog, a £500 pair of trainers! I sometimes get asked to change family members too: “Could I please have a new brother? I don’t like my current one!”

What’s the most annoying thing kids do?
Some children pick their nose and then high five me. Parents also place newborns on my knee when they’ve just poo’d and some are sick during the photo. Oh, the joys!

Who are the most annoying: The parents or kids?
Parents can be terribly behaved, but grandparents are worse. They can be incredibly pushy, and quite rude. But there are also loads of really lovely children, who ask for their ill siblings to get better, or wish for really selfless or conceptual gifts. That really does bring a tear to my eye.

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