Saturday, November 27, 2010

The World Santa Claus Congress: Yuletide Professionalism?

Held in Denmark each summer by professional Santa “impersonators” the world over, does the World Santa Claus Congress provide the much needed professionalism in the global Santa impersonation biz?

By: Ringo Bones

Eventually, every kid who pledged allegiance to Western Christianity will eventually find out that their local Santa Claus / Thomas Nast – style Saint Nicholas is just an over-glorified Yuletide Season impersonator. A fat guy disguised with a white natty beard and a big fat jolly red suit just trying to make ends meet in our increasingly globalized society. But it doesn’t always mean that every Santa Claus impersonator has to be a character of contention during the Yuletide Season.

Often frowned upon by the strictest of Christian fundamentalists as the surest sign of the runaway commercialization of an arbitrarily dated holiday supposedly set to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, believe it or not Santa Claus “impersonators” do have a regulatory body / commission that oversee in the maintenance of their professionalism.

For the past 43 years or so, the World Santa Claus Congress has been held every summer in Denmark where Santa Claus “impersonators” the world over went there for their annual meeting. Official Santa Claus impersonators (which probably also mean really good Santa Claus impersonators) that represent their respective countries – or countries in the world with a sizeable population that celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus – are vetted for their kid-friendliness and their in-depth knowledge on the origins and story of the traditional Western Thomas Nast – inspired Santa Claus.

Since the end of the Second World War, Japan has been celebrating Christmas big time that it has since became the biggest rival to the Christian West when it comes to celebrating a Santa – oriented Christmas. Japan’s official Santa Claus, or the officially sanctioned designated Santa Claus impersonator, has garnered accolades over the years as the “Gold Standard” of authenticity in Santa Claus impersonation. Given that the Japanese take traditions very seriously, Santa Claus more or less had become an established Japanese tradition during the Yuletide Season.

Before the Thomas Nast – style Santa Claus was embraced by the Japanese, Japan’s traditional gift-giver used to be an enchanted pig that came down from the mountains during winter time. The resemblance to the jolly bearded fat man in a jolly red suit might only be a coincidence, but the “Japanese Santa Claus” has since traditionally been served with roast pork and rice pudding – the now established traditional Japanese Christmas dinner – as opposed to the Christian West’s traditional milk and cookies treat for Santa doing his rounds. The World Santa Congress it seems not only establishes and maintains professionalism in Santa Claus impersonation but also the idiosyncrasies of various Santa Claus traditions in other parts of the world. Even those who haven't exactly pledged allegiance to Western Christianity.