By MARY WARD
So, Christmas is coming up and if you have kids (and aren’t, you know, Jewish or Muslim) chances are you’re going to want to mark this annual coming of the Yule with a picture of your child sitting on the knee of a complete(ly lovely) stranger with a polyester beard.
Fantastic! So, I’ll be seeing you shortly?
Yes, that’s right. I’m that girl. The elf/helper/photographer/fan operator/bringer of joy and cheer. In my three years as one of Santa’s nearest and dearest I have literally seen it all. And I mean that. You wouldn’t think that many kids consider the sight of Santa to be the best cue for throwing off all of their clothes but I put the odds at 1 in 50.
So, to help you out this holiday season, I’ve put together my top 12 tips for successfully surviving your Santa Photo. Because Christmas stuff just comes in dozens, doesn’t it?
1) Think ahead, people! I know that it doesn’t feel much like Christmas now. I get that. Also, you may be in denial. But early December really is the best time to get a Santa photo taken. There are no queues, Santa can spend ages talking to your kids and, better still, you can probably still park your car without having a nervous breakdown.
2) Watch your words while standing in line. Never, EVER assume that the child waiting in front of you is old enough to know that the only real residents of the North Pole are researchers and Russians trying to capitalise on the whole melting permafrost situation. I don’t care if they look old enough to be in high school, or old enough to have a mortgage. Have I had to reassure a fourteen year old that Santa is real? Yes. Yes I have. Now, let us never speak of this ever again.
3) He’s not ‘the man who plays Santa’. He’s just Santa. If I’ve spent the past half hour telling kids up and down the line that Santa’s just gone to feed his reindeer/is eating the lovely breakfast Mrs Claus has cooked for him/is just double checking his list to see which lovely boys and girls are coming to visit him today, you are not allowed to chime in with: “Oh, sorry darling it looks like the man who plays Santa is on his toilet break… What time is he working tomorrow, or is it a different guy?”
4) Be guided by the Elf: we can read the fear. When Santa and I are both saying: “Maybe we just stop the pram there, mum.” It is because we can see something that you, happily pushing your child up to greet us, cannot. We can see your child’s face contorting. We can see your child’s limbs squirming, and performing some mean gymnastic feat to push their little body up against the very back of that pram.
We can see that in about three seconds your child will begin one of the greatest tantrums they have ever staged in a public space, and that it will be in front of a horde of other parents (who will make audible sounds of the “tut tut” variety) and children (who may even have a sympathetic tantrum, creating a domino effect of wailing and foot stamping.) We can see that this won’t be a good idea, Mum. So maybe let us wave from a five- metre distance, and we’ll see how we go from there.
5) Don’t use the word “SCARY”. If you want to give your kid a good chance of not being scared of Santa, you could try not using the word “SCARY” so much? As in: “Don’t be silly, sweetheart. Santa’s not SCARY! He’s not SCARY at all! There’s nothing to be SCARED about this not-SCARY Santa.” This is particularly annoying when the child wasn’t aware that they were supposed to be SCARED in the first place.
Otherwise you might end up with photos like this: [text continues after the picture]