What it's really like being a shopping centre Santa.


Jim Whiff has brought joy to more than 100,000 Sydney children for more than 15 years as Santa Claus. The Santa of Seven Hills is often stopped in the street all year round by adults and children who have a Christmas wish.

Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the mythologised image of Santa Claus, Mr Whiff is in high demand at this time of the year. The 86-year-old retired factory worker has one piece of advice for budding Santas.

Jim Whiff relaxing at home. (Photo: 702 ABC Sydney/ John Donegan)  

“Get yourself an agent. Anyone going into this business without an agent is asking for trouble,” Mr Whiff told 702 ABC Sydney.

Mr Whiff’s agent Rosalind Palisi from Straight Down The Line Promotions has trained 300 new Santas this year.

Ms Palisi said she has seen her share of “bad” Santas.

“Goths, people with nose rings, studs, and facial tattoos turn up to play Santa but get turned away,” she said.

Ms Palisi said age is not a barrier for wannabe Santas.

“I’m just looking for nice gentlemen to play Santa; turning up to an interview at 9:00am with a can of beer in your hand won’t pass muster,” Ms Palisi said.

Bad Santa: John’s agent says she has seen her fair share of “bad” Santas.


Mr Whiff does not have to return to Santa school each year, and can recount story after story of good and bad children who have passed his way.

“It comes naturally to me,” he reminisced, as he unpacked a large suitcase filled with red jackets, white gloves, black belts with shiny buckles all neatly wrapped.

And no request surprises this experienced Santa Claus.

“A few years ago a little girl, about 10, from the country, wanted a chainsaw because the boy on the next property was getting one,” Mr Whiff said.

He said children’s requests have changed over the years.

“Now they all want gadgets and electronic stuff,” the grandfather of six said.

But one thing that has not changed over the generations is the children’s desire to pull Santa’s whiskers.

The first year Mr Whiff took on the role of Santa was physically daunting.

“That year, when Boxing Day came, I just laid in bed and died. It really knocks you out,” he said.

But the octogenarian said he has no plans to retire: “I’ll keep on doing it until I can’t breathe no more.”

This post was originally published by the ABC here and has been republished with full permission.

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