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london christmas grotto santas
Photograph: Gobinder Jhitta

We ask London’s Christmas grotto Santas what they’re really thinking

The city’s Santas share what it’s like being the face of Christmas

Written by
Kate Lloyd

Which reindeer is Father Christmas’s favourite? And how do you master a really good ‘Ho ho ho’? We put the important questions to London’s Christmas grotto Santas.

selfridges santa
Photograph: Gobinder Jhitta

Santa, Selfridges Christmas Market 

Have you ever wanted another job?

‘Sometimes I say to Mrs Claus “Wouldn't it be nice just to be ordinary?” because I can’t go out, even in the summer. Trying to walk down the pavement is a nightmare. I’ll have my red shorts on, trying my best to blend in, but someone always spots me.’

How do you do a good ‘ho ho ho’?

‘There are two sorts of “ho ho ho”. You’ve got your big public “HO HO HO”, and for that you need to take a huge breath and think of yourself as a big bell. The other one is your quiet, more personal “ho ho ho”. People like that one. Everyone gets used to the loud one and they just ignore it. But if you get close and chuckle “...ho ho ho”, people stop and say “Oh, hello Santa” as if they didn't realise it was me.’

castle square santa
Photograph: Gobinder Jhitta

Santa, Christmas Extravaganza at Castle Square 

Is Rudolph still your favourite reindeer? 

‘There's no such thing as a favourite reindeer. Dasher and Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen are all equally as valid as Rudolph. Yes, indeed. I treat them like children... Children who I put out in a stable for 11 months of the year.’

What do your friends think of you being Santa?

‘I think my friends get a bit envious. They’re all working nine-to-fives, and there I am flying overhead on a great big sleigh. I don’t get many hangers-on though. I mean, they physically can’t hang on because the sleigh is so very, very high.’

How do you train for the big day?

‘People are often under the impression that Father Christmas does absolutely nothing for 11 months of the year. Chance would be a fine thing. No, no, no, we start very, very early in January... by eating. And then when February comes around, there’s a little more than eating, and then from March to April, generally speaking, is when we really get in some good, hearty eating. And then April through to August, August through to September, September through to October, the focus is eating, eating, eating. And then in November, I try on the costume.’

noir kringle
Photograph: Gobinder Jhitta

Santa, Noir Kringle

What do your friends think of you being Santa?

‘I keep my work and personal life separate. You have to be very cautious of who you can trust, you see, because people want to beat the present list and make all these different requests for gifts. But I’m only one person, I’ve only got one team of elves and I need to make sure that everyone around the world gets their present.’ 

What do you think of the other grotto Santas?

‘I’ve heard about other people dressing up as Santa, trying to get my cookies. All I have to say is that I’m the real Santa. There can only be one. Stop impersonating me.’

What’s the secret of a good ‘ho ho ho’?

‘Practice. I wake up in the morning and do my “ho ho hos” and then I do my “Merrrrrry Christmas” and it just gets better and better.’ 

National Gallery Santa
Photograph: Gobinder Jhitta

Santa, National Portrait Gallery

What do you think of the other grotto Santas?

‘I am aware of course that there are people out there who feel it’s incumbent to dress up and pretend to be me and sometimes get paid to look and sound like me. There’s nothing I can do to stop that. If that is what they wish to do, fine. It simply perpetuates the great truth.’

Have you ever seen a Christmas card and thought ‘wow, that’s unflattering?’

‘Oh, no. I’ve seen many, many representations of myself. And of course, my own appearance over the centuries has sort of changed. It’s modified sometimes according to climate. So, I am always changing. The great battle, of course, is between Mrs Claus and myself on the subject of what she calls my girth. She feels that it will impede the progress of the sleigh.’

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