“Being a Santa is a gift that people have,” says the man who has worked as a real-life Father Christmas at Romford Shopping Hall for seven years now.
With bells on his wrist, a huge beard and a soft red jacket with white fur trims, he definitely looks the part. But it’s clear he also has a heart of gold.
“You can’t have an off day, because each one of those children is important,” says Santa, who sees up to 2,500 children over the Christmas period.
“A lot of them I’ve seen for several years before, so we’ve got a good relationship. They tell me if they got what they asked for the Christmas before.
“It’s sort of like being family.”
The job isn’t just about hearing what presents children would like to see under their tree, though. It’s also about making sure every child, regardless of their background, is heard.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with families who have lots of money, or families who haven’t got lots of money,” says Santa, whose grotto is raising money for Dachshund rescue charity The Red Foundation this year. “You meet exactly the same cross-section of children.
“Some of them have problems at school with bullying and things like that, and they tell me about that kind of thing and I just give them a little bit of advice.”
How does he do that? ”You have to try and put yourself in their shoes, and feel what they feel. It’s not a case of ‘Hello, merry Christmas, what would you like? Ho, ho, ho.’ You have to be one of them.
“Santa is the children’s ally. They’re the magic of Christmas because that’s what makes Christmas, especially these days. The children make Christmas.”