Tis the season to be jolly…when I say jolly, I mean off your face on Christmas ale and brandy drenched Christmas Pudding (no, not Christmas Cake!). It is also the time of year when you see your fair share of red-robed St. Nicholas wannabes, but one man that takes the job very seriously and has not only the experience, but more importantly, the beard. We caught up with Garry Firth to find out about the ups and downs of life behind the suit.
How did you first get started in the Santa industry? WERE you Father Christmas back home as well, or was it a career choice you made whilst in Japan?
I was working with a very wealthy man who was getting wealthier by the minute and he decided against his nature to give some money away and passed the job on to me, so it was by chance I fell into this very lucrative position (albeit for one week in a year). I was not a Santa or Father Christmas as we say back in England. I had a decent job and it was not until I reached these shores that the girth really needed to be a great Santa started to pile up.
Where in the city can people find you?
I can be found at the Marriottt hotel on the 15th floor on the 17th and 18th for lunch and night time. On the 20th, 21st and 22nd from 6.00pm until 9.00pm and on the 23rd, 24th and 25th for lunch and evenings again. If you are well heeled, I patrol the Restaurants and sometimes I am required to go to rooms and also take part in banquets or weddings. I will also be doing a reading of children’s stories in Japanese. At certain times, I may also try to cheer people in the environs of Nagoya’s Hostelries.
Do you get a lot of competition from Japanese Santas, or do Japanese people refuse to buy into the idea of an Asian Santa?
I don’t think so, even the poor sod who has been forced to don the cheap suit, itchy beard and the elastic bits that go around your ears would plead for a gaijin, fat or thin, to take over this thankless task. I think the Japanese parents just shun these folk and the kids are visibly upset and sometimes vomit.
You have a hell of a beard, do you grow it especially for Christmas, or is it a life long commitment?
About two years ago in October I couldn’t be bothered to shave for a couple of weeks and there was quite a bit of face fluff there and I knew that Christmas was around the corner. I had a wedding the next day, but where I would usually shave, I thought “fuck them”. There were no complaints so the growth continued and by Christmas I had a decent beard and no longer would I have to wear that awful itchy sweaty mask that really pained your ears.
I am keeping the beard for future, just in case Christmas is expanded for the year to keep the production lines going in China.
Some Japanese kids can be pretty naughty/selfish; are there any that ask for something for Christmas and you flat out refuse?
Actually the Japanese kids are great and only a few ask for toys when prompted by their parents. I give the kids a little bag of sweets when they come to the Marriott. Sometimes kids (young teens) visiting the Marriott from the U.S. can be a pain where Santa sits on Rudolf.
Do you have any adult admirers? Are flocks of flirtatious ladies an occupational hazard?
Yes, some older ladies and younger girls do get quite excited at seeing Santa, but nothing has ever transpired into night time Olympics. Once there was a young girl who was really excited who did not recognize me as I taught her at Joshin, a young prestigious girls school. She was a right pain in the &’%(&, and Santa did want his revenge, but there were far too many witnesses.
Talking of occupational hazards, are you expected to drink sherry by the bucket load?
I did sometimes drink Champagne in the back corridors which customers have not finished off, and last year a General manager took me to a restaurant and ordered me a big beer; when the offending waiter brought back a small beer he was told by the boss to fetch another one, he then said when I start work the next day, I should start with a beer.
My kinda boss!
As Santa Claus, who do you go to with your Christmas wish list?
I go to God but as George Bush, Dick Cheney and Tony Blair are still alive there can’t be a God!! But in seriousness, I am happy to see all those smiling faces when people see me, and the big fat pay check I get.
If you were on the closing credits of It’s a Wonderful Life, or A Christmas Carol, what would be your thoughts on “The True Meaning of Christmas”?
When I was young I was told to think of that poor little Chinese kid, now look at ’em.
The true meaning of Christmas is making your child happy and safe, and to remind them to be grateful for what they have or receive compared to others.
Garry is available for bookings. You can reach him via his YouTube page HERE