Frivolous Monsters

The Many Faces of Santa Claus

I only remember visiting Father Christmas once or twice in my life and on December the first this year, on the inevitable slide towards Christmas, I went along into town where the Art Gallery was holding a local Craft Fair where he was set to put in an appearance with the flyer advertising a “rare opportunity” to immortalise him, in the medium of your choice, with a Santa life-drawing class…The Many Faces of Santa Claus Father Christmas

A Santa life-drawing class… The mental images that gives me…

Santa Naked

I’ve never been to life-drawing before, and I was imagining a re-run of that scene from Titanic… Draw me like one of your French girls… Wearing this… Wearing only this.

Santa Nude 02

In the end it all turned out to be a little bit more sedate, with less screaming mentally-disturbed children trying to claw their eyes out.

A picture from the actual event “borrowed” from Bury Art Gallery’s Facebook page as I didn’t have the nerve to take one myself. Shhh! Don’t tell them. I don’t want to get in anybodies bad books this close to Christmas.

A picture from the actual event “borrowed” from Bury Art Gallery’s Facebook page as I didn’t have the nerve to take one myself. Shhh! Don’t tell them. I don’t want to get in anybody’s bad books this close to Christmas.

I didn’t get to speak to Father Christmas, surrounded as he was by drawing kids, but I could tell from the glint in his eye that he remembered me from my childhood visits and so I left to do some supermarket shopping… Only when I’d finished Santa was there again, doing odd valedictory laps of the Tesco car park on the back of a flatbed truck to what sounded like a scratch-remix of Good King Wenceslas in Welsh. It got odder how, on the way out, he pulled into the McDonald’s drive-through. I overheard a parent saying that it did remove some of the magic.

Riding around the streets like a maniac in his magically powered sleigh... I can’t quite figure out how it was done.

Riding around the streets like a maniac in his magically powered sleigh… I can’t quite figure out how it was done.

In Santa’s defence, again I don’t want to misrepresent him and get into his bad books, he did just do a lap of the drive-through to wave to all inside to spread his Christmas cheer. He didn’t stop for a burger.

And that was that, until I got home and looked at the pictures, got the impression that something wasn’t quite right, sent them off to the forensic lab, and then realised that within half an hour of these two appearances Santa had changed his face. This led me to get all nostalgic and have a little search through my parents’ stash of photos from my childhood with the hope of finding just one nice-looking period picture of me with a proper-looking Father Christmas…

And I turned up evidence of NINE annual visits to see Father Christmas. Nine! And there’s not a real beard between the lot of them. I can’t believe I was so gullible and fell for it every year. I have no idea where all these Santa assignations took place, I’m thinking a department store in Manchester, but I only remembered going about twice… Oh treasured childhood memories.

The photos reveal such a den of scum and villainy as I’ve never seen… since I saw them in the flesh, obviously.

And as I view them now I see them looking like someone’s Dad (1983), a Scouser youth who’s just knocked over a Building Society (1984), and the pub drunk (1985).

I can smell the booze from here.

I can smell the booze from here.

Then there’s the bored college student (1981), a glue-sniffer with a black stubble moustache (1980), and a depressed Tony Hancock (1986).

Look into those sad, sad, eyes.

Look into those sad, sad, eyes.

I get the impression now that some of their hearts mustn’t have been in it. Seriously, where’s the quality control over here in the UK?

So I’ve lowered my expectations in life, still further, and have updated my criteria of what I desire from the many faces of Santa: Looking for an older gentleman, over sixty, clean from drink and drugs a bonus. And that’s when I realised that that’s what turned up to Bury Art Gallery in the first place… And he brought his own hair! It just shows that you don’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone… all the way back to the North Pole.

Santa Photos 600

This is possibly my best Santa visit picture, at the age of one, where I must have been thinking that I’ve just been handed away to the dodgy man in the tinsel room. I also found one of my Mum at the same age, from the fifties, where she almost seems as concerned about the man on the glitter throne as I was… would be. Why do people put their kids through this?

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25 thoughts on “The Many Faces of Santa Claus

  1. My eyes! My eyes! Thanks for nothing re that naked Santa. Even though after hearing ‘santa life drawing’ I had the same idea but my brain refused to project a mental picture, probably to save me….

    I have never made my kids do the santa photo, much to my mothers disgust. If they wanted to I was happy to go for it, but they have never wanted to sit on the lap of a dodgy bloke in a fake beard. Hardly surprising really. To me that means they have an appropriate level of stranger suspicion, a very good thing!

    I never understood why people force their clearly scared kids onto the lap of a stranger then want photographic evidence of it.

    • You won’t believe how hard it is to trawl the internet for a naked Santa… Possibly for good reasons. I would have made sure it was tasteful, if it had been more indecent than that… Although saying that I was quite happy to include Kate Winslet’s breasts if the still I’d turned up, that I added the naked Santa drawing to, had had them in shot… Which just shows what double standards I obviously hold.

      I was visiting a friend’s stall at the craft fair, but my brain gave me that mental image a week in advance… And wouldn’t let it go.

      You know I’m more thankful that my parents did take us. I have very little memory of them but they’re great to look back on now. And talking of stranger suspicion I now see a lot of dodgy clasping hands in these photos, which just shows how society (with our risk aversion priority) has changed for the worse.

      • I would have liked to have pictures of the kids smiling happily on santas knee but the only picture I would have received would have been of two very worried looking boys looking out of frame to wherever I was standing to make sure I wasn’t about to leave!
        My mum was always horrified that I had broken tradition but I chose not making the kids do something they were uncomfortable with over keeping her happy.

        I’m pretty pleased to hear that naked santa isn’t an easy search but I am sure there are few men who would balk at posting ‘naked Kate Winslet (or insert attractive celebrity here) with santa’ pics given the chance!

    • I think that nudity might be off-putting to some in a general blog like this, and the two naked pictures I can remember using in the past – that scene from ‘Clash of the Titans’, and Jenna-Louise Coleman from ‘Room at the Top’ – but I deliberately obscured them, in the particular place, but then that fitted in with the story I was telling about them at the time.

  2. I can’t see my son going for this somehow:) – why did we submit ourselves to it? I remember begging to visit Santa in dept. stores in Bournemouth and Manchester – maybe it was the promise of a “gift”. Thanks for the (shopsoiled) memories.

    • You know now I definitely would put my kids (who don’t exist yet) through it at least for a couple of years. They’re the better looking photos I have from 1-2. After that comes the inclusion of brothers who I tried my best to cut out of these photos should they ever find them!

      I’m guessing these forgotten visits must’ve added to the magic of Christmas, on some level, and I still love it now and have lots of happy Christmas memories. For us just going to Manchester was a big event and the only one I clearly remember is where we went around the toy floor (presumably afterwards) of whatever department store it may eventually be revealed to have been and then got chips on the way home. And of such memories childhoods are made.

  3. Hilarious piece. I especially enjoyed Santa on his magically powered sleigh! I have absolutely no recollection of ever visiting Santa in a department store, though I do remember being highly terrified and suspicious of him, as I am of most all-knowing, all-seeing beings who keep records of my every activity. Forget the toys, just please do not let him in the house.

    • Thanks, I had to cut my brothers out of those pictures (it probably works better that way, anyway) but there was a lot of odd grasping hands from Santa that look a bit cringe-worthy these days…

      And all but one of them are wearing white gloves. I’m thinking there must be a limited number of professions that the white glove shop sells to: the Santas, for military parades, the mime artists, and the snooker referees… Surely a recession-proof business manufacturing them!

  4. petit4chocolatier on said:

    Love the post! I always wondered who may be under the beard!!

  5. I’m traumatised by the naked Santa pic! You should have a helpline number at the end of this post for people affected by the issues raised.

    • Yes, I think the commenters above are hiving off into their own self-help group! It was so hard to find that photo, so glad I did, and the pencil drawing which I think must have been Santa-related as I don’t spend all my time searching the internet for elderly men in a state of undress…

  6. I’d never noticed before but I think you’re right. There is in fact more than one guy masquerading as Santa.

    My naivety has cost me dear and I shall never be duped again. I say we yank down their beards and photograph them, adding the motley assortment to http://www.thisgitdefinitelyisn‘ttsanta.com

    Enjoy the Blog Dude, even if you have shattered my Christmas with your astute observations.

    Next Santa I see is going to get a Citizens arrest and have to deal with me hauling his phoney ass to the Feds. . .

    Θ)

  7. What a community! Santa life-drawing AND cruising around a grocery store parking lot blasting rap from a flatbed truck. It’s like Monty Python. When can I visit?

  8. This made laugh so much i snorted and cricked my neck at the same time, well done sir!

  9. The Kate Winslet picture actually made me guffaw. Great post!

  10. Big smiles and giggles over here.

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