This past Christmas season I donned the famous red outfit once more and became Samta! Now in my fourth year as the jolly fellow, I was happy to be back behind the beard spreading Christmas cheer to every family that was to pop into my grotto.
Having been Santa at various locations and occasions I was looking forward to a new, more serious challenge: sitting in one location, and being there non-stop for 17 days straight. My home for the Christmas period was to be Wafi Mall. I had been there for two brief stints last year as I filled in for a Santa that got ill, but this time the domain belonged to me, so it was down to myself and one other Santa to be the leading figures for the festivities.
Marcela, from Dream Master ME, was my point of contact and the lady who booked me. Having worked with her last year, I felt at ease that the booking process (and more importantly, payment) was going to be straight forward. This allowed me to concentrate on creating the character that everyone expected.
My first appearance as St. Nicholas (having already fitted the costume at an earlier date) saw me thrown in at the deep end as the main act in an impressive medley of school choirs all culminating in the big Christmas Tree light-switching ceremony. Around 800 people crowded the mall and Radio 4 (the UAE version) were on hand to get everyone riled up and into the Christmas mood.
Following a lengthy walk through Wafi’s construction site extension in clunky boots and a fat-suit that was rapidly getting hotter I was poised and ready to go, sitting inside my sleigh, elves either side, at the main entrance. As a performer, I love being cheered on, but there was something about this grand entrance and the ensuing claps, cheers and waves that made me really feel what Christmas is all about. You see the children and mums and dads and grandmas and aunts and uncles and everyone else weren’t cheering for me, Sam the comedian, or even Sam the guy in the Santa outfit, they were genuinely cheering for Santa himself!
I suppose it brought the whole experience and the understanding of how important Santa is into perspective. He isn’t just some bloke in a suit, he is the embodiment of childhood. Kids look at you in disbelief and awe and parents look at you with their childhood memories lit alight, even if just for a brief moment.
Fast forward to the end of the 17 days and the elves are spent, the grotto looks worn and the Santas are knackered, but over 5,000 children and families have had their Christmas made just that extra special thanks to a great team, beautiful setup and supportive location that allowed it all to happen.
Was it hard work? Yes. Very. Were there times I didn’t like it? Yeah, a few. Did the beard itch? Yes, and it was dirty by the end too. Did I learn something? Yes, lots of things. Good and bad. Would I do it again? Ask me around November.