Your jolly good elf

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 December, 2009, 12:00am

David Falconer, 43, is one of the city's best-known Santas. The role has taken him to Ocean Park, Harbour City, the Hong Kong WinterFest and shopping malls over the past decade.

Ohio-based Ricky Baldwin is a stage actor and singer who has committed the past eight years of his career to the Santa role. He will be at Santa's mansion in Pacific Place this month.

How did you fall into the role of Santa Claus?

DF: Because I am conversant in Cantonese, I have been asked to take on different acting roles over the years. My first Santa Claus role for a television commercial was just another one of these requests. After that, the requests just kept coming in.

RB: It all began in 2001 when one of the theatres cast me in Miracle on 34th Street and I discovered the role of Santa. That changed my life. I just fell in love with the role.

How long does it take to get ready?

DF: It takes about 30 minutes. Over the years, I have learned to apply my own make-up. The key thing is to make sure you whiten your eyebrows. I have also invested in my own costume complete with bells, the entire Santa regalia and Rudolph.

RB: I am a natural fit for the role because I have the textbook face for Santa, so I don't wear any make-up. Everything is natural. It takes about 90 minutes to get ready. I bleach my hair a little and put on my handmade costume, tall leather boots and I am ready.

What do you try to achieve with the kids?

DF: In Britain and the United States, Santa Claus is a very traditional role. The kids sit with you, have a chat and you take your time. In this town, it is more about the photo opportunity. You barely get more than a few seconds, although I try to slow it down and have some chat time. I want to make sure the kids are having a wonderful Christmas.

RB: I let them know I am their good friend and show them a wonderful and fun personality, which helps to bring out their wonderful and fun side. I also ask them about the year they have had and whether they have been the best person they can be.

What has been the most memorable request you have ever received?

DF: A child once asked me if his parents could be together again. That was so sad - it almost made me cry.

RB: A little girl once said to me: 'Santa, I don't need anything but my daddy has lost his job, so can you help him find another, and my mom needs shoes and a warm coat.' I will never forget that. I was so touched by this child's generosity.

What is most rewarding about the role?

DF: I hope to bring to Hong Kong my overseas experience. It's a way of showing Hong Kong the true Christmas spirit.

RB: It is the fact that you are constantly seeing complete joy in people's faces and knowing that families are appreciating what I am doing.

What is the biggest challenge?

DF: The work means I don't get to spend Christmas with my family, but they understand what I am doing and will visit me at the venue.

RB: The queues to meet Santa can be so long that people are often tired and slightly agitated by the time they reach me. However, I try to turn that fatigue around. I want the child to feel like it was worth the wait.

What was Christmas like for you growing up?

DF: Our family returned to Britain each Christmas for a very traditional celebration. It was only when my dad banged his toe on the end of the bed and we caught him wearing my mum's red coat that we realised Santa Claus wasn't real after all.

RB: We would be so excited about opening our presents that we would wake at 5am each Christmas. My mom then cooked a lovely golden roast turkey and cranberry relish, and we would spend the rest of the day playing games.

What is your own Christmas wish for this year?

DF: I wish everyone in Hong Kong a prosperous new year. Obviously, with the economic downturn and everyone tightening their belts, this has been a difficult economic year, but I hope everyone ends the year on a classical Christmas note and has a wonderful festive season.

RB: I would love to own a lime green Legend Ford Mustang but I don't think Santa's stockings will be big enough for it.