He's on his way at last!
Los Angeles-based Richard Christie has toured the United States as Santa Claus, and appeared on television and in advertisements over the years. He will be at Santa's Enchanting Lodge at Pacific Place this month.
Simon Watkiss, 50, works with Performers HK, a talent booking agency that places him in a variety of acts and roles throughout the year. This is his fourth year appearing as Santa Claus at Times Square.
How did you get into the role of Santa Claus?
RC When I retired 18 years ago, I wanted to do something that could bring joy and cheer to children, so I enrolled in the International University of Santa Claus, a travelling school around the US and learned the skills needed to become a first-rate Santa.
SW I was first referred the Santa Claus role by my agent, as a client of his was looking for someone to fill the job at a shopping mall.
How long does it take to get ready?
RC It usually takes me about an hour to put on make-up, my costume and accessories. I have also designed and created many of my own Santa accessories including a deluxe Santa belt, boots and buckles.
SW It used to take me half an hour, but I have done it so many times, I can do it in four minutes now. After putting on the costume and fake beard and wig, I don't really need any makeup.
What do you try to achieve with the children?
RC I want to provide a warm-hearted experience for every child. I want them to feel listened to, and get a great big genuine Santa hug.
SW That depends on the kids. Some children who aren't used to seeing Santa Claus can get quite scared, so with them I tend to calm them and then sit quietly with them. Others will talk to me about their presents or just want to take photos with me.
What has been the most memorable request you have ever received?
RC Every experience has been really special. One in particular was when a little girl asked me whether she could give her present to another, less fortunate child. That kind of selfless gesture is exactly what Christmas is all about.
SW One kid was really insistent on me taking him to see the reindeers. It took me about 10 minutes to convince him that the reindeers were up at Shell Tower, Times Square, where he wasn't allowed to go.
What is most rewarding about the role?
RC The most rewarding are the conversations Santa has with all the children. I cherish every joy and memory I have shared with them.
SW It's seeing everyone really happy. They are so delighted to see me. It's like watching a kid come to you at the end of the school day.
What is the biggest challenge of the role?
RC The only challenge is not having more time to get to know each of the children better.
SW It at first took time getting used to always having to smile for the photographs, but if you have the right attitude and just relax, the role is a lot of fun.
Do you feel you miss out on Christmas with your family because of your work during the festive season?
RC I have a big family including three children, three grandkids and two great grandchildren. My family understands the role of Santa and how I bring joy to children around the world, so they don't mind me working at Christmas. We just make sure we spend more time together at other times during the rest of the year.
SW My family does miss out a little with me during Christmas, but we make up for it by going on a really good Lunar New Year holiday.
What was Christmas like for you growing up?
RC I have very fond memories of Christmases growing up. I would always get very excited whenever I went to pick out a Christmas tree with my parents. I loved the fragrance of the pine and decorating the tree.
SW I always looked forward to Christmas when I was growing up. I had a rich uncle with a huge house in Norfolk, England, and every year we would pack the presents into the car and drive up there to spend the Christmas season with cousins, uncles and aunts. It was idyllic, which is probably why it is easy for me to absorb the magic of Christmas and pass it on to children now.
What is your own Christmas wish for this year?
RC My Christmas wish this year is the same wish I have every year and that is, wishing all children around the world health and happiness.
SW My Christmas wish to everyone in the world is this: be patient and happy. Absorb the Christmas spirit and remember that all we really want is to be loved and to be happy.