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Man who works as Santa at grottos has told how ‘parents are problem’

Santa Claus has new way of judging kids' behaviour

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Grottos up and down the country are open for parents to take their children to in the countdown to Christmas, but one worker who has the important role of being Santa Claus has shared his experience of working the unique role. As a seasoned Santa, Paul Brighouse, from Salford, Manchester, knows only too well what’s it like to be in the big man’s seat. And while dealing with children can sometimes be problematic he says it’s the parents who often make it onto his naughty list.

“Parents’ behaviour can sometimes be bad,” said Paul, who lives in Pendlebury, Swinton and has been the main Santa at Knowsley Safari for the last three years.

He told the MEN: “Treating the event like they are filming a documentary, videoing and doing a running commentary. Social media has a lot to answer for – getting that perfect Insta pic.

“Or building the event up too much for the child. The first thing the parent says is ‘tell him he’s on the naughty list’ before you have even said ‘hello’.”

As for the children themselves, Paul, a self-employed outdoor instructor at various activity centres across the northwest, says they generally come in three types.

“You have those who are really into Christmas and Santa,” he said. “Those are good fun, they really listen and you can spin a story to them. I generally have a different ‘story’ every year, this year’s is about an elf up a tree and reindeer poo.

“Some are nervous and can be coaxed around. Usually, they are around one to three years old, but sometimes older.

“Then there are the terrified. Sometimes it’s Father Christmas that scares them, but sometimes it’s because they are hungry, cold, or past their bedtime. It can be too much for some children.

“Parents have built up this big amazing experience in their child’s head. ‘Don’t forget to tell Santa what you want, you have to sit on his knee, you have to be good or else’.

“You can understand why some children have a meltdown as soon as they see Santa. The last thing you want is for a terrified child to be dragged in by the parent and sat on your knee.”

Having been a Santa at playgroup when his children were younger, and in grottos every year for the last six years, Paul’s used to having to improvise should things go a bit pear-shaped.

“The most embarrassing time was when I was doing it for the first time when my son was around two,” he said. “I snuck out to get dressed. When the children were brought in he shouted ‘that’s my dad’.

“‘No, no’ he was told, ‘daddy is in the toilet’. ‘Well he is wearing my dad’s wedding ring then’, he shouted. Another time in a school where my nephews and niece went, I walked into the cries of ‘there’s Uncle Paul’.”

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On another occasion Paul was being Santa at the grotto at Rock Over Climbing in Manchester, where he used to run the weekend kids’ clubs.

“We did a party for all the kids and I was Santa,” he said. “I had to tell them that Santa was related to me – my great, great, great uncle. That’s why he sounded like me and looked a bit like me.”

More recently Paul, dad to Jared, 28 and Niamh, 22 – who has been one of his elves at two of his grottos – had to think on his feet when there was a power cut at the place he was working last year.

“We had a power cut for about 30 minutes when I had a family in,” he said. “I had to improvise a story about losing reindeer as we flew round the world, using zebra, giraffe, elephants, you name it. The story got more long winded with more countries involved the longer the power cut went on for.”

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