Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Germany Faces Santa Claus Shortage

Berlin is facing an acute shortage of Santas just a month before Christmas, the head of a Father Christmas placement agency said Monday.

The director of Berlin's "Heinzelmaennchen" agency, which provides Santas to thousands of Berlin families every Christmas Eve, said he was having trouble getting enough qualified help.

"We prefer chubby men, of course, ideally with a real beard but we're not picky and take what we get," said director Rene Heydeck, whose official title is Ober-Weinachtsmann (chief Santa Claus).

The Santas, many of whom are students, earn 28 euros ($37) a visit for bringing a sack of presents provided by the parents into each home and handing them out. But Santas must also pay 45 euros for a costume and give the agency 15 percent of earnings.

"In a lot of families in Berlin it's a tradition that carries on even after the children grow older and stop believing," Heydeck said.

Each Santa visits an average of 10 to 12 families, although some have managed up to 20.

"It's hard work and sometimes you have to run faster if you fall behind schedule," Heydeck said. "But it's great fun."

Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited.

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