Finding Santa Claus is no easy task, especially in a tropical city like Jakarta. Imagine wearing that baggy red coat with white fur, a winter hat, boots and, of course, the beard in the sweltering heat. So that means the only place to locate him is in the air-conditioned malls around town. Santa talked to the Jakarta Globe just before his busiest night of the year.
How long have you been Santa Claus?
This is my second year. Last year I was a Santa here in the mall as well. Lucky for me, I got to do it again this year. I think I’ll be doing this for a while.
Santa, you’re cashing in big time. How much do you charge for pictures?
It costs $7 a picture, which we print out here. You also get a file to take home. You can only get it once a year.
You keep touching and fixing your beard, is it itchy?
No, it’s not itchy, but it gets really hot after a while and it’s hard for me to talk. I have to wear this from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and I’m the one and only Santa around here.
So what’s your real name?
Do you personally celebrate Christmas?
Yeah, I do, I’m Christian. But Christmas and Santa is for everyone.
Have you had any interesting experiences while being photographed with the kids?
Afterward some kids ask, ‘Santa, where’s our present?’ Most are expecting a real present. I don’t have gifts with me, I’m only here for pictures. When that happens I get confused and feel bad. I just tell them to wait until Christmas and hopefully the parents can work with me [laughs].
Can you tell us about some of the wild Christmas presents kids have asked for?
There are plenty of weird requests. Recently a girl asked me if she could take home the reindeers.
Where is the North Pole?
I’m not sure, somewhere in Antarctica? Anyway, it’s a secret [laughs].
Where is Mrs. Claus?
She’s at home making and preparing the presents for the boys and girls.
There are no chimneys in Jakarta, so how do you get into the houses?
Well, I just use the escalators, or sometimes the elevators when I’m tired [laughs].
Santa, you’re kind of fat. Have you considered working out?
I’m already old, it’s OK to be fat.
Do you like to eat nasi padang ? Can you get it at the North Pole?
Yeah, that’s my favorite, too bad they haven’t opened up a franchise at the North Pole. Maybe it’s too cold.
How can you tell the good kids from the bad ones?
I can tell from a distance as they approach me. The bad ones jump around and come straight toward me as if they’re about to attack. Some want to climb all over me. And then some kids try to strangle me or pull my hair and beard off. The good kids say hello, shake my hand politely and wish me a Merry Christmas; those are the ideal ones, little angels.
Do some kids get scared?
Yeah, lots of them do. I’ve seen them crying, but their parents still urge their kids to get a picture with me. Now that I think about it, it’s probably them who want to see me, not the kids.
Do kids in Jakarta know who Santa is?
Well, it depends on their age. Those meeting me for the first time tend to ask questions. Those who were pictured with me last year are already familiar with Santa. Some, who already know the “Big Secret,” are not too excited to see me. But I think images of Santa are everywhere now. At the movies, in commercials and magazines, so kids from Jakarta are familiar.
Where do you park your sleigh and reindeers?
Oh, they’re standing by in the basement; I have a monthly parking permit.
Why does Rudolf have a red nose? Is he drunk?
No, elsewhere it would be because he’s cold. But since Jakarta is hot, I think he must be allergic to pollution [laughs].
You have some cute little helpers; do you like being surrounded by the ladies?
Well, I’m getting old, they help me with the little things like keeping me entertained when I get bored, massaging me when I’m tired and protecting me from any kids who try to beat me up. But they’re here mostly to keep the fathers happy while the wife and kids are busy taking pictures with me [laughs].
Isn’t Santa supposed to be white?
Yeah, but I’m here in Jakarta so I got a tan.
Do you have any childhood memories of Santa Claus?
I remember the spirit of Christmas itself. As a kid I always got excited about my presents. My mother would say, “Here, this is from Santa,” and that happy feeling was different from receiving a gift on any other day.
Where will you be spending your Christmas?
Well, after I deliver all the gifts, I’ll spend Christmas with my family, friends and neighbors.
Santa was talking to Iwan Putuhena
Original interview was posted in The Jakarta Globe
My Jakarta: Santa Claus
Picture by Iwan Putuhena