Naturally, once in a while a dodgy Santa will sneak through. Sadly, as with most things, it's the one rare bad fellow that makes life difficult for the rest of us. I've heard the stories of the Bad Santas, they range from men who are grumpy or who never smile for the photographs, through to the chaps that have acted inappropriately with young ladies who wanted a picture.
Needless to say, Sinter Klaus never brings his bad representatives Christmas presents. They don't even get coal.
So now, most of the fellows who play Papá Noel have to have yearly police checks done. It's a nuisance, and a little insulting to those of us that have a few years under their belts without incident, but you don't mind because it's to protect the kids. It's the other things that are pushed by people with no understanding of what Weihnachtsmann is about that cause the real hassles.
For instance, the recent rubbish about saying "ha ha ha" instead of "ho ho ho", because someone felt that the "ho ho ho" may be a bit scary for children, and a few other people worry about the fact that "ho" can be an insulting slang term. First up, Kris Kringle himself laughs with a "ho ho ho", and any decent stand-ins try to do the same. You don't say it, you merge it into your natural laugh, or use it like a greeting. All but the most unbelievably sensitive person, or someone just looking for a reason to be angry, knows that it's harmless.
As to Father Christmas being scary to children... well he kind of is, in much the same way as dinosaurs are. Many kids love dinosaurs, because they are huge and amazing and, most importantly, not here. Then "Jurassic Park" came out and did a fabulous job of making them real, and so scaring an entire generation of kids.
Mikulás is fine when he's on the TV, or is represented by toys, statues, and puppets. But when he's right there in front of you, that's a different matter. To many children, he is like God - all knowing, all seeing, with the ability to do amazing things - but unlike God, they can see him in the flesh. That's going to intimidate some people, no matter what. Now Saint Nicholas himself, well he accepts that some kids are going to find him a little scary, he's a pragmatic man and knows it can't be helped. But the majority of kiddies, they're fine.
Speaking personally, as a representative of Kris Kringle, there are a few things that I do despite modern sensibilities on what is 'right'. For a start, despite the damage done by Bad Santas, most parents still want their children on your knee. Now in theory, I'm meant to discourage this, in practice, I try to let the decision be the kid's. I'll pat my knee, and pat the seat beside me, and then ask the child where they would prefer to sit.
If a child wants to hug me, I never decline. When I'm walking about and I meet children, I squat down so I'm closer to their height, and hopefully less intimidating. I never promise to bring the child what they've asked for, unless I get a clear nod from the guardian. I usually only promise to do my best.
Now one thing you'll have noticed in this piece, is that I've rarely referred to Santa Claus. I don't actually like the term much, not because there's anything intrinsically wrong with it, but because its use world-wide has grown solely due to America pushing it so very hard. I dislike that in Australia we've moved away from calling him Father Christmas, and have taken to using the preferred term of the U.S.
The thing about Hanakoko is that he belongs to the world. He has many names, many costumes, and also happily shares the role of gift giver with many others - La Befana, Ded Moroz & Snegurochka, the Magi, even the Christ Child, are among the many givers of gifts from around that time of year. And Santa is by nature a generous soul, who knows the true joy that comes from giving for the sake of it, and would never seek to deny others the chance, or seek to replace them in people's affections.
There are many of us who represent the gift-givers around the world. And whether we're standing in for Daidaín na Nollaig, Babouschka, Saint Basil, or Father Christmas, we know we have one of most important, not to mention best and most rewarding, jobs in the world. You only have to see the smiles on faces both young and old to know that.
Because we're charged with reminding children & adults that the world really is a wonderful place. How can anyone be unhappy doing that?