The Swedish Santa Association currently has 45 members across the nation, but the organisation’s secretary Sivert Svensson says this is just not enough.
“You just don’t get time to meet many families. There are plenty who miss Santa,” he told The Local.
Santa, or Tomte as he is known in Sweden, traditionally visits children on Christmas Eve to hand out presents. While Svensson has his own magnificent white beard, this is not a prerequisite.
“A beard is needed, but a fake beard is OK,” says Svensson, who has got a busy schedule in his home town of Gällivare, northern Sweden, on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As well as visiting people in their homes, Gällivare’s Tomte has also engagements in shopping centres and stores.
This being Sweden, the Santa profession has full gender equality. Svensson explains that the Swedish Tomte tradition has a role for Tomte Mor (Mother Santa) and Tomte Nissar (Santas little helpers).
But anyone tempted to become a Santa shouldn’t expect the application process to be a walkover – applicants are usually vetted over a one-year period before being accepted. Among the requirements laid out in the association’s constitution is the ability to intone the traditional Santa greeting:
“As Santa one must be able to pronounce Ho-ho-ho with a deep, warm and friendly Santa voice.”
Santas also have to accept the controversial statement that Santa’s homeland is in fact Greenland, thereby dismissing Sweden and Finland’s rival claims. There are also more serious rules about personal behaviour:
“We’ve got strict rules, banning people from smelling of alcohol or smoking when they are Santa,” Svensson says.
Nor should they expect to be able to keep their Santa suits in the closet for eleven months of the year:
“We always wear our Santa outfits for our Annual General Meeting in February and at the European gathering in Copenhagen in July.”