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CHRISTMAS

Santas for hire keep kids believing

It's not easy to get kids to believe in Santa these days, so instead of having grandpa or the neighbour deliver the presents in disguise why not hire a complete stranger?

Santas for hire keep kids believing

Susanne runs a Santa rental service in Uppsala, Sweden called Tomteservice, meaning Santa service.

This is the third year in a row that Susanne and her helpers deliver gifts to families around the city. She gets more requests than she can handle – from Uppsala and beyond.

The Local caught up with Susanne in-between home visits on Christmas Eve, which is when Swedish families traditionally open their presents.

“We have between 30 and 40 visits booked in today,” explains Susanne who wants to keep her last name secret.

“I have an unusual name and I don’t want any of the kids to find out it was me and not the real Santa who delivered their gifts today.”

Susanne got the idea to set up Tomteservice when she dressed up as Santa and delivered presents to friends’ kids.

“That was three years ago. Those kids still don’t know that it’s me who comes every Christmas.”

She says there are two reasons why her Santa rental service has become popular.

“First, kids are smart. They know when it’s an uncle or a neighbour who’s dressed in disguise, but when it’s a complete stranger they get surprised and a bit confused.”

Also, many families simply don’t have a social network that they can tap into to find Santas, adds Susanne.

“We visit many families where it’s just mum, dad, one or two kids and no grandparents. There are also families with foreign backgrounds that do not have relatives here in Sweden.”

Renting a Santa costs between 300 and 600 Swedish kronor ($45 – 90) depending on what time of day you want him to knock on your door. (Tomteservice doesn’t do chimneys!)

Santa prime time is between 4 and 5pm, after the TV screening of the 1958 Disney Christmas special, known in Sweden as Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar god jul (“Donald Duck and his friends wish you a merry Christmas”).

Millions of Swedes tune in to watch the show every year at 3pm on Christmas Eve.

So what have the reactions been so far today?

“Some small children get scared. But older ones are a bit sceptical.”

“You know, 10-year-olds really don’t want to admit that they believe in Santa Claus, but then they think it’s very strange when someone they don’t recognize, a complete stranger, shows up. They get confused.”

“But most kids are so focused on the presents that they just stare at the packages when I take them out of my sack and then they just stand there completely dumbfounded,” says Susanne.

In order to make the experience as credible as possible for the kids Susanne and her colleagues pay great attention to detail when it comes to their costumes.

“There is this stereotypical image of what Santa looks like. He’s supposed to be round and red-cheeked. So we copy that and every year we’ve improved our look.”

“We have had special Santa costumes made which we stuff with pillows. We paint our cheeks red with rouge. We carry lanterns and wear black boots, black belts and wigs with long, grey curls. And I’ve ordered beards made out of real wool for next year so we’ll look even more real then.”

Susanne hires six Santas – three men and three women.

“Some take a break from their own celebrations to deliver presents. Others are new in town and don’t have much of a social network. They tell me it’s fun to get to make other people happy at Christmas.”

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WEATHER

Will anywhere in France get a white Christmas this year?

A white Christmas might be at the top of many people's festive wish list but will it actually come true for anyone in France this year?

Haut-Koenigsbourg castle in Orschwiller, eastern France.
Haut-Koenigsbourg castle in Orschwiller, eastern France. Non-mountainous parts of the country will not see snow this year. (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP)

If you’re in France and have been dreaming of a white Christmas, you are probably out of luck. 

It has been freezing in recent days with temperatures falling to a low of -33.4C in Jura on Wednesday morning, but the cold spell isn’t going to last. 

Temperatures across the country will hover around the 10C level in most of France by the afternoon on December 25th according to Météo France, with parts of the country including Brittany and some parts of eastern France experiencing rainfall. 

By the afternoon on Christmas Day, the chances of snow look extremely limited. Source: www.meteofrance.com

On Saturday, there will be some snowfall, but only if you are high in the mountains at an altitude of 1,800-2,000m. On Sunday, places above 1,500m could also see snow – but this rules out the vast majority of the country. 

Roughly half the country will see sunshine over the weekend. The French weather channel said that this Christmas could be among the top five or six warmest since 1947. 

Last year, Météo France cautioned: “While we often associate snow with Christmas in the popular imagination, the probability of having snow in the plains [ie not in the mountains] during this period is weak in reality.”

One of the last great Christmas snowfalls, outside of France’s mountainous areas, came in 2010 when 3-10 cm of snow fell in Lille, Rouen and Paris. In Strasbourg, 26cm fell. 

On Christmas Day in 1996, 12 cm of snow fell in Angers – ironically, this was also the day that the film, Y’aura t’il de la neige à Noël? (Will there never be snow at Christmas?) was released. It had been ten years since France had seen such snowfall outside of the Alps and Pyrenees. 

Météo France directly attributes declining rates of Christmas snowfall to climate change. Compared to 50 years ago, even the Alps receives the equivalent one less month of snowfall per year. 

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