Trainee Santas have said “Christmas isn’t cancelled” as they joined a festive class in person for the first time since the pandemic began.
The annual Santa School, held by the Ministry of Fun in London, was forced to move online last year due to the UK’s winter lockdown.
However, after a negative Covid-19 test, the Santa students have been able to return to the grotto once again.
The Santas were put through their paces with lessons in perfecting their “Ho ho ho!”, mastering the “Merry Christmas” in multiple languages and learn how to use Santa Cam to video call from the North Pole.
Doug Devaney, also known as Santa Doug, said the last two years had been “traumatic” but added the festive traditions “will never be cancelled”.
“Last year was fascinating and actually quite a fulfilling experience being a Santa online but you just can’t beat real life,” he told the PA news agency.
“Christmas wasn’t cancelled last year and it isn’t cancelled this year but it is different.
“Last December we had to exist virtually with virtual grottoes, and we are still doing online experiences this year, but now we’re combining them with the traditional events.
“I have so much joy doing this and it genuinely is the best job in the world.”
Matt Grist, director of Santa HQ, has been training Santas for the last nine years and said the tradition is as important as ever.
He said children “absolutely understand” the disruption that the pandemic has caused but Santa can “help play a part in this”.
“All they need to know is that their little world is safe but things may be different to their usual normal,” he told the PA news agency.
“When the Santas are talking to them, some children have mentioned the challenges of home schooling or not being able to see a family member, or someone they know being sick, and all he can do is be understanding and give that child a special ear to talk to.
“It’s not about the commercialisation of Christmas, it’s about happiness and families and remembering all the good things about Christmas.
“Of course children will get excited about the presents, but actually it’s the memories that will last.”
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