On the day of the final casting call, the Heinzelmännchen recruitment agency, a leading provider of Santa impersonators in Berlin, has complained that there is a lack of qualified applicants for the role of Santa Claus this year.
Heinzelmännchen, or “elves,” is a student job agency that has been providing St. Nicks for hire at private parties, schools and office events for decades. Tuesday evening is the organization's final casting call for jolly old St. Nicks, but they fear there won't be enough interest as in previous years.
“At the moment we have about 1,000 requests in from people wanting to hire Santas, but we expect to have around 4,000-5,000 by the end of December. For that we would need 400-500 Santas and it's looking grim, but I don't want to ruin the spirit,” Tarik Kilinc, project manager of the Berlin recruitment agency told The Local.
“It takes quite a lot to be a good Santa,” he said. “About 10 percent don't even make it through the casting,” Kilinc said. But a big belly and a long white beard aren't the only qualifications, he said. “Just handing out presents isn't enough. Our Santas have to sing songs with the families and have preliminary talks with the parents about their children and the evening's arrangements. And it fails often because of poor German language skills.”
The organization hires multi-cultural Santas to fit a multitude of holiday expectations. Apart from decent German, the job centre wants its Santas to be child-friendly, well-organized and spontaneous. “The kids want to see sleds and reindeer that don't exist and you need calm nerves to deal with that,” Kilinc said.
The job is often taken on by university students during their holiday break, and while the Santas don't make a fortune, the €28 per appearance can easily sum up to € 300 in a busy evening.
Despite the current Santa shortage, Kilinc says the Christmas spirit may prevail. “Last year we had the big run on Santa jobs in middle of December. So I am not too worried,” he said.
Cities across Germany are recruiting rosy-cheeked Santa impersonators, and a Munich job agency has also said it is experiencing a Father Christmas deficit this year. But with a recession taking hold, people may need Santa more than ever to help them get into the holiday spirit, Jens Wittenberger, in charge of Santa Claus recruitment at the Jobcafe Munich, told news agency Reuters on Monday.
"People are turning to traditions to protect their children from the 'evils of the real world', especially in the wake of this financial turmoil," Wittenberger said.