Norm Pettersson, a former United Church minister, sits upon his throne at the Oakridge shopping centre.
The life of Santa Claus can be quite stressful at times, just ask Norm Pettersson.
A former United Church minister, Pettersson has been donning the bells and fur of Saint Nick for eight seasons now.
“It’s hard for Santa,” said Pettersson, who spoke of trials including visits from the elderly, rambunctious teenagers, crying babies and even sick children.
“The difficult parts are when you get children who are in the middle of chemotherapy and they’re coming as part of the family to do special things at Christmas.”
Pettersson said that while it can be emotionally challenging to make worried families smile, the best thing to do is just “Treat them normally. That’s what they want, to just be treated normally.”
The key to being a good Santa is enthusiasm and a knack for dealing with people from all walks of life, Pettersson said.
“The older kids and adults sometimes are just doing silly things. But it’s alright, you just play the game…Santa has the job of helping them have fun.”
His authentic look and enthusiasm of spirit caught the attention of Jack Scott, owner of Senior Quality Personnel. The company provides Santa services to events and shopping centres across metro Vancouver.
“The criteria is very strict,” said the 74-year-old Scott, a retired executive of a multi billion-dollar developing firm. “They have to like what they’re doing. Santa is a lot of work, and if you don’t like what you’re doing you just get exhausted.”
Scott said that his 35 Santas undergo thorough background checks and have full, natural white beards.
“The people who work for us are genuinely nice people…They’re just the type of people you like to be around.”
Spreading six weeks of holiday cheer across the city can be a stressful business, but the rewards are lucrative. According to Scott, the company expects to make up to $200,000 this year.
“A good Santa will make five to six thousand dollars over Christmas,” Scott said.
John Geissinger is the weekend Santa at the Metropolis shopping centre. He said the extra cash comes in useful during the Christmas season.
“I just got a new car, so it’s paying for that.”
John Geissinger waves from Santa’s workshop in the Metropolis shopping centre
“A good Santa is pretty much somebody who can take a crying child and stop them from crying,” Geissinger said, admitting his favourite part has been the great people he has met along the way.
“Things like that to me are absolutely priceless, the memories I’ll keep forever.”