World Santa Claus congress kicks off in Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN Wed Jul 23, 2008 11:36pm IST

COPENHAGEN (Reuters Life!) - More than 150 Santas from 12 countries meet in Copenhagen this week to celebrate Christmas in July at the 51st World Congress of Santa Clauses, but the Kris Kringles also get down to serious business.

The first Father Christmas congress was held in 1957 when Danish artist and entertainer Professor Tribini realised his dream of bringing the world's Santas together for some fun in the middle of the summer.

In the beginning, the Santas were mostly Danish or Swedish, but now people come from around the world to the Danish capital to celebrate the yearly event.

Since then, Santas from every continent have congregated at the world's oldest functioning amusement park, the 425-year-old Dyrehavsbakken, 15 km (9 miles) north of Copenhagen.

"It is great to have this in the summer, because in the winter there is a lot of ice and Santa Claus has a lot of work to do to give out presents. In the summer it is very pleasant," Russian Santa Alexei Gavrilov told Reuters.

During the three-day congress, the Santas discuss professional issues such as, for example, weight regulations for Santa Clauses.

The weight issue has become a problem for many and that is why this year, the Santas will take part in a bicycle ride to send the signal that they do look after their health.

Other topics up for lively discussions are international taxation rules regarding presents, the size of official Santa spoons, the standardisation of chimneys and the thorny issue of when, exactly, presents should be delivered.

"At the convention we speak about the possible dates that Christmas Eve could fall on, if it should stay on the 24th of December." German Santa Bernd Vender said.

After a vote, it was decided that it should stay on the 24th.

Another problem facing the Santas is global warming.

"Of course if there is no polar ice cap, I do not know how easy it will be to get the sleigh off the ground, and that will tend to worry a few children," said Douglas Gowin from the United States.

But it is not all talk.

The Santas also get involved in many public activities as well as charity work. They meet the public, take part in stage performances and participate in public Christmas cake-baking and storytelling for children with the event culminating in the traditional parade through the city centre of Copenhagen.

There is also the traditional dip in the water.

"It was actually quite nice, I was expecting it to be a bit colder, but now it will be a soggy Santa for a while. I do not have my blow-dryer," said Gowin after a swim.

Last but not least, there is the Santa Toy Drive for children with cancer.

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