The Joys and Stresses of Being Santa Claus in Singapore
Photos by Stephanie Lee for RICE Media unless otherwise stated

Michael Buble and Mariah Carey, thawed out from their year-long slumber, are warbling their seasonal warbles over departmental store speakers. You’ve lost count of how many times you’ve heard ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’. 

If you’re lucky, you catch a glimpse of Santa Claus in a mall, seated and waiting to take pictures with the next 9-year-old asking for a PS5 with Spider-Man 2. You want to join in on the fun, but you’ve reached an age when you’re (a) too self-conscious or (b) too heavy to sit on an old man’s lap. 

The job of being Santa Claus in Singapore looks easy at first, but it’s these moments that betray the amount of skill needed to portray a beloved Christmas icon. 

We ask the men behind the beards about the challenges of being Father Christmas here and why, despite it all, they return to the role year in and year out.

“The biggest challenge of being Santa Claus is always the heat. 

Even in an air-conditioned environment, it’s super hot. And it’s not because I’m a White guy—I’ve been in Asia for many years.

Sometimes, there are naughty kids. They try to rip off your clothes or beard, and you have to maintain this joyous front. But I am prepared to talk to them all the same. Santa cannot say ‘no’. Last time, a kid told me that he knows Santa Claus is fake. I explained to him that Santa Claus is about the spirit, depending on the occasion. 

After an event, you really have to wash the suit immediately. Sometimes, I throw away the beard because it’s spoiled by heat and sweat. I keep a box of Santa Claus beards as backup at home. 

It’s all worth it. My favourite moments as Santa Claus are my conversations with the children. The magic happens in an instant—the children sometimes look stressed, but they immediately smile and forget everything when they see Santa Claus. Sometimes, children write letters and Christmas wish lists to me. I have a whole bag of them at home.  

You lay a foundation with Santa Claus in your childhood. There will be a day when you warmly remember Santa Claus, and then you send your children to see Santa Claus. And that’s why I hope Santa Claus will be around forever. Please don’t ever forget about Santa Claus.”

– Peer Metze, 61 

“The challenge of being Santa Claus that is specific to Singapore is the heat. Outdoor appearances have to be short because the costume is hotter than you would imagine. 

I remember I had two appearances on Christmas Eve. One was at Raffles Hotel, and the other was at a private residence in Serangoon. I didn’t know if I could make it to both in time. I knew I’d have to take a cab. And in costume. 

I went to the Raffles Hotel. I did the appearance. I’m going through the whole thing, having a wonderful time. I packed up and walked up to the front of the hotel, where the taxis were called. I’m a big guy, but I can move pretty quietly in the Santa costume.

Image courtesy of Andrew Carter

I walked up behind the queue and stood right behind the Japanese family—a husband, wife, and their little son. The parents didn’t even notice me coming up behind them. The little kid heard something and turned around. He points up at me and shouts, ‘Oh my, it’s Santa Claus, Merry Christmas!’ Luckily, I had a bag of sweets, which I knew I was going to need. 

The family gets in a cab. The hotel guy who calls for taxis sees me and asks where my reindeer and sleigh are. I joked that PM Lee won’t let me fly this way in Singapore, so I have to walk. 

Some people have no idea who Santa is, so you have to quickly establish your character as friendly and cheerful. Getting down to kids’ level helps, and speaking with laughter in your voice gives them the idea of happiness.”

– Andrew Carter, 50 

“I can’t think of any specific challenges when I am Santa Claus. 

The sessions as Santa Claus are usually two hours long. Then you get about a break for an hour. Then another show. Sometimes, it can be three two-hour sessions in a day. But I don’t feel tired playing Santa Claus during the sessions. 

I remember we once kept count, and I’d taken photos with at least 1,500 families and their children. It might be routine for me, but for the children, it’s their first time meeting Santa Claus. I approach it with the same energy. I’d want Santa Claus to treat my children the same way as well if I sent them to see Santa. 

Image courtesy of Andy Hilliard

The difficulty lies more in getting to the venues. You get a bit nervous. There’s traffic, and you want to be there early so you can change. I remember I had to do a show at a mall, a venue I’m familiar with. The previous year, I remember there was a changing room on the first floor. 

But the floors were undergoing renovation. I didn’t have anywhere to change, so I resorted to changing in the staircase lobby, which offered at least a little bit of privacy. I used my mobile phone, turned on the front camera, and switched on the flashlight to check whether I put on my beard properly. 

I also remember a show at Punggol Safra, which had a Minister there as a guest of honour. Without my costume, I would have had a hard time approaching the Minister. But as Santa Claus, I could walk up to Ministers and talk to them. Some of the organisers asked me to, and I did. It was all in good fun. 

At the end of the day, it’s the idea of Santa Claus and what he represents. Fun, joy, and comfort.”

– Andy Hillyard, 61

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