Last weekend I flew Finnair to Santa's workshop in northern Finland. Because my late father was a close friend of Santa's, I was granted this exclusive interview with the great man. It is well know that Santa -- though an outgoing, avuncular man -- is reticent about giving interviews, especially during this, his busy time of year. (For purposes of this story I am referring to him as Santa Claus as most of my readers are English speakers, however his real title is Joulupukki as he is in fact Finnish.) I consider myself very lucky indeed to have procured this exclusive. Enjoy.
Me: Thank you for taking time out from your hectic schedule, I know this is your busiest time of the year.
Santa: Frankly, I needed a break. I’m pretty much going 24/7 from early November through Christmas Eve and this gives me a chance to put my feet up for a bit. Plus you’ve been a good boy this year. Ho ho ho.
Me: About that, do you really know who has been naughty and who’s been nice over the course of a year?
Santa: Ho ho ho. Of course I do. But I’ll tell you, I’m pretty easy going about the whole thing. There’s a lot of gray area, lot of people are nice some of the year and naughty some of the year and there are a lot of borderline cases but I tend to give the benefit of the doubt.
Me: How do you do it? How can you possibly know about every single person on the planet?
Santa: Ho ho ho. First of all we only check on the people who celebrate Christmas. For example it never mattered to me that Osama Bin Laden was so naughty, he wasn’t into Christmas anyway. So that significantly reduces the number of people we have to keep track off.
Me: That’s still a lot of folks.
Santa: Ho ho ho. I’ll tell you the truth, we outsource a lot of that. It’s pricey but it saves my elves from having to comb files and peek through a lot of keyholes. We’ve got some good people, very discreet.
Me: But I assume most people are nice and get gifts.
Santa: Not Donald Trump. If we really did put coal in stockings — which by the way is a myth — he’d get a barrel full. What a tool. Ho ho ho.
Me: You’ve been doing this a long time. What’s the secret to your longevity?
Santa: Lately I’ve been doing pilates, which has helped. But I’ve always maintained a good diet, lot of root vegetables and hardly any meat, plus I’m too busy to get sick.
Me: That big round belly can’t be good for you though.
Santa: Never really had one, that’s all padding. Ho ho ho. People expect me to be rotund but I’m actually quite slender. The only sweets I eat are the cookies kids leave out for on Christmas Eve. Ho ho ho.
Me: What are working conditions like for the elves?
Santa: Talk to them, they’ll tell you how good they’ve got it. Their unionized and only ever work more than an eight hour shift in the last couple of weeks before Christmas Eve and they get time and half for it. They’ve got full dental and medical and six weeks paid vacation plus holidays. Ho ho ho.
Me: You say “ho ho ho” an awful lot.
Santa: What’s your point?
Me: Anyway, tell me about your facilities here.
Santa: Ho ho ho. It’s great up here in northern Finland. The Finnish government leases the land to us at a reasonable rate. I know, I know, people think we’re at the North Pole but that’s another myth. I’m actually a Finn, as you know, as is Mrs. Claus. Most of the elves are too but others come from, well all over. We’ve got Swedish elves, Polish elves, Nigerian elves, Cambodian elves, you name it.
Me: I’m impressed at how clean and modern everything is here and how much room you’ve got. You live here year round?
Santa: Ho ho ho. No just during the busy season, the missus and I have an apartment in Helsinki and we travel a lot in the summer. We especially like Tahiti.
Me: I think another thing people are curious about is how you can get to all those homes in one night.
Santa: Ho ho ho. First of all let me just say thank goodness for time zones or we’d never make it. Listen, the reindeer are pretty damn fast, you’d be amazed and I’m no slouch. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m in an out of those places in a wink of an eye.
Me: But it still seems impossible.
Santa: Ho ho ho. I’m not saying its easy, plus there’s a little magic involved that I can’t tell you about because it’s a trade secret.
Me: Ever miss a house?
Santa: How can you even ask that?
Me: Sorry. I’m impressed at how perfect your English is. Obviously you’re fluent in Finnish, what other languages do you speak?
Santa: Ho ho ho. It would be easier to list the ones I don’t speak. I’m fluent in most. Some I struggle a bit with. I can just get by in Iroquois, for example and my grammar in Tagalog is pretty weak.
Me: Do you actually make any toys or is that solely an elf thing?
Santa: Ho ho ho. I’m in more of a supervisory role but I like to get my hands dirty from time to time, especially with something new. Ho ho ho.
Me: I notice you’re wearing the red suit. Do you wear it all the time?
Santa: Once the calendar hits December I do. Other than, no. Mrs. Claus shops for me at Banana Republic. Ho ho ho.
Me: How do you feel about all the department store Santas and the people who dress up like you for Christmas parties and family celebrations?
Santa: Ho ho ho. They’re doing me a huge favor. After all I can only be at one place at a time. I do actually appear on Christmas Eve at a few houses like, as you know, your family’s.
Me: We appreciate it too.
Santa: Well your dad was a good friend of mine so I’m glad to do it. Ho ho ho.
Me: One more thing, what role does Mrs. Claus play in your operation?
Santa: Ho ho ho. She’s a retired psychiatrist so she’s our resident counselor. There can be a fair amount of stress here. Plus she likes to do some traditional things like mending sox and knitting.
Me: Do you take any interest in world affairs? Political issues?
Santa: Where do you think most of naughty list comes from? Ho ho ho. You’ve got a lot of Scrooges in your government these days — none worse than those idiot Republicans — that have been trying to line their own pockets at the expense of everyone else. They won’t get so much as a stick of gum from me.
Me: Again I can’t thank you enough for your time. I learned a lot and my appreciation for you has grown. Anything else you’d like to say?
Santa: Ho ho ho. Also tell Sofia, Teo, River, Edvin, Aila and Matilde that I look forward to seeing them on Christmas Eve he ovat hyviä poikia ja tyttöjä (they are good boys and girls). Hauskaa joulua kaikille. (Merry Christmas to everyone.)