Wanted: Big-boned students, cheery nature a plus. That could be the job ad posted every year in the search for Santas. Across Germany, companies turn to students to stick on beards and spread the holiday spirit.
Christoph Chapman enjoys spreading holiday cheer
"Do you have a moment?" Santa asks a shopper in a busy store in the western Germany city of Bonn. In the days before Christmas, even Santa has to ask politely. After all, Christmas time is shopping time. But for Santa, with his goody-filled sack, most people are happy to pause a moment.
Resplendent in his red velvet trousers and jacket, heavy black boots and, of course, the warm Santa Claus hat, Christoph Chapman has spent three hours at work this afternoon, in a large department store in downtown Bonn.
"The costume is very itchy, especially the beard," he admitted.
Only the tall and round need apply
Normally, Chapman studies political science and history in Bonn. But today he is Santa Claus. He makes his way throughout the store, handing out apples, chocolate and stuffed animals to children and parents. In his wake is a palpable sense of relief from the pre-Christmas stress, and that is why the job is so fun, according to Chapman.
The student affairs association posts Christmas jobs online
Chapman's girlfriend found the job advertisement among the Web pages of an online job site for Bonn students. The only requirements were a friendly attitude and certain Santa Claus-esque attributes.
"Actually, I still needed a big belly, but my girlfriend wouldn't have liked that," Chapman said, laughing.
High demand positions
As early as October businesses and families started looking for students to fill positions surrounding the holiday season. Santas and angels are in particularly high demand for company events, marketing campaigns or the giving of gifts on Christmas Eve. Also sought after are Christmas tree vendors and employees to man the stalls for the many Christmas markets.
"These are well-paid jobs for which you need no special skills," said Mirjam von der Mark, a marketing manager at Studentenwerk Bonn, a student services association.
Other jobs during the season are to be found at the Christmas market
In Berlin the work placement of Santa and his helpers by Studentenwerk has been around since 1949. Last year alone students made up the 500 Santas and 50 angels who brought gifts to families in Berlin and Brandenburg.
In order to ensure the recruits can Ho-ho-ho correctly, students in Berlin can attend workshops on the fundamentals of Santa Claus and angels. The official angels and Santa Claus guidelines recommend being, "child-loving, innovative, and reliable."
"It's cold, but it's fun!"
Jennifer Bohne, however, doesn't need a workshop for her job. The 23-year-old student works at the Bonn Christmas market. For five weeks she's been standing behind the counter selling toasted almonds and cashews in small bags.
"It's cold, but it's fun," Bohne said, adding that next year she'll definitely be back.
But whoever wants one of these coveted Christmas jobs has to be quick. Finding applicants for an inventory job can sometimes be a tough affair, marketing manager Mirjam von der Mark said. But she said the jobs disappear faster than fresh-baked Christmas cookies.
"As soon as the ad is online, my phone rings off the hook," she said.
Author: Svenja Ueing (sjt)
Editor: Sean Sinico