Germany's unemployment rates are falling, but the German capital is experiencing a serious shortage of Santa Clauses this year. Is Grinch planning to steal Christmas again?
Scenes like this one are something the German capital can only dream of this year
It's started again: the annual euphoria which converts parts of the German capital into a Teutonic version of a US shopping mall. Customers are beginning to be lured into a commercial winter paradise in which countless mugs of despair-dampening mulled wine, consumed against the headache-guaranteeing cacophony of jingle bells and white Christmas, can easily drive many a parent to the brink of insanity. At least, it comes only once a year.
Berlin's newly built central train station has erected a 20-meter (65-foot) monster tree with more than 28,000 branches and around 40,000 Christmas crystal ornaments, the most expensive tree Berlin has ever seen. But something is rotten in Christmas land. Berlin's Santa Clauses are, apparently, getting lazy.
"Heinzelmännchen" (Santa's Little Helpers) -- a Berlin-based student organization that specializes in finding employment for Santa Clauses and Christmas angels -- said that one month before Christmas, they have only received 100 Father Christmas applications.
"I'm worried because we need young talent," said project manager Rene Heydeck. "We need 300 applicants more to cover some 4,500 jobs that we're likely to have this year."
But what kind of angels?
Germany's new popstar angels
Perhaps, Germany is looking for a different kind of magic this winter. The wildly popular German singing contest Popstars, which over the past few years has produced one successful group ("No Angels") and a most diverse series of flops, was running this year under the motto "The Country Needs New Angels."
And by angels, the producers certainly didn't have Christmas in mind. And if they did, then it's because they, too, wanted to take advantage of the lucrative Christmas market. Senna, Bahar and Mandy -- the three girls who recently made it to the band called Monrose -- will have their first single released on Dec. 1.
As it turns out, the Christmas labor market is no less flourishing in the headquarters of Berlin's Santa Clause Central.
"Last year, I had 70 Santa Clauses working for me," said Berlin's senior Father Christmas, Frank Knorre, whose business card proudly declares that he has been a Santa since 1980. "Now I have assembled only one half of them. I'm taking candidates ranging from school kids to pensioners, if they fit."
What do Santas really want?
One more mug, and I'll be fine
Is it possible that Santa Clauses are getting tired of the whole holiday hullabaloo? Do they really prefer to do what most Germans do -- eat more than they should and realize, at some point, that they have mulled wine coming out of their ears?
Or are they hoping for something particularly wild this year -- getting busted by the police for running around wearing nothing but Christmas lights? Or taking Mrs. Clause, for once, to the long-promised, topless Caribbean vacation?
Whatever it is, we can only hope that Santa Clauses will come to their senses, suppress their personal desires, forget about their secret fantasies, and remember that they're there for children's sake.
Not to mention that they can still make a buck or two. Renting a Santa Clause for a 20-minute visit to a family of up to children in Berlin costs between 27 and 29 euros ($35 - $38).