South of the North Pole

It’s that time of year and the mall is filled with Christmas cheer. Thousands of children flock to the malls of Canada each year for a chance to meet Santa and tell him what they want. However, what are mostly forgotten is the people behind the costumes and we don’t often think too much about it.


Some of the seasonal staff at Carlingwood Mall’s seasonal Santa house have some ideas about the gigs rewards.


“You can get a little misty-eyed with what some of the kids tell you,” said David Huddlestone, Carlingwood’s Mall Santa. “A lady came up today and I asked her what she liked for Christmas. She looked at me and told me she wanted 20 more years, so she might not have much time left. You’re talking to people about their hopes and dreams, I think that’s the most important thing to remember.”


Estri Armitage, a graduate of the Algonquin college theatre arts program, works as one of Santa’s helpers at the Carlingwood Mall during the holiday season.


“I got into it because my mom owns the company which operates at a few malls around the city,” said Armitage. “I love taking part in this. It’s really fun taking pictures and trying to make them as cute as possible.”


“You need to be very outgoing and be calm at the same time,” said Armitage. “Sometimes it can take a lot of patience to make sure that they’re not scared. Sometimes the kids will be confident at first but slowly get more and more scared as they see Santa. It’s so cute.”


Media production graduate from the University of Lincoln Phil McGarty works alongside Armitage, who is also his girlfriend. He got into the business to spend more time with her, but it soon changed into something he personally enjoyed doing.


“It’s just a fun time,” said McGarty. “Most of the kids enjoy it, but it can be pretty funny when something’s scaring them.”


Even though it can sound like something fun, McGarty thinks that it’s definitely not for everyone. One needs to be a certain kind of person to come out every day with a smile on your face.


“It depends what kind of person you are,” said McGarty. “If you’re an outgoing person and like talking to people you might like this kind of work, but if you’re a more reserved person than maybe not.”


We all know that there’s only one Santa Claus, but he can’t be everywhere at once. Huddlestone enjoys representing him every year.


“Generally they’re very excited, but some are also absolutely terrified which has its own little charm,” said Huddlestone. “People kind of open up sometimes and they tell you something that they might not tell other people.”


Huddlestone got into the business because a friend of his who works for the mall asked him to. At first he didn’t want to, but since then he has never looked back.


When people think of seasonal work, they usually think students working a little bit extra for some more money. However, what someone might not expect is that working at any seasonal job can be a rewarding and enriching experience.