The UNWTO, Santa and Zumba

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Yesterday’s world section of the Dominion Post[1] contained an article that caught my eye: The World Santa Claus Congress, which is currently on in a small Danish town north of Copenhagen, has Santas sweating in zumba classes. While a number of disquieting images crossed my mind, including that of a room full of red, over-dressed, over-weight men swinging their hips to the tunes of ‘Let It Rain Over Me’ by Marc Anthony, what really intrigued me was the existence of a potential international body specialising in the trade of Noël. After all, an international institution representing the interests of Father Christmas & Co sounds as plausible as the World Tourism Organisation naming Robert Mugabe as the ‘UN leader for tourism’.[2]

Formerly established in 1957 (the UNWTO was created in 1975), the Congress is a very loose organisation, with no permanent secretariat, nor any standing committee. It revolves around a three-day summit that brings together Santas from every continent every year in summer. For obvious reasons the international conference cannot be held in winter since ‘Santa Claus has a lot of work to do to give out presents’ as was pointed out by Russian Santa Alexei Gavrilov.[3]

During the course of the event not only do a number of Christmas-oriented activities take place, but hot topics are also debated, including weight regulations and health issues (hence Marc Anthony and the zumba classes or the compulsory bike rides), international taxation rules on presents, the standardisation of chimneys, and the contentious issue of when presents should be delivered (at midnight or in the morning of the 25th of December, or even on the 7th of January? – the lack of consensus is quite striking but does not prevent the organisation from functioning).

Contrary to the UNWTO (where travel-bans and human rights violations are apparently no hindrance), requirements to attend are strict and quite straight-forward: You must be a member of a Santa Claus organisation or work as a professional Santa, Christmas pixie or elf. You might be asked to provide evidence of your professional status, such as pictures of you working as Santa, references, and/or recommendations.

Last but not least, the congress is a festive event, where good-humoured spectators of all ages are welcome – a chorus of Santa nations that aims at recreating the magic of Christmas in the middle of summer.

For more information on the WSCC and the magic, please visit www.worldsantaclauscongress.com. You could also go to the UNWTO’s website (www.unwto.org), but it wouldn’t be as fun.


[1] ‘Santa to Zumba’, Dominion Post, 24/07/2012.

[2] David Smith, ‘Robert Mugabe asked to be UN leader for tourism’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/29/robert-mugabe-un-international-envoy-tourism (accessed on 25/07/2012).

[3] Martin Burlund, ‘World Santa Claus congress kicks off in Copenhagen’, http://in.reuters.com/article/2008/07/23/idINIndia-34645320080723 (accessed on 25/07/2012).

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