BEING Santa is a serious business, according to research carried out by Essex University.

Prof Philip Hancock, of Essex Business School, interviewed a number of ‘elite’ Father Christmases working at leading department stores and shopping centres in London and the South East.

He found out the most important thing when playing Santa is to be as authentic as possible.

“They really have to embody the role and convince children and their parents of the reality of their festive encounter,” said Prof Hancock.

“As one experienced performer told me, ‘you don’t do Santa, you have to be Santa.”

Prof Hancock spoke to performers ranging from those who had never played Santa, to one experienced 81-year-old.

“Santas must deal with everything from suggestions of sexual impropriety to aggressive parents and abusive and often violent youths while, all the time, continuing to ‘be Santa’,” Prof Hancock added.