| Santa Claus rides a sleigh in northern Finland. (Reuters)
Arvidsjaur (Sweden), Dec. 2 (AFP): Forget the jolly ol’ ho-ho-ho Santa you know and love, this Santa is furious: Rudolph and the other reindeer who help him deliver toys to kids around the world every Christmas are grazing on the rare orchids and other flowers that grow on his property.
And he isn’t so thrilled with children these days, either.
“I remember one year, right after the snow melted, the reindeer ate everything just before the flowers blossomed,” a visibly angry Santa said at his home in Swedish Lapland, just a short reindeer flight from the North Pole.
“If it only happens once it’s not a problem, the flowers grow back the next year. But if it happened several springs in a row, it would be a catastrophe,” he said.
The very rare Fairy Slipper Orchid, wild pansies and buttercups are among the 72 flowers that every summer adorn Santa’s heritage-marked land in Granberget, or Christmas Tree Hill.
Santa’s log cabin and the surrounding land has been a heritage site since the early 1990s, and receives European Union grants to help pay for its preservation — something many children may not know.
Santa says he risks losing his home if the reindeer keep eating his blooms.
“The reindeer could ruin everything. I risk losing the subsidies if the flowers disappear. So every spring, I sit guard on the fence to prevent the reindeer from trespassing,” he says defiantly.
The reindeer issue is a sensitive one. The animals are closely linked to the identity of the Samis, the indigenous people of Sweden who lived off the land long before Swedes arrived in the 18th century.
Samis fiercely defend their right to allow their reindeer to graze on the land of their ancestors, and have run up against forestry and hunting groups who claim the land is private property and off-limits.
“I’d rather not discuss the problems with the reindeer herders. That would just fuel the fire,” Santa says.
But on this cold wintry November day, Santa, dressed warmly in a furry cape made of dogskin, has plenty of other worries.
Standing atop Christmas Tree Hill, he scans the cloudless horizon, hoping for a heavy snowfall soon. So far there has been only a light dusting of the white stuff.
How will he be able to take all the children who visit him from Britain, France, Russia and around the globe on a sleigh-ride with so little snow'
Dismayed there will be no snowflakes today, he returns to his workshop to make the toys he will be bringing to little children this Christmas.
Yet here too he has a gripe: the toys the children dream of are getting ridiculously difficult to make.
In the old days, all Santa had to do was whittle a sword out of a slab of birchwood, or sew up a doll with some fabric, a bit of stuffing and two marbles for eyes.
Now, he has to assemble robots, devise microchips for electronic game consoles and read all the Harry Potter books in order to make life-like figurines. Not to mention little Julia, who wants him to capture all the parrots in the rain forest...
Santa says he’s not even sure if he believes in little children anymore. “They’re becoming more and more materialistic. And what do they give in return'”
Watch out kiddies — Santa’s definitely in a bad mood this year.