It's 'Ho, Ho, Ho' in German, Too

A tree-trimming Santa i i

Would-be Santas competed in tree-trimming. That's an important skill, should Santa knock off any ornaments in people's homes while delivering presents. Emily Harris, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Emily Harris, NPR
A tree-trimming Santa

Would-be Santas competed in tree-trimming. That's an important skill, should Santa knock off any ornaments in people's homes while delivering presents.

Emily Harris, NPR
Oliver Deuker rides Rudolph i i

ZDF television reporter Oliver Deuker, about to take a spill from riding Rudolph, went on to eventually win the Santa championship in Celle, Germany. Emily Harris, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Emily Harris, NPR
Oliver Deuker rides Rudolph

ZDF television reporter Oliver Deuker, about to take a spill from riding Rudolph, went on to eventually win the Santa championship in Celle, Germany.

Emily Harris, NPR
Santa's helper smokes. i i

Barely into the Santa's helper competition, a contestant already needs a break. Emily Harris, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Emily Harris, NPR
Santa's helper smokes.

Barely into the Santa's helper competition, a contestant already needs a break.

Emily Harris, NPR
Santa contestants wear costumes with phone company logo. i i

Sponsoring Santa: The local phone book company provided Santa robes to competitors who didn't have their own, and stuck its logo on the back. Emily Harris, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Emily Harris, NPR
Santa contestants wear costumes with phone company logo.

Sponsoring Santa: The local phone book company provided Santa robes to competitors who didn't have their own, and stuck its logo on the back.

Emily Harris, NPR

It's the perennial question for many children this time of year: Is there really a Santa Claus?

Yes, Virginia, there is. His name is Oliver Deuker. And he's a 42-year-old German television news reporter, who won that country's first Santa Claus championships.

The town of Celle put on the Santa search with all the pomp and circumstance it could muster. A local band played as in front of Celle's grand medieval castle dozens of Santas in red and white earned points for pushing wooden sleds piled with presents across the lawn, for tossing packages down a fake chimney, and for racing to wrap three presents — nicely — in just three minutes.

It's all in the Christmas spirit, says organizer Alex Haas.

"You know, there are too many Santa Clauses on the street," Haas says. "The children are not sure this is the real Santa Claus or not. So we said we have to find out, we have to explain to the children, 'Today, we will show you the right and only and real Santa in Celle.'"

To prove their Santa skills, contestants made nails for reindeer shoes at a real forge. They rode a mechanical reindeer — until the guy controlling the joystick tossed them off. They tried their best to pull off hearty ho, ho, ho's.

They recruited volunteers from the meager audience to help them struggle through traditional Christmas tunes. And, naturally, all the Santas were tested on how well they could comfort children.

And Christmas came early for the winners. The grand prize was $2,500. And for the ladies competing in the Santa's helper contest — it was an Egyptian vacation for two.

Of course, all of this was really to help Celle promote itself as a Christmas tourist destination. There were elements of Christmas with commercial sponsorship — like the Santa outfits with the local phone book company logo on the back. Five of the 10 finalists were television or radio personalities — which was good for publicity, the organizer said, but maybe not exactly the right image of Santa Claus.

Next year, reporters competing as part of their jobs will get a special category, separate from the search for the "real" Santa Claus.

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