Which mall Santas are naughty and nice, or at least have real beards? We investigate.
It’s Christmastime in the city, and what better way to celebrate than to visit the various Santas Toronto’s malls, markets, and grocery stores have to offer?
In all their glory and sadness, we visited the men in red.
Toronto Christmas Market (Distillery District)
What better way to celebrate the Christmas season than to pay the new $5 weekend fare at the Toronto Christmas Market!
I mostly agreed to go to the market because it is only one straight bus ride home, and I own a Metropass. Then I notice that this year’s festivities are exactly the same as last year’s. *Bummer*.
After taking some photos with newly placed, green metal snowmen near the front entrance, I join the line for Santa Claus pictures with my girlfriend, Helen, and our friend Sebastian.
We get to the front after waiting for nearly 10 minutes, which is okay, because I hear some people wait two hours in line for cheesecake. A small child tries to cut in line, and I get oddly defensive about my spot, and wonder what it would be like to football-kick him the fuck outta here.
After a near two-minute-long photog session in which I ponder the bane of my existence, the meaning of life, and my recent Dollarama bill, we are finally let go to wander the market like lost children in a sea of too-cheerful Christmas revellers.
Total time spent: Approximately 12 minutes (10 minutes lining up, two minutes taking photos)
Santa’s beard: Synthetic.
Good: Photographer takes more than one photo.
Bad: Photo quality.
Yorkdale’s Fashion Santa
Yorkdale’s Fashion Santa is none other than 50-year-old Paul Mason, a 30-year veteran of the modelling scene and one hot middle-aged daddy. Having appeared in various ad campaigns for companies such as D&G, Hugo Boss, the Gap, and Donna Karan, Mason was listed on Toronto Life’s “Toronto’s Best Dressed List” of 2014.
I am a bit intimidated by his height and the A+ beard-outfit ensemble, which makes him look more like a Disney prince than your typical, run-of-the-mill mall Santa.
Fashion Santa grips me tight around the shoulder, and tells me that, for every selfie posted to social media using the hashtag #YorkdaleFashionSanta, Yorkdale Mall will donate $1 (up to a maximum of $10,000) to the Sick Kids Foundation. I can’t hear anything he says, of course, because my heart pounds in my ears.
Total time spent: Under two minutes.
Santa’s beard: Real.
Good: His impeccable fashion sense.
Bad: Poorly placed exhibit. Flash on iPhone camera is on.
**Note: Why is Fashion Santa in Yorkdale Mall and not on Queen West?
Yorkdale’s Santa Claus (Centre Court)
Despite being from different fairy tales, Yorkdale’s Santa Claus is flanked by three helpers: Elsa, her sister Princess Anna, and Princess Anna’s evil twin, Princess Anna #2.
One of the Annas compliments Derick on his shoes (a pair of limited edition Adidas Yeezy Boost 350s in turtle dove). I suddenly wonder if Arendelle has a Foot Locker before I decide that this Anna is probably just cultured.
Andrew, Derick, and I approach the Santa, and he happily tells me to sit on his lap. He might be unaware that I am one of his biggest fans, as you can see by my sweater. Despite a large sign that says, “NO PERSONAL PHONES OR CAMERAS ALLOWED,” we take a few selfies before leaving and paying for our photo. He gives us a full-sized candy cane when we do.
Total time spent: Approximately 20 minutes
Price: $22 plus tax.
Santa’s beard: Real.
Good: Full-sized candy cane.
Bad: Anna 1’s and Anna 2’s badly positioned wigs.
Dufferin Mall’s Winter Sparkle
After rushing towards Dufferin Mall’s Santa display, I come to the horrible realization that Winter Sparkle is nothing but a cash grab; like Yorkdale, which is also owned by Oxford Properties, a photo with Santa costs a whopping $22. I wait in line for 10 minutes before giving up. Before I leave, I ask Derick to take a photo of me.
Total time spent: 10 minutes before giving up.
Beard: I can’t be quite certain, but I think it was real?
Good: The fees paid go to charity.
Bad: All of the dirty looks. Plus the existential horror that is Dufferin Mall.
Eaton Centre’s Log Cabin (Trinity Square)
This is promoted as an “interactive” Santa, which is cool, because children get to talk and listen to Big Man tell Christmas tales. It’s not as cool when you’re pushing 30 and tipsy on Amaretto.
Earvin, Andrew, and I seat ourselves beside The Man rather than on top of him, as we are afraid the rickety, red Santa chair is not strong enough to hold the weight of three grown adults sitting on an even older adult’s lap. I feel weird thanking him for his service, as if calling this stranger “Santa” means I suddenly believe in him, or reveals a complicated relationship with a paternalistic gift giver. Or maybe I just don’t want to suggest that I think role-playing with strangers is a good idea.
Before we leave, a middle-aged man opts to take photos with jolly Old St. Nick. I learn I am not the creepiest person here, and this fact fills me with joy.
Total time spent: Approximately 20 minutes (10 minutes in line and 10 minutes inside)
Price: Free. (The visit is free on the day that I visit. $10 donation any other day to one of three charities of your choice: Autism Speaks, Covenant House, or the Women’s College Hospital Foundation.)
Good: The Sensitive Santa program, designed for individuals with autism and their family members, with shorter wait times and lighter crowds.
Bad: The polar bear beanbag on the floor resembles a dead bear rug, which, you know, makes you wonder why Santa Claus is making house accessories out of endangered animals. Not cool, Santa.
Loblaws Gingerbread Village (Church/Carlton)
Loblaws Gingerbread Village is—you guessed it—a large, life-sized, miniature village made entirely of candy, gumdrops, and real gingerbread.
This is my second year visiting the village. Immediately, I notice something is off. I see my beloved Sandy Claws standing off in the corner, talking on what I believe is a Samsung Galaxy with who I can only presume is his wife, Mrs. Claus.
When my girlfriend and I pose to take a photo with him, he seems repulsed, though I am quite certain he hasn’t caught on to our sweaters: a blue, Hail Santa pullover and a picture of him sans garb. Despite being good girls, Santa doesn’t give us candy canes. I can accept this, because I’ve worked customer service, and being jolly year-round is hard.
It’s only when I am at home and examine the photo that I realize the most serious issue behind Loblaws’ Santa: Loblaws’ 2015 Santa is not the same Santa from 2013. What I mean to say is… I think this man is an imposter. You read it here first, folks.
Price: $5, which goes to the PC Children’s Charity.
Total time spent: Approximately 20 minutes (no line, one minute with Santa, plus lots of walking around).
Good: Lots of free food. Decent apple cider.
Bad: IMPOSTER SANTA.
Scarborough Town Centre’s Planet Santa
I visit Scarborough Town Centre’s Planet Santa on a 1.5-hour time constraint, which is naive because everything in Scarborough is so poorly planned that this is the only decent mall within a 10-kilometre radius and is therefore packed.
Santa’s fortress is massive—the largest and most intricately designed thus far—and it quickly dawns on me that I will not be able to get a good photo looking in from the outside. My mother and I attempt to skip the line (we are told the wait is one hour, 45 minutes) by paying for the express lane, but are unable to because the site requires a desktop computer for authorization.
After approximately 30 minutes of trying find a good vantage point (there are none, to deter people like me), I settle on a shitty photo, and a couple of pics with Planet Santa’s Queen Elsa II. I can be seen criticizing my mom’s photography skills, which are questionable despite owning a Canon Rebel.
Price: Free. ($17 plus tax for the cheapest package.)
Total time spent: Zero in line. Two minutes trying to get the attention of an employee. Approximately 30 minutes to try and infiltrate Santa’s fortress and summon the courage to ask Queen Elsa II for a photo.
Beard: If I were to guess, I would say real.
Good: The decor.
Bad: Literally everything else.