Threatening Santa’s job: ‘Ho, ho, ho’ is a no no no

Alissa O'Neill and Alissa O'Neill

Every year at Christmas time shopping malls worldwide are filled with holiday music and jolly “ho, ho, ho’s” from Santa Clauses asking children their Christmas wishes. This year, however, some Santas in Australia might be forced to change their tune.

John Oakes, 70, worked as a Santa in the Myer Department Store in Sydney, Australia for four years when he was told his services would no longer be required.

“I hadn’t done anything wrong so I asked her why, and she said, ‘You said ho, ho, ho and that’s not appropriate’,” Oakes said in the Sydney Daily Telegraph about the termination of his employment.

Westaff, a recruitment agency that provides Santas such as Oakes to retailers across Australia, ignited a controversy in November when they told trainees to no longer say “ho, ho, ho.” In order to avoid frightening children and offending women, the Santas were told to say “ha, ha, ha” instead. Two Santas reportedly left the training session because of this and contacted the media.

Westaff quickly responded with a statement in which the company answered a few “Santa FAQ’s” including the question “Are Westaff-recruited Santas being told not to say ‘ho, ho, ho’?”

“Absolutely not,” the statement read. “In Australia, Westaff Santas are encouraged to assess a child’s reaction and act accordingly – this may include using various tactics for relieving children’s fears like adjusting their tone of voice.”

Westaff answered the rest of the FAQ’s similarly, maintaining their position that they had not told their Santas to refrain from using “ho, ho, ho”, but were instead suggesting ways for Santas to be more sensitive to children’s feelings.

However, Santas who attended the training session are standing their ground and sticking to their claim that they were told not to say ‘ho, ho, ho.’ One of these Santas told the Daily Telegraph that he was specifically told not to use ‘ho, ho, ho’ because it was too similar to the American slang word for a prostitute.

In Oakes’ case, Westaff told the Daily Telegraph that Oakes was fired for having the wrong attitude, while the Myer store refused to comment.

“The candidate was not sacked nor was his use of the term ‘ho, ho, ho’ a factor in our decision,” Westaff spokesperson Bert Janz said in the Daily Telegraph. “The candidate’s attitude was not in line with the requirements of our client and of their customers.”

“Ho, ho, ho” or “ha, ha, ha”, Santa Claus is still a main attraction in malls across the U.S. Santa will be available for photos locally at Franklin Park Mall in Toledo and at Woodland Mall in Bowling Green. Santa’s hours at Franklin Park are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Franklin Park’s Web site says that “Santa will take a break to feed the reindeer from 1:30-2:30 p.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2:00-3:00 p.m. on Sundays.” At Woodland Mall, Santa will appear from 5-9 p.m. on Fridays, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Saturdays, and noon until 7 p.m. on Sundays.