Nearly 60 years since he first graced Auckland’s city centre streets, Auckland’s Giant Santa will retire after one last Christmas. Sam Brooks has the good oil on what’s happening to the city’s iconic Christmas overlord.
Two things mark the start of the festive season in Auckland for me: The first time I hear the jingle bell intro to Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’, probably in Smith & Caughey’s or The Warehouse (choose applicable, dependent on how far I am from payday), some time in late October, is one.
The other is the sudden appearance of the Giant Santa on the Farmers building on the corner of Queen Street and Victoria Street West.
However, 2019 is the last time this will be the case. You’re just going to have to wait for those 90s sleigh bells from now on.
It’s true: Santa’s last stint working his iconic corner in the heart of Auckland city will be November and December. He’s hanging up his red coat for good. Cue mourning, cue vigils, cue dedications.
You will have questions. Why is this famous piece of Auckland’s Christmas retiring? Where is he going? How can I pay my respects? But don’t stress! We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know on Santa and, more importantly, how you can give the old guy the farewell he deserves.
What did Santa do wrong?
Don’t worry, despite being a chronic seasonal breaker-and-enterer, Santa didn’t get cancelled. Keeping a structure like that happy and healthy is not easy.
According to Heart of the City, the owner of the Giant Santa, “Sadly, it’s a combination of things and it’s been a very difficult decision.”
The structure is tired and old and comes with significant maintenance, storage and installation cost, all contributing to the decision to retire the installation.
“Santa is well-loved and he will live on, but this giant model is tired and ready to have a rest.”
So why is Santa leaving?
Look, Santa has been standing on that corner for two months every year for 10 years, and for 50 in other locations around the city centre. I get tired halfway through my working day – imagine how he feels.
The reality is that Santa has a real big appearance fee. Nineteen metres and over five tonnes of Santa does not come cheap.
It costs over $200,000 to put him up there every year, and on top of that, he’s due for a little bit of TLRC (tender loving reconstruction). Heart of the City has explored their options and they’re not able to keep him on retainer any more, but they’re open to appropriate retirement offers.
Who is replacing him?
Hey, Giant Santa isn’t just for life, he’s for Christmas and he is irreplaceable. In saying that, Heart of the City is exploring new options for celebrating Christmas in the city centre in the future. Can I suggest Metrolanes?
Where’s he going?
Heart of the City says they’re “looking for appropriate disposal unless anyone shows an interest in discussing options”. Which is to say that it looks like Giant Santa might be on his way to the big red sleigh in the sky and let’s leave it at that, shall we? Maybe he’s even on his way to Te Papa, which I’m sure has ample room for a 19-metre, five-tonne icon. The London Natural History Museum has Hope the 25m blue whale suspended from its ceiling. Why can’t New Zealand’s national museum have its own 19m Santa Claus?
But I’ve got so many memories of the Giant Santa!
Me too! I’m particularly fond of the time I met someone across the world and said I was from Auckland, and they enthusiastically asked me if I lived “near the Giant Santa with the finger”. That’s what they asked about. Not the Sky Tower. Not Lorde. Not even hobbits! They asked about the Giant Santa. He’s a bloody Auckland icon, as a certain episode of Get It to Te Papa will remind you. We’ve all got memories of Santa – some beautiful, some terrifying – and we all want to share in the beautiful and terrifying together.
Remember when –
Save it. Hold it close. And then share it!
Heart of the City will be giving you the chance to share your memories with everybody on social media, either by emailing it direct (email@example.com) or on your own socials with the hashtag #FarewellSanta.
Will I get a chance to say goodbye?
Oh, will you ever. This is like a Cher Farewell Tour – he’s definitely going, but it’ll be a while before he’s gone.
Santa is up now occupying his familiar spot above Farmers (that key signal that Christmas is nearly here, if you were trying to hide from this fact), and he’ll hang up his red coat and double reindeer for good on 10 January (which is also a good reminder of when to take down your own Christmas decorations).
Heart of the City will be promoting events throughout the Christmas month, including their special Late-Night Christmas event on 19 December which will host over 90 street performances, and over 125 stores will be open late. (Hint: That’s maybe when you should do your Christmas shopping.)
Christmas can be such a wild, hectic time. There’s shopping to do for your loved ones, and maybe someone in your office has set up an ill-advised Secret Santa. The centre of town can be a heaving mass of locals trying to go about their business and people coming in to try to get all their shopping done. As someone who’s lived in the very centre of town for the better part of the last decade, it’s been a quiet and calming thing to see the Giant Santa two months out of the year amid the chaos. He used to beckon to me, but then that stopped. Beckoning and waving don’t come cheap.
Now he just smiles out of me. I can’t say I thought about him very much, but damn I’ll miss him when he’s gone. And so will you, Auckland. Just like Joni Mitchell said, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. Surely she was thinking of Giant Santa when she wrote those words.
This content was created in paid partnership with Heart of the City. Learn more about our partnerships here.
Memories and photos of Santa can be uploaded to heartofthecity.co.nz, emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or shared on Instagram and Facebook using #FarewellSanta. They’ll then be published to the dedicated page on heartofthecity.co.nz/
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