A Muslim man who works as Santa Claus and earns a living doing the job has told his story which many people are not familiar with.
Some people might be wondering how a Muslim man could be working as Santa Claus. Well, that is the story of Abdul Kagere. He has narrated he got into the business to Godfrey Lugaaju of Daily Monitor in Uganda.
Who is Santa?
Santa is a miracle maker who we believe in because he works magic. He is also a saint in the Catholic Church. He is a role model to young children who believe when they perform well and behave well throughout the year, Santa will have a gift for them. Also children and adults make wishes upon seeing him.
When did you start acting Santa?
It was in my Senior Four vacation in 2005 when I was invited to act at St Gerald High School. Since then it has been year after year of doing this.
What made you pick interest in acting Santa?
When I was young, my dad used to take me to Christmas parties and I enjoyed the Santas I saw there. I admired to be like them and told myself that I will one day do the same.
What is it like acting Santa?
It is fun; people love you because they know that you come with free gifts but I should admit it is also quite challenging.
How is it challenging?
You get to meet stubborn children who slap, pinch and punch you yet you have to smile and avoid acting hostile towards them. It also involves long hours of standing. Some old people too ask for miracles that cannot be made.
What does it take to be Father Christmas?
You have to be fat, jolly, down to earth and good at English. You also need to have some good knowledge on Santa and the Catholic faith as a whole.
You mean non-Catholics cannot be Santas?
Not really. I am a Muslim but I have been Santa and it has worked really fine. I have worked in the church. All that matters is respecting the Catholic faith or else you risk sabotaging the honour of Santa Claus.
How do your Muslim friends feel about you acting Santa?
Some were not happy and they showed me their anger but I simply told them it was just work. It was the Tablighis that got annoyed with me mostly and unfriended me but I just let that go.
Have you acted Santa on any Muslim function?
Yes, I did at a graduation ceremony early this November. I served the children with sweets and Islamic literature. It was fun and the Muslims who had hired me told me I did a good job.
What are some of the benefits you have derived from this?
A lot. I have got countless friends, rubbed shoulders with important people, and bought a car. I have also gotten chance to travel to various places such as Mbarara, Kabale and Gulu.
Let us talk family, are you married?
Yes, to a very beautiful woman with whom we have a five-year-old son. I spend my free time with him and he makes me so happy.
Do you at times act Santa for him?
Hahahahahaha… yeah. When he sees me with the red bag, he knows I’m going to work. He asks me for sweets and tells me his dreams.
Are you preparing him to take after you?
I would love that so much but he keeps telling me he wants to be a doctor because they travel in an ambulance.
Tell me some of the places you have performed in?
Most notably Hotel Africana at the KPMG Mid-sized Companies’ dinner and Buganda Kingdom events but most of my gigs are family and school parties.
How much do you charge for a performance?
It depends on whether I have to buy the gifts myself, the time I have to work and the cause. If it is for charity or at an event for the Buganda Kingdom, I do it for free. My charges are between Sh200, 000 and Shs1m.
What would you consider your ultimate achievement in this field?
I entered my house without electricity and plaster but I got a gig one day worth Shs2m and I did the wiring for electricity and plastering the following day. Every time I look at my house, I like my job more.
What was your dream job as a child?
I wanted to do a white collar job that would bring me a lot of money so I could give half of it to my mother.
You seem to treasure your mother a lot, why is that?
She raised us singlehandedly. We were 15 but she struggled a lot to see all of us through school. From her, I learnt not to despise any job.
Is there anything else you do aside from acting Santa?
Yes. I’m an events manager at Pearl Events, I speak on weddings and introduction ceremonies, and also teach food and nutrition at Crested S.S Kazo and Brixton S.S, Watuba.
How do you balance all these?
I teach from Monday to Thursday and do my other things over the weekend. Most events are in the evenings and on the weekend.
What is that special thing that people don’t know about you?
I think people don’t know that I smile a lot and cry a lot. When you annoy me, I smile but hide somewhere later and cry it off.
What is your desired legacy?
I want to be remembered as a down to earth and calm person who welcomed everybody from children to adults.
Eleven years down the road, how have you managed to sustain yourself todate?
I understand the demands of my clients and I do the best to fulfil them. I also do not get angry easily since I have to deal with children in most cases and also be creative; there has to be a new element that I put in my performance every time I perform.