Oh. My. Goodness.
I don’t know how he does it each year but one day Whitcoulls in Queen Street is just a store and then the next it’s the home of Santazilla.
An army of elves erects the 79 foot high old fella in hours and suddenly you know, “It’s ON!”.
And strangely each year it seems to get a week earlier but there’s no denying that the Christmas season is here and nothing says it like Santazilla, who will be celebrated with the parade at the end of November.
Those with longer memories will know this is not his rightful home. Santazilla was evicted from the old Farmer’s building 20 years ago this year.
From 1960 he’d graced the old building but in 1990 the council took the building over. Later it was reconfigured as the Heritage Hotel. But as the building got a new life Santazilla was consigned to a waste land out of the city.
For those with memories longer than 20 years you knew it just wasn’t right.
There was a Christmas right of passage in those days. Late night Friday. Negotiating the 7 storey maze that was the Farmers Car Park (built in 1955)
Crossing the airbridge! Like Star Wars or Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
Taking the overcrowded escalators to the playground on the top floor. A massive tricycle dodgem track with bullies and victims alike.
And then into the grotto to eyeball Santa and make your demands.
It was magical. A magic that modern stores have not replicated. A few years ago SkyTower built a grotto in the sky which was pretty good. But these days a Santa just off the foodcourt of a mall just ain’t doing it.
There has to be a journey. There has to be a grotto. Santa cannot be on display like some animal at the zoo. You must stand before him. Kid to God. He must focus his twinkly eye on you. Then you whisper your greatest wishes in his ear and only then can you trust he is making a promise to you and you alone.
Santazilla, meanwhile was rescued after 8 years in the wilderness and now proudly looks down on Queen Street. But even he has fallen prey to a modern malaise.
The 21st Century Santazilla has had cosmetic surgery. The lazy winking eye was fixed. The finger was made less lascivious. But most shockingly Santazilla got a lip job, seemingly inspired by a blow up doll.
It made my heart break. Be yourself big guy! If you’re not immune to makeovers, what hope is there that the season will retain the old magic that has passed through generations?
Merry Christmas everybody