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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 18:33 GMT 19:33 UK
Sack warning for scruffy Santas
Actor Billy Bob Thornton in the film Bad Santa
Smoking Santas "should not be allowed" under the new code
Badly behaved and scruffy-looking Santas are to be outlawed under a code of conduct being laid down by the British Santa Association.

Concerned by falling standards among performers, the blueprint is one of the first exercises to be undertaken by the newly-formed association.

Members met at Alton Towers in Staffordshire on Wednesday to "formalise the role of Santa".

Under discussion is ideal beard length and size of stomach.

I was horrified to see a Santa smoking a cigarette once and that, quite simply, should not be allowed.
James Lovell, The Ministry of Fun

James Lovell, from The Ministry of Fun, an entertainment production company that is behind the association, told BBC News he is concerned that the number of Father Christmas grottos is falling. He sees the code as a way of "fighting back".

"Bookings for grottos are down by about 30% compared to last year and we believe the best way to enjoy seeing Santa is in his grotto," he said.

"There wasn't even one on Oxford Street last year.

"We are concerned the role is disappearing and Santa is fighting back.

"Through the association we want to hold regular meetings and discuss relevant matters. A blueprint might sound mad but it is necessary and will be practical.

"I don't want to see a shoddy beard and Santas wearing trainers."

Length of beard

Mr Lovell said he was horrified to see a Santa smoking a cigarette once.

"That, quite simply, should not be allowed," he said.

"We aim to put Santa back on the High Street as regularly as possible and in grottos everywhere and to do that we are trying to ensure that the role is portrayed as magically and wonderfully as possible."

The first item the 16 members all agreed on is that the length of Santa's beard should now be no longer than six inches.

Other issues to be clarified and confirmed in due course include how to say Merry Christmas in several different languages, the need to know the name of all eight reindeer and how the perfect Ho, Ho, Ho should sound.

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