by Alison Houston
YOU may know him as mild-mannered Platinum Retirement Solutions proprietor Peter Hogg but, in fact, 66-year-old Peter has an alter-ego.
He's 1747-year-old Santa Claus - and has been for nine years now.
"One of the great honours in human society is to be a Santa and spread that joy to children and their families," Peter said.
"Once I get dressed in my suit, I am completely, 100 cents in the dollar, Santa Claus."
While he's been roving Santa, ringing his bell and giving out lollies, parade Santa, and even done promotional work and voice-overs (from the Coast to Sydney, Melbourne and even Perth - let's face it a small enough task for Santa), it's being the plush Santa on the throne at Erina Fair that Peter enjoys best.
And, since Erina Fair is one of the first places Santa stops, on the first Saturday of November - this year that's 51 days before Christmas - Peter gets every chance to make plenty of kids and their parents smile.
"Working on set is all about joy and happiness and having fun," Peter said.
Donning the suit, beard and stuffing takes a good half hour, but Peter said it was important Santa wasn't rushed - no-one wants a sweaty, out-of-breath Santa; not to mention his glasses fog up!
Santa has had many requests over the years, but perhaps some of the nicest have come from kids asking for health and happiness for their families, or little girls who said, "I've got everything I need, Santa, so whatever you were going to leave for me, could you give it to someone else who deserves it?"
"I tear up," Peter admitted. "It's pretty emotional."
But of course Santa doesn't want anyone to go without, so he promises to leave something special under the tree because he's so proud of them for caring so much.
One of his favourite moments is the kids who aren't staying at home over Christmas, so make sure Santa knows exactly where Nanna and Pa's or the holiday house is, and the children that warn Santa they have a dog, so he'd better leave the reindeer on the roof.
Of course there are always those that question whether Santa is real, or whether this is the real Santa, but if you can ask Santa any question in the world about Christmas, and he knows the answer, how could he not be the real deal?
And this Santa knows it all, including that he actually has two nights to get around the world because he passes through three separate time zones and the sleigh travels at the speed of light; that Santa's wife is called Jessica Mary Claus (the Mary honours Jesus's mother); that he enters our houses with a magic key that only works once each Christmas Eve, that he stays young because he believes in magic and, of course, the names of all the reindeer.
As for why kids can't sit up and watch for Santa on Christmas Eve? Well, then they would all want to stop and chat, and how would he ever get his parcels delivered?
While it can be very busy, Peter said Santa really enjoyed the quiet times when he could spend a few moments talking to the kids about Christmas, and when he got to meet children with special needs, who Santa always has extra time for to ensure they get to experience the spirit of Christmas.
"It's very rewarding. I wouldn't give it up for anything," Peter said.