Being and Elf is fun but has its challenges. Its more than feeding Reindeer.

I was so happy to be chosen to participate in this legendary holiday experience. Macy’s New York department store at Herald Square hosts its annual Christmas extravaganza. A huge area of the eighth floor is bedecked in twinkling lights, sparkling stars and outsized lollipops to create Santaland at Macy’s. The experience; Visitors are led along the Macyland Express, past the Enchanted Forest – and the Grover and Ivy husband and wife team of talking trees – to the Rock Candy Mining Site, then over Rainbow Bridge to interactive patisserie, The Sweetery. A movie theatre shows holiday classics, and finally the path leads to Santa’s home in New York – a country cabin bedecked in garlands, ornaments and bows. At the end of the visit, each child receives a gift specially chosen by Santa Claus.

Visitors are delighted by the sight of holiday decor electric trains,endless amounts of decorated trees, “snow” everywhere and the sight of “Elves” along the path to see Santa. There is a lot of behind the scenes magic to make the event a successful experience. There are several stations for Elves; line management to entertain guests while you wait in line, give directions. Once inside Elves monitor the crowds and fix decor issues, (decor is for looking not touching and nearly everyone touches or bumps into something). The coveted spot is at the end of line 2 where an Elf, ( known as Santas’ Helpers), come to escort guests to see the Big Man himself. There is strong emphasis to use coordination, effort and magic to make each guest feel as if they are the only one there. ( even though you came off a line of about 180 people per hour).

Once inside the little house you sit on Santa’s lap, take a photo with him and tell him your list. All ages are encouraged to participate. The visit is just long enough to be memorable.

Behind the scenes; When an applicant is hired, You are mesured for a costume and given Policy of Santa Land Rules of Conduct and pick your schedule. The secret perk is being a Temp Macys employee, you get discounts on merchandise. Once fitted you are trained in a group by the Wise Head Elf. This is a manager who has been there, done that and knows the ropes of handling mass amounts of people in a tiny space.

What an Elf needs to know; the costumes are very heavy to withstand years of use. The rooms of Santa Land are very crowded with decor and people and no you cannot leave post to go to the restroom or have a smoke. Cell phones are forbidden. Elves get breaks on schedules, hope your relief shows up on time. The biggest thing you learn, it’s HOT in there. Elves hide water bottles in the decor near their station and mints in their pockets. Santa Helper Elves keep him calm and cool by having a small fan behind his chair, keep many bottles of cold water and timing the guest to about 4 minutes or less. Santa sits for only about 3 hours at a time. And no, the beards are not real or real ones are enhances with falsies.

The novelty of just being there wears off fast in light of the reality- it’s hot, loud and crowded. If you leave your spot in line, you go back in at the door, not to your original place. Visitors are not happy waiting in lines for over 2 hours and then be asked to pay for a photo. Children really do have the most difficult time. Elves do their best to sing, make conversation and manage the discomfort felt by visitor and staff.

But, it is a very worthwhile experience if you take the proper precautions; bathroom first, bring water, take off coats and sweaters before getting online. Keep kids amused with small toys, books and small snacks. Cell phones may NOT work inside and if they do, there is no place to plug in.

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