- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

PARIS — Fired for being too generous with his time, hunted by police for indecent exposure and arrested in Hong Kong for demonstrating in support of democracy, Santa Claus has been seen in various guises this holiday season.

In Hong Kong, Matt Pearce brought traffic to a halt when he put on a Father Christmas outfit and unfurled a banner high across a city street proclaiming “People want democracy now.” Police clapped him in handcuffs and held him for three hours.

Then, in London, bouncers escorted another Father Christmas — actor Alan Seymour, 57, out of a “Santa Land” exhibition after the show’s organizer, Dreamtime Events, decided he was spending much too long with each child who went to see him.

“It was very humiliating. I was trying to do my job as best I could for the children. They’re being ripped off,” Mr. Seymour told the Daily Mirror, explaining that parents had to pay the equivalent of about $30 for a stopwatched 30-second visit.

In Birmingham, England, an anonymous person calling himself (or herself) “the parking ticket Santa” slipped the equivalent of $52 under the windshield wipers of at least one ticketed vehicle.

Caroline Howard, 27, said she found a card that read, “Don’t let this ticket spoil your Christmas — here’s 30 pounds to pay it off,” according to the Daily Express in London.

It was signed: “Merry Christmas, parking ticket Santa.”

Less jolly, though, was the story of the stripper Santa. Police in Dorset County, England, said last week a man dressed as Santa was going around exposing himself to young women.

Three girls in their midteens were his first victims, with two women aged 18 and 23 next, according to Officer Jonathan Maunder, who added: “I would be very interested to hear from anyone who may have seen someone acting suspiciously while dressed as Father Christmas.”

Speaking of the Christmas spirit, dozens of people in northern France lined up for an act of unexpected generosity from an unexpected source: an automated teller machine spitting out 50-euro notes (worth $60) instead of twenties.

The euphoria ended, however, when the Caisse d’Epargne bank in the town of Carvin contacted each customer to ask for its money back.

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