Bodmin Biggins III, elf and safety officer, Santa's Workshop
Bodmin Biggins III, elf and safety officer at Santa's Workshop. Bodmin is a little low on elf-esteem, so submitted a picture without a face – but those stockings more than make up for it.

Irish elf and safety officer moves to Lapland seeking wonder

22 Dec 2015

Bodmin Biggins III is an elf and safety officer in Santa’s Workshop, Lapland. Speaking to as part of the Trading Places series, Bodmin tells us about moving to Lapland, being part of making sure Christmas Eve runs smoothly, and loving hot chocolate more than nearly anything else.  

Where are you from and what’s it like there?

I’m Irish. My parents both moved to Lapland when they were younger, but moved home to Ireland when the tech boom started in the ’90s. My mam’s an engineer so she got a job at Intel working on Pentium chips.

How long have you been in Lapland?

Since I graduated a couple of years ago. I started here on a graduate programme, and was made permanent last year.

What prompted your decision to move there?

I had pretty low elf-esteem, and I thought being surrounded by my elven brethren and sistren might boost me up a little.

Plus, my mam’s stories of working in Santa’s workshop made it seem so wonderful, I just had to give it a shot. She was an engineering elf, and says she learned a lot from working with Mrs Claus.

My background’s in elf and safety, so I followed a slightly different path, but even being able to spend a little time in the workshop is just as amazing as she said.

Describe a typical day in your job.


Haha, no, there’s never anything bleak about working in Lapland.

My day starts with a giant mug of hot chocolate – they make the finest here, I swear – before we have a team meeting to go over any issues we had during the previous day.

Then the rest of my day flies by, with inspections, planning, meetings and courses. It’s important to make sure we do everything meticulously, and to make sure everyone from the stable janitors right up to Santa himself knows how to do their job without putting anyone else at risk.

In the run up to Christmas, there are a lot of meetings with Santa. He wants to make sure all the elves and Rudolph’s whole crew are going to be safe during our busiest period. So December’s kind of crazy for the elf and safety team. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but there are a lot of safety-check lists, and we have to check all of them twice.

In the final hours before the Christmas Eve flight, though, we all chip in on last-minute battery fills and checks. Getting to do something different can be a nice break sometimes.

What’s on your desk at the moment?

Another cup of hot chocolate – it gets me through the day! Even if some days I could add a little extra something…

Right now, as Christmas Eve is just two days away (how does it always sneak up so fast?) we’re doing final checks on the sleigh, the present-securing apparatus, Santa’s seat belt and the reindeer’s harnesses.

But, even when Christmas is so close, the day-to-day stuff never stops. I also have to give a manual handling course over the next few days. No matter how often we tell the elves ‘lift with your knees, not with your back’, they always forget when the sleigh-loading rush kicks in. Then we’ve got half the workshop out on medical leave for the first few weeks of January.

How would you describe your working environment?

It can be stressful. A typical working day is about 23 hours long. We get 10 six-minute breaks, though, so that’s nice.

We also get four Sundays off per year, plus every bank holiday, of which there are none.

But while we work hard, we also play hard, and our office parties are off the charts. Lots of suede, though – the substandard ’90s rock band and the questionable fashion attire.

What do you like most about your job?

Nothing compares to what it feels like seeing the happiness that our work spreads, knowing that all our hard work has paid off.

On Christmas Day, our social media team does an amazing job feeding back all the responses from children around the world as they wake up to gifts from Santa, and that’s the greatest gift of all for us.

Was it difficult to adjust to living and working in Lapland?

It’s a lot colder here than in Ireland, but hot chocolate keeps me toasty.

That and lots and lots of layers. My mam sends me regular packages with new woollen socks she’s knitted – she remembers Lapland winters well. This year’s batch can even control Netflix! I think she’s shared that pattern with everyone now.

What surprised you about moving to Lapland, if anything?

No matter how much you think you know, nothing prepares you for the sheer scale of the operation. My initial tour and introduction to all departments took two weeks!

It was a bit overwhelming at first, but I knew to stick it out until I settled in a bit and now I’m delighted to be here.

How does your working life help to make you feel at home here?

With the long hours, the work here can be a bit restrictive, but we all still know how to cut loose, relax and have an eggnog or two after a hard day.

And as we all live in such close quarters – we’re all housed in special villages near the workshop, kind of like Google, but a bit more comfortable – we’re all there to support each other through any moments of homesickness.

What do you like most about your adopted home?

Two words: hot chocolate. I just can’t get enough!

Main image via Shutterstock

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