Trained American Santas hit Jerusalem for Orthodox Christmas

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Dozens of Santa Clauses turned heads in Jerusalem on Sunday, catching a ride on a sightseeing tram and parading in its walled Old City in a visit to the Holy Land for Orthodox Christmas.

The Santas were trained in spreading holiday cheer at the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Michigan. The trip was hosted by Israel’s Tourism Ministry to coincide with the date when many Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7.

Fred Honerkamp, 74, from Midland, Michigan, said he had been a Santa for 18 years, “lifting a lot of children and hearing their hopes and dreams”: “There’s a saying that ‘he errs who thinks that Santa comes through the chimney - he comes through the heart’, and we represent the spirit of love and giving during the Christmas season.”

The 50-strong Santa squad were also planning to take a boat ride, in costume, on the biblical Sea of Galilee, and to float, in Santa bathing suits, in the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea, the ministry said.

The place where Christian pilgrims visit the biblical site of Jesus’s birth, the Palestinian town of Bethlehem, lies five miles (eight km) down the road from Jerusalem’s Old City in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on the other side of a towering Israeli concrete military barrier.

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