As Coke’s official Santa, Horn has become a well-established Christmas icon and somewhat of a local celebrity. With his bushy white beard (real, of course), curly hair and jolly “Ho! Ho! Ho!”, he’s a hit with kids and adults alike.
But there's more to Horn than his smiles and familiar red suit. For much of his life, he worked as a policeman in Vienna. Having seen a much darker side of life, he now revels in working with
We caught up with Horn at the peak of the holiday season to hear about what the role means to him and how it affects others.
How did your life as Austria’s favorite Santa begin?I have long hair and a big bushy beard – nearly untameable. I only trust my own hairdresser with it, but when she became ill, my hair and beard started growing and growing. My wife used to tease me, saying I looked like Santa Claus, until one day, she saw an advertisement in the newspaper that
What does the role entail, and why do you think it’s
Former policeman Karl 'Charly' Horn has traded in his patrol car for the
Can you tell us more about your previous life as a
policeman?As a policeman at the criminal investigation department, I came across
violence, brutality and the darkest sides of human life. You see terrible
things, and I even got shot on the job. I have seen the tears in the eyes of
children who have witnessed crimes. It makes you think. You need a thick skin
and strong personality, but it can be hard to leave the job behind when you get
How has this experience influenced
your decision to work with As Santa, you only see the joy and twinkles in the eyes of children, a real
contrast to my former work on the force. I love children and have a son myself…
being able to make them happy and have a wonderful Christmas is a real joy.
Coca-Cola and its Christmas campaigns?
Do you become a different person when your work as Santa,
or are you always this positive and optimistic?I am who I am. It doesn’t matter if I wear a Santa suit or a t-shirt. I’m a
happy man, a proud father and husband.
Is it hard to keep your beard in shape all year round?Yes, it’s very time-consuming to groom my hair! But, as the official
Coca-Cola Santa, I want to make a good impression all year round. Some people
don’t believe that my beard is real, so I’ll let them have a little tug to confirm.
“Oh, it really isn’t a fake!” is the usual response I get.
What has been your most memorable Christmas moment over
the years?One of the most moving moments was a visit to the Sankt Anna Children’s
hospital in Vienna to meet children suffering from cancer. To see how they
carry their illness with so much dignity was very impressive. I thought that,
being a former policeman, I was hard-boiled, but seeing these children was very
Apart from some of the harsh realities in life, I’ve luckily also had the opportunity to experience some incredible highs. When we made a stop in Salzburg with the Christmas tour, I was very tired and went to my hotel to get some sleep. Then the clerk asked me if it would be okay to take some photos. A group of 15 chief editors of the international press happened to be in the hotel, and they wanted to have their pictures taken with Santa. It was one of the funniest photo sessions in my time as Santa. I also get regular marriage proposals as Santa Claus – that’s not a joke!
With pop star Natasha Bedingfield
Do you get recognized when you're ‘off duty’?When I got into a car accident, I injured my Achilles’ tendon. They had to
take me to the hospital. Word got around, and all the nurses and doctors were
very excited to have Santa in the ER. Right before the operation, the anesthetist
said to me: “My grandchildren will be very happy with me, because if do a good
job they will get presents for Christmas!”
Why do you think Coca-Cola’s Christmas celebrations have been unparalleled for decades. For
many people, the Christmas season doesn’t start until the red
Coca-Cola and Christmas are so closely
connected in the public's imagination?
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