In the mining town of Gällivare, located in the Swedish section of Lapland, the contestants have gathered. These men and women gritted their teeth as they walked through the streets in their heavy boots on the morning of 22 November with the frosty wind biting at their quickly reddening cheeks.

Red cheeks would serve them well, however. As would eyes that twinkle and a round belly that shakes when they laugh like a bowlful of jelly, for these world warriors were here to determine who was the World’s Best Santa.

And so, when the blood was mopped up and visions of sugar plums danced through the heads of little ones, it was Japan’s very own Kohei Yamashita who emerged victorious bringing his nation its first ever World’s Best Santa title.

Our Hero

There was a gradual sense of excitement as word of Yamashita’s win slowly trickled through Japan’s media outlets and social media.

“Awesome lol 35y/o Japanese Santa is best in the world lol”

Indeed, although the Kumamoto-Prefecture man sported a white beard and hair for the competition he was still a spry middle-aged man. In addition to various feats of strength and agility, Santas are awarded points for their appearance and perpetually jolly demeanor even when getting thrown from a mechanical bull. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Santa Winter Games

The Santa Winter Games are an annual event which draws contestants from around the world. In this the eleventh tournament competitors from countries such as China, France, The Netherlands, and Australia have descended on Gällivare to out-Santa each other. In the past three years entrants from China and Hong Kong have come out especially strong, and proved themselves to be deadly efficient in the art of gift-giving and merry-making.

After the initial PR events and annual Santa parade leading to the games venue, this is a moment for them to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas… Well, not the true, true meaning…that other meaning that involves Santa.

Then it’s onto the reindeer games! There are three main events: a porridge eating contest; reindeer ride (mechanical bull); and the Santa Triathlon which seems to involve gift stacking and a sack race.

Ho Ho Holy cow that was a good job

Japan’s Yamashita came right out of the gate with a stellar porridge eating performance. He finished his bowl in six seconds flat and way ahead of everyone else.

It began to look like he had the contest wrapped up until his lackluster performance atop the mechanical reindeer.

Still in the end, Kohei Yamashita’s never-ending well of Christmas cheer carried him through the rest of the tournament and onto the stage to earn his commemorative dish and plaque as “the world’s best Santa.”

The second place Santa for 2014 was Santa Sunny from Hong Kong, followed by Santa Glenn Swift from Australia. In addition, China’s Santa Jim was voted in as the People’s Choice Santa for this year.

Even though Christmas is just around the corner, the thoughts of these Santas have got to be on next year’s games. China and Hong Kong are no doubt going to take this loss seriously and redouble their efforts. Does Yamashita have what it takes to hold them off for back-to-back Santa titles? Or will a dark horse Santa emerge to upset the Kris Kringle balance in 2015? This is why I love sports!

Source: Santa Winter Games, SWG on Facebook (English), Naver Matome (Japanese)
Top Image: YouTube
Video: YouTube – FNNnewsCH, Santa Paradise Yamamoto