Thursday 20 July 2006
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Swiss Santas are banned from sitting children on their laps
By Kate Connolly in Berlin
(Filed: 15/11/2005)

Swiss Santa Clauses have been banned from sitting children on their laps because of the risk that they might be accused of paedophilia. The Society of St Nicholases issued the ruling to its 100 professional members after parents expressed concern about close contact between their children and the men.

In Switzerland, as in much of mainland Europe, it is St Nicholas, rather than Father Christmas, who delivers presents to children's homes.

"Samiklaus," as he is known in Swiss German, turns up on Dec 6 rather than the night of the 24th. Large groups of St Nicholases parade through the streets that day before visiting children. They traditionally sit them on their laps before asking if they have been well-behaved.

"We want to counteract any possible accusations of paedophilia involving our members," the Society of St Nicholas said in a statement. "We regret having to do this, but the public has become very sensitive about child abuse."

Walter Furrer, president of Zurich's Society of Nicholases, said the rule had been introduced after a flurry of calls to the society from parents.

"This measure is above all to protect our Nicholases," he said, adding that the decision had provoked heated debate in the usually sedate world of Swiss Santa Clauses.

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