From ship to sleigh, veteran brings holiday warmth to Halifax
Santa Floyd has been spreading Christmas joy for 39 years
December 7, 2019, 12:14 pm ASTLast Updated: December 7, 2019, 12:14 pm
Santa Floyd, otherwise known as Floyd Blakeney, is a familiar sight around Halifax.
Blakeney, 63, has been a holiday Santa for 39 years. It’s a job dear to his heart. He got his start in an unlikely place — the military.
Blakeney was 23 years old when he was posted to HMCS Iroquois as a mechanical engineer in the early 1980s.
As the Christmas season approached, Blakeney says his chief sized him up and said, “There’s a children’s Christmas party this f***ing Sunday, you’re going to be Santa Claus!” As a new face on the ship, Blakeney says, “when you were given an order you followed without question.”
He was the youngest in his family and had no experience with children but he took the risk and enjoyed it. From then on Blakeney became the navy’s Christmas Santa.
“I really enjoy what I do. I don’t only entertain children, I entertain people. A part of your job is laughing and carrying on. There’s not many jobs out there where you can do that,” says Blakeney.
After serving in the Canadian navy for 26 years, Blakeney retired in 2005. Leaving one chapter of his life behind, the veteran has since become the official Santa for city-wide events, including the Halifax and Hydrostone Christmas tree lighting ceremonies.
After more than three decades dressed in red and white, Blakeney’s charismatic character comes naturally. Yet it wasn’t always this easy. He struggled with being joyful, knowing people mostly acknowledged him for his appearance.
“It seemed so artificial to me. I don’t like artificial people. I didn’t want my personality to be associated with that,” he says.
Blakeney says children often embrace him while adults are more critical. He overcomes this negativity with humour.
“During the summer I’ve got red shorts on, a red T-shirt, and I’ve got red sandals on, so you can guess who I look like even on the beach. I’ve had people say, ‘Isn’t it a little early for Santa?’ Depending what sex they are I’ll ask them are you only a father on Father’s Day or mother on Mother’s Day? That usually stumps them and keeps them quiet,” says Blakeney.
In order to avoid critiques, Blakeney says he’s had to become the best at what he does. That also means investing in his job.
Blakeney’s outfit costs more than $2,500, his custom made belt and pair of shoes each cost $1,000.
Charging $100 an hour for his entertainment, Blakeney says those that hire him are paying for his experience just as much as his appearance.
“What do you do when a child comes up to you and asks you to bring back their mother? These are questions I get asked and you have to be able to understand who you’re talking to,” says Blakeney.
After spreading joy to children for more than a generation, Blakeney, 63, says he has seven more years left before he hangs it up.
“I’ve been trying to get my son into it. He’s 25. He’s nervous. By the time he’s in his 30s I think he’ll be more into it. Does he want to bleach his hair white and beard white at 25?”
Laughing, Blakeney adds, “no, he’s not into it.”
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