Sun, sea and ... Santas? Father Christmases hold annual congress

COPENHAGEN, July 23 (Reuters) - Braving Europe's heatwave, more than 150 Santas from around the world donned their heavy suits and full beards at their annual conference in Denmark.

As the 61st World Santa Claus Congress kicked off in Copenhagen, many of the delegates - from countries as far away as Japan and the United States - took a paddle in the sea, to the amusement of local bathers.

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People dressed as Santa Claus take part in the World Santa Claus Congress, an annual event held every summer in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 23, 2018. Ritzau Scanpix/Mads Claus Rasmussen/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. DENMARK OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN DENMARK
A person dressed as Santa Claus' helper takes part in the World Santa Claus Congress, an annual event held every summer in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 23, 2018. Ritzau Scanpix/Mads Claus Rasmussen/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. DENMARK OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN DENMARK
People dressed as Santa Claus take part in the World Santa Claus Congress, an annual event held every summer in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 23, 2018. Ritzau Scanpix/Mads Claus Rasmussen/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. DENMARK OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN DENMARK
A person dressed as Santa Claus uses a restroom during the World Santa Claus Congress, an annual event held every summer in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People dressed as Santa Claus take part in the World Santa Claus Congress, an annual event held every summer in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 23, 2018. Ritzau Scanpix/Mads Claus Rasmussen/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. DENMARK OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN DENMARK
A man helps another man in a wheelchair as they are dressed as Santa Claus during the World Santa Claus Congress, an annual event held every summer in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
A child dressed as an elf walks along the waterfront during an event in the World Santa Claus Congress, an annual event held every summer in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
People dressed as Santa Claus rest while on a bus trip between events during the World Santa Claus Congress, an annual event held every summer in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
People dressed as Santa Claus arrive outside Christiansborg Palace as they take part in the World Santa Claus Congress, an annual event held every summer in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
A person dressed as a Christmas tree rests during a canal boat cruise during the World Santa Claus Congress, an annual event held every summer in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
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The three-day event will see the Santas visit the Little Mermaid statue during a parade and go head to head in the Santa Obstacle Course World Championships.

"Normally us Santas work alone," said Santa Ian Tom, 67, from Scotland, who is attending his sixth congress this year.

"This is like a big family. But a family you get on with."

For Santa Douglas, 60, from Washington D.C., attending his twelfth convention, it's the international feel of the event that keeps luring him back.

"It's interesting how when meeting others their culture starts to rub off on you and yours on them. For example, a lot of the Santa suits now are not the traditional grey Danish one. They've gone more American, which in a way is a shame." (Reporting by Emil Gjerding Nielson Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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