People around the world are bewildered that Australian Santas have been told not to say "ho ho ho".
News of an Aussie recruitment firm replacing "ho ho ho" with "ha ha ha" has travelled fast, with people in New Zealand, the UK and the US amazed at the "extreme" political correctness.
Santa Ernest, the president of charitable organisation Santa America, said he was puzzled and surprised that such a move would come from Australia. "It's amazing to me that it would come from the wonderful land of Australia," said Santa Ernest, who visits children in hospitals year-round. Whether you say 'ha ha ha' or 'ho ho ho' doesn't really matter, as long as you bring (children) love, hope and joy."
Trainees from Westaff, which supplies hundreds of men in red suits to Australian shopping centres, were told the traditional phrase could scare children and be taken as derogatory to women.
"We ask our Santas to try techniques such as lowering their tone of voice and using 'ha ha ha' to encourage the children to come forward and meet Santa," Westaff's national Santa co-ordinator Sari Hegarty told the Daily Telegraph.
The revelations sparked a storm of blog postings, with many international writers bewildered at the campaign against Santa's "ho".
"Who else wants to destroy traditions and re-write history? Santa has always said 'ho, ho, ho'," wrote one blogger at New Zealand-based friedbrains.com. "How can banning 'ho, ho, ho' possibly better our world — why would anyone even begin to think it would in the first place?"
Macquarie University linguistics professor Pam Peters said the idea of changing the phrase was ridiculous and inappropriate. "How can it be scary for children if it's been there as long as anyone can remember?" Professor Peters said. "It's the time-honoured thing that Santa says and if they change it, it's as if he's speaking another dialect."
Two Santa trainees have quit over the politically correct new greeting, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Santas at department stores David Jones, Myers and the Westfield shopping centre chain will still use the customary greeting as part of their customers Christmas experience.