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The Woman Who Brought Lapland To Hong Kong: That Mama, Lizzi Wood-Vashishtha

lizzi wood-vashishtha glitter and gore santas secret kingdom hong kong
Family LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life - Post Category - That MamaThat Mama

Thinking of visiting Santa this year? This incredible Mama is the creative brains behind one of Hong Kong’s most authentic Christmas experiences.

Those who have experienced Santa’s Secret Kingdom here in Hong Kong know it’s magical. An intimate and immersive festive folly like no other in the city. But few know the woman, Hong Kong’s own Mrs Claus, who makes it happen year after year. Sassy Mama sat down with Lizzi Wood-Vashistha, Director of FUN at Glitter and Gore, to find out everything — from her multicultural family to how she’s on such good terms with the Big Man In Red.

Read More: Where To Meet Santa In Hong Kong This Christmas

lizzi wood vashishtha family

“A little bit English, a little bit Indian and a little bit Hong Kong!”

I’m from England, my husband is from India and my son was born here in Hong Kong. I moved to the city back in 2013, but the job wasn’t quite what I expected so I planned to head back to the UK. I handed in my notice, but fate intervened and I met my now-husband. After a whirlwind romance, I left as planned. He came out for a Christmas visit and three months later I was back in Hong Kong for good!

“Fun fact… We’ve been married five times!”

In October 2015 we had a wonderful wedding in India, followed by a legal ceremony in Hong Kong and an English blessing. At that point, a cousin said, “Well, you’ve wedded in three countries now, you should get married somewhere new each year!”.

lizzi wood-vashishtha glitter and gore santas secret kingdom hong kong indian wedding

Of course, we decided to make it happen! We’ve since had ceremonies in Bali and Finland, but sadly COVID put those plans to rest for the time being.

“I was keen to check if the rumours were true that you can get married at Wan Chai McDonalds! Unfortunately, my husband wasn’t so enthusiastic.”

Now, ten years after we first met, we have a beautiful 4-year-old boy and I love being his Mummy more than I ever imagined possible!

Read More: Sassy Mama’s Guide To Festivities Around The World

lizzi wood-vashishtha glitter and gore santas secret kingdom hong kong party entertainer

The Director of FUN!

Before moving to Hong Kong, I was a professional performer.

I wanted to travel and found that working at holiday resorts and hotels allowed me to see the world and earn money (as well as work and life experience!). This took me everywhere! From Wales to Spain, on to Egypt and finding my Christmas spirit as an Elf in Lapland. 

In between, I’d return to the UK and work as a scare actor in Haunted Houses. Every Halloween I’d be given the highly-anticipated new maze — who knew there were so many haunted house super geeks out there! Eventually, this evolved into immersive theatre events. 

“My favourite was a zombie apocalypse experience in the vaults underneath Waterloo Station.”

Seeking an Asian adventure, I moved to Hong Kong, like many do, on a contract teaching English and Drama. The plan never was to stay, in fact, I was all set to move to the Caribbean afterwards. During my downtime, I wrote the first Santa’s Secret Kingdom. It wasn’t until 3 weeks before the event, that I actually plucked up the courage to confirm it and start selling tickets!

Fast forward a few years, and my official title is Director of FUN for Glitter and Gore — delivering interactive, immersive and FUNtertainment, where people don’t just watch us doing our thing, they are a part of it too.

Read More: Hong Kong Party Entertainers — Magicians, Performers, Face Painters And More

lizzi wood vashishtha family

“I’ve always been on the nice list and a true believer, so when Santa invited me to work with him in Lapland we hit it off straight away!”

There is something truly magical about Christmastime. When I landed in Hong Kong, the cosmopolitan, cultural melting pot that it is, I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a truly immersive Santa experience. I pulled together inspiration from my time in Finland and Wales (which also held an incredible festive programme) and combined it with my experience running haunted houses and immersive journeys. Lapland and Santa’s Secret Kingdom were born!

Each Christmas I write a new script and storyline. I think my husband thought I was completely insane when I told him that every year would be unique! 

Read More: Free Downloadable — Santa Letter And Santa Certificate

Kids Activities November Things To Do With Kids Whats On: Santa's Secret Kingdom

“It wasn’t easy… The first year we made a huge loss and the following years we just about broke even.”

There is SO much work that has gone into creating Santa’s Secret Kingdom to the experience it is now. It started off as just one Sunday for the year.

“Each year the tickets started selling out faster and faster until I was getting so many complaints that I couldn’t bear it anymore.”

We are now running 18 days and I have started to pay myself a fee for the work I do on the days I’m there. I still don’t draw a wage for the months of work in the lead-up, but this is my passion project and I would rather spend that money elsewhere to help give families a more magical experience than take it myself. 

Read More: Where To Buy Christmas Cards And Last Postal Dates This Year

lizzi wood-vashishtha glitter and gore santas secret kingdom hong kong lief with santa

Protests, Covid, babies and single-handedly running a small business…

It has certainly been a rocky few years! World events aside, the biggest challenge of being a creative is that I have all the ideas but don’t have much experience when it comes to budgeting and business execution. When I first drafted up Santa’s Secret Kingdom and got in touch with a production company my ideas totalled $1.6million HKD! And that didn’t include admin fees, staffing, costume, props, ticketing, marketing, transport, accounts or incidentals. 

On the personal side of things, it has been an interesting journey leaving my previous nomadic life behind. I really enjoyed the freedom of short contracts, moving frequently and keeping things fresh.

Read More: Cake Shops In Hong Kong — Where To Buy Birthday Cakes For The Family

“I don’t tend to let my son see me in character because it would ruin the illusion for other kids”

Pop culture often has big crazes, like unicorns,  mermaids or dinosaurs, and this usually reflects in character requests but there hasn’t been a big one for a while. Pirates, mermaids, fairies and dinosaurs are always popular but I think at the moment our Wacky Science is probably the one that gets booked the most. I love this party — we end with touchable dry ice smoke-filled bubbles which always wows the crowd! All my characters are unique and have a piece of my heart. 

“I love that each of the characters are relatable to kids and families, yet they are original characters that I’ve developed.”

My favourite thing is when we can get a little bit immersive with it; take the kids to the ‘magic forest’ as Flora the Fairy and Hobson the Hobbit to find things to make wands, magic potions or secret hideouts. Or when we go on a treasure hunt beach adventure with Captain Gan Greene the Pirate and Mimi the Mermaid and really get to hunt around the beach for our lost treasure. It really helps to fire up everyone’s imaginations and creates a far more magical and memorable experience. 

Read MoreParty Catering Hong Kong – Caterers For Party Food, Finger Food And More

  All images courtesy of Lizzi Wood-Vashishtha.

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