Santa's beard got caught in abseiling gear at a Florida shopping centre, making for an agonising descent to the waiting children below.

Unable to free the fake white whiskers as he tried to make his way down to the floor, Santa and his helpers below went into crisis mode.

An assistant on the ground started to lead the confused crowd in singing ''We Wish You a Merry Christmas'', saying the song would conjure some magic needed to help the struggling Santa.

When he landed in the food court of the Palm Beach Gardens shopping centre, stunt-man Santa ripped off the trapped facial hair and presented himself as an elf to the real Santa.

The stunt had been rehearsed but without the beard. The man was a professional rope climber who did the stunt at no charge.

The volunteer made a swift exit afterward and remains anonymous.