Growing up, going to see Farther Christmas was a massive and important part of the whole Christmas experience. My mum took us to Foster Nurseries garden centre where the Christmas display was spectacular. We’d look at the lights, the dancing reindeer and singing snowmen, we’d explore each beautifully themed area and pick out a new bauble. Then we’d go to the grotto where Father Christmas himself sat in a tinselled room, his plush velvet suit trimmed in white fluff and his huge white beard surrounding his friendly smile. We’d nervously enter and sit on his lap then shyly request whatever toy we wanted that year. Then with a smile and a “ho ho ho” he’d hand us a little gift and we’d leave, giggling with excitement about our experience.
It mattered. And it matters for Miss Rose.
This year we decided that Monday 23rd of December was the best day as her daddy, granny and aunty Aimee were all free to come too. In advance I phoned Wolseley Bridge garden centre to enquire about when the man himself was available. We chose Wolseley as it has a beautiful Christmas display and that small, friendly feel I so cherish in the memories of my own childhood. I was assured that he would be ready and waiting between 12 and 230, that we didn’t need to book, but that we did need to get there early as there was likely to be a queue.
At 11:50 we arrived and had a look at the displays whilst waiting for Santa to arrive. Which he didn’t. Upon enquiring as to his whereabouts we were told that in fact he wasn’t sledging in until 3. Three hours in a small, out of the way garden centre during a heavy rainstorm which prevents outside play is hard for anyone, let alone a somewhat rambunctious toddler, but we persevered. We enjoyed a very nice lunch in the restaurant and let Miss Rose charge around looking at the toys and lights.
At 2:39, with no sign of queues, we decided to double check. No. Father Christmas was in fact not due to make an appearance until 3:30 and only for prebooked diners for the tea with Santa event. I was both heart broken and furious. We rushed off, practically in tears, to try and get to another Santa we knew finished at 3. But on the way we told my father. My father was not impressed and went straight in to have “a little chat” with management.
I don’t know what was said. I do know he pointed out the communication issues and the extreme disappointment of both myself and Miss Rose, who as we got caught in traffic and missed the 3 o’clock deadline risked not seeing Father Christmas at all this year.
On Christmas Eve we attended a breakfast with Santa event. Miss Rose, myself, her father, her granny and grandpa, and her aunty Aimee-Rose and uncle Jiminy, were treated to a delicious cooked breakfast. Waiting on Miss Rose’s place was a beautiful snowman, by way of apology, which she promptly grabbed and furiously kissed repeatedly until his carrot nose was soggy. Father Christmas left his visiting area and greeted us, complimenting Miss Rose on her beauty, and talking to us all personally. After eating we joined him for photos and laughs and received a gift of play-doh (which I was slightly more excited about than she was), then returned to our table to decorate a ginger bread man. Before we left, Father Christmas gave goodbye hugs and assured Miss Rose that she would be getting presents in her stocking. We had a really wonderful time and next year we shall book in for Christmas Eve breakfast again. The disappointment of the previous day lead to a superb new tradition which will be an amazing part of Christmas I believe Miss Rose will cherish from her childhood experience, much as I cherish my own.
The thing is if you’re taking on the business of Father Christmas you’re taking on more than providing a fat guy in a red suit. You’re taking on more than stringing up some lights and providing gifts to the visiting children. What you’re taking on is the magic. It’s the dreams and the hopes and the wonder. You’re taking on children’s excitement and faith. In that red suit and bushy beard lies the innocence and magic of Christmas that age and cynicism degrade. Even I, who has never become jaded to the excitement of Christmas, don’t get that deep in your chest tight grip of desperate excitement I used to get. But I remember it. I remember how it feels and how important that is. And, as an adult, I can see the massive responsibility you take on when you decide to “do Santa”. Get it wrong and you risk destroying that.
Fortunately for us our potentially disastrous efforts to find Father Christmas ended very positively, thanks to the customer service at Wolseley being able to turn an angry mummy into a loyal mummy. But on the news have been so many reports of rubbish winter wonderland efforts and heartbroken children prematurely deciding they no longer believe.
If you’re going to take this on then take it seriously. Don’t see it as an easy way to make some cash, see it as a chance to contribute to the magic of Christmas for the lucky children who visit. Take Father Christmas seriously. Don’t ruin the magic of Christmas because you can’t be bothered to do it properly.
Miss Rose had a wonderful Christmas, as did we, and I’m very happy that her future Father Christmas visits are going to be somewhere that, as it turns out, do get the significance of this very festive enterprise.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!