Christmas time is a very special time in many countries around the world, whereas in others it is a time that is not celebrated or recognised. In the UK the day is a very special day, no matter what belief system people follow. It is a time of reflection, a time of religious beliefs, a time of sharing, a time of family, a time of friendship, but for children it is a time when Santa Claus travels the world in the early hours of Christmas Day with his trusted Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer delivering presents.
Children often visit Santa’s Grotto before Christmas to ask for the presents they want him to leave them.
As a member of the Rotary Club of Kingston upon Thames, we collect funds for local charities and projects run throughout the year, like taking under privileged children out for the day to theme parks (Kids Out), helping families in need, raising funds for End Polio Now, and many more. During the period of Christmas we tow Santa’s Sleigh through the local community in the evenings taking Santa to the people, and in the main shopping centre of Kingston upon Thames we erect a Christmas Tree and Santa Hut, and one of our members will become Santa.
It is one of the great moments of the year for me to become Santa Claus, to don the red coat and hat, and grow my beard long and white, wear my wellington boots, and wait for the small children to come to me to ask for their Christmas gift.
Ringing my bell, I sit there, warm and snug in layers of clothing, waving at the passing people, and it is when a young child sees Santa that magic happens. Their eyes light up, their belief system kicks in, and often I here the thrill in their voice as they shout out, “SANTA”.
Most parents then bring the excited children up to Santa, and that is the time for me to interact with the child, to enter into their fantasy their belief system.
I ask them their name so that the time becomes very personal between us, and enter into a conversation which ends with Santa asking, “what do you want me to leave you for Christmas?“. Some children already have specific gifts in mind, others are not sure, but I tell them that not to worry, Santa will leave them something special, as long as they leave me a mince pie and a carrot for Rudolf as we will be very hungry.
As the children leave they get a sweet that they can choose from a small box Santa offers them, and the look on their faces is fabulous, one of trust, innocence and belief. But, it is the happiness of the parents, of them being drawn into the beliefs of their children.
For me this is the spirit of Christmas, and I am part of that spirit that will form the memories of a lifetime. And, it does not matter what belief system the families belong to, the magic of Christmas is shared with all.