About this time of year it is time for children to visit Father Christmas and open up negotiations in respect of this year’s Christmas presents.
When I was a young boy we lived in Leicester and mum would take me and my sister to see Santa in his grotto at one of the department stores in the city, probably British Home Stores or C&A, I can’t really be sure about this and after mum had paid a shilling or whatever then we would join the line of excitable children as they waited in turn to shuffle to the front of the queue and go through the door to see the great man himself.
When we were kids it didn’t matter that he had cotton wool for a beard, plastic elves behind him, that the present that he gave us was wrapped in cheap paper or that our time with Santa was all over in the twinkling of an eye because this was one of the big occasions of the childhood year.
On 12th December 2010 I visited Santa for the first time in about fifty years when I took my granddaughter, Molly, to visit him at Baytree Garden Centre in Spalding and how things have changed. This was one of the best Father Christmas visits ever with Disney style animatronic displays, a ride in Santa’s sleigh and room after room full of his friends and little helpers to keep us amused as we made our way to our private appointment with the man in red.
Eventually it was our turn to be invited through the door to go through and chat about our Christmas wish list. Not many changes here though because he still had the cotton wool beard and the present was still wrapped in cheap paper and when it was opened certainly didn’t contain anything on the list. He was a good Santa but one thing that has changed is that Molly couldn’t sit on his lap and I expect he had had to have a CRB check before he was allowed to start work even though the visit lasted barely a minute, there was CCTV camera in the corner and almost certainly all small children will be accompanied by an adult who could punch him on the nose if he started any funny business!
Christmas was never quite the same of course after you found out the truth about Santa when you were about eight or nine years old. Some spoilsport at school with an older brother or sister would spill the beans on the myth of Christmas and this would be confirmed in the December when you found presents, that were supposed to be still at Santa’s factory at the North Pole, on top of or at the back of your parents wardrobe. My brother Richard is nearly eight years younger than me so we had to continue to pretend about Santa in our house until I was about fifteen, although I am sure I told my sister straight away!