As all children will tell you there is only one real Santa Claus – the one who sits at the North Pole, makes up his naughty and nice list and then sets the elves to making all the toys. But we parents know different.
From mid-November onwards there are an army of Santas and Santa experiences to be enjoyed and endured and we have the hairy job of deciding which one to delight our little darlings.
Gone are the days when you visited the only Santa in town in the local department store. Then you didn’t have to pay for the pleasure of sitting down with Old Saint Nick, you might leave with a lolly or a small toy but what really mattered was you’d delivered your Christmas wish list and met the big man. Sadly those simple times are behind us.
Now you can meet Santa in every possible guise – whether it’s a winter wonderland walk, on a train or even at Lapland. Every shop, garden centre, stately home and other attraction installs its own Santa as early as possible in a bid to entice you and your kids to visit.
I wouldn’t mind so much if it wasn’t all so expensive. I am really frugal (some might say tight) but Christmas is still an expensive in our house and definitely not a time when I have a spare £50+ hanging around to spend on a few hours of very early Christmas fun. Yes, the kids’ faces are a picture when they meet the big man but this has little to do with the setting or venue and much more to do with the quality of the person in the suit. Both of mine have been as delighted with the friend of a friend who dons the costume for the local playgroup party as a more polished, professional getting paid by the hour.
Then there’s the children who get to the front of the queue and refuse to even look at Santa, never mind speak to him. When it happened to us I found myself morphing into one of those awful pushy mothers, determined to enforce fun on our daughter despite the fact she was screaming and hanging onto me for dear life!
The latest trend is to get Santa to come round to your house on Xmas Eve for a personal meet and great with your kids. Now this is just plain wrong. On Xmas Eve the big man is meant to be delivering presents to children around the world – he simply hasn’t got time for a personal appearance a few short hours before he comes down the chimney. And the old “He won’t come if you’re not asleep” trick will lose all its power if little Johnny has already seen Santa before he puts on his PJs!
I hate to admit that I have been dragged into the whole Santa enterprise and have somehow booked us on two Santa experiences, even though three year old Henry has already delivered his list by shouting at the burglar alarm sensor in the lounge (tell me everyone has a ‘Santa cam’ in their house? If not get one – it works wonders on tantrums).
We shouldn’t forget that Christmas is naturally a magical time for children – the stories, decorations, dark evenings, parties, chocolate and presents all make it the best time of the year. A visit to Santa to deliver your list is nice but it doesn’t have to be some 5***** experience with sleigh bells on.