After 38 years I finally got to meet the jolly old elf


There’s a lot to be said for never growing up. It is my personal defence mechanism against the slings and arrows that life throws at me.
It also means that instead of being dragged down by the crass commercialisation of the festive season I squeeze every possible drop of cheer from the month of December.
Instead of moaning about having to write tonnes of greetings cards to colleagues or the bunfight that is Christmas shopping up ’Anley, I look forward to both.
Not for me the round-robin email prefixed by the less-than-convincing “I am giving £1 to the Save The Porpoise Foundation this year in lieu of Christmas cards”.
To people like that I say: Stop being lazy and pretending you are into recycling. You know who you are…
On Christmas Eve I go to bed full of memories of staring into the night sky as a child – hoping against hope to catch a glimpse of something streaking across the sky – while praying for snow.
I can honestly say that it wasn’t just about the presents, either.
It was about singing carols at Wesley Hall Methodist Church (they were a blessed relief from the usual turgid hymns) and hearing the wonderful tale of the first Christmas.
It was about the thank-yous from the people of Smallthorne to yours truly for his year-long endeavours as a Sentinel paperboy.
It was about the excitement I felt when I heard my beloved nan and grandad arrive on Christmas Day morning on their Lambretta scooter.
It was about pigs in blankets on my roast dinner, the rare treat that was turkey and watching the Top Of The Pops Christmas special.
It was about reading Clement Clarke Moore’s enchanting poem Twas The Night Before Christmas.
It was also about Santa Claus: That most mysterious of men who holds the dreams of so many children in his mittened hands.
A few days ago I realised my childhood ambition and met the jolly old elf.
Never growing up also means that I didn’t feel the cold – even though it was minus 20 – and was instead able to focus on the wonder that appeared before me.
For as the snowmobile pulling our sled ground to a halt in the middle of the forest, there – in the semi-darkness of late afternoon in Lapland – loomed the most magical of sights.
Three reindeer (presumably Dasher, Dancer and Prancer) were standing in the silence tethered to a sleigh.
My daughter Lois’s face was a picture – a strange mixture of surprise, awe and elation. Her younger sister Mina was already scrabbling to exit the sled to take a closer look at the mythical beasts.
This was why we had flown to the Arctic Circle. We saved up for it because it cost a small fortune and we won’t be going abroad again anytime soon.
Still, it was worth every penny.
The reindeer took us along a trail only they knew to a little cabin where Santa, seated by a roaring log fire, was waiting.
Lois immediately ran over to give him a hug followed swiftly by Mina.
What followed was pure magic as my little ’uns eventually overcame their stunned shyness to tell Father Christmas how they had behaved this year and exactly what they wanted in their stockings.
I defy even the most hard-hearted of humbug merchants not to have been melted by the moment.
We also rode on a sled pulled by huskies and tobogganed for England but nothing quite compared with meeting the great man himself after 38 years of waiting.
I think the American author Mary Ellen Chase perhaps put it best when she wrote: “Christmas… is not a date. It is a state of mind.”
You see, it may be cold and it may be dark. We may be mithered about our jobs and be beset by financial problems.
The immediate future may look bleak.
But in a couple of weeks, for one day at least, we can forget our worries, be children once more, let Santa take the strain and embrace the spirit of Christmas.

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