By Terence Willey, Terence Willey & Co.
Historians tell us that the story of Santa Claus or St. Nicholas goes back to the beginning of the 4th century. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra on the coast of Lycia was very generous in helping those in distress, but he did so secretly. It was only after the benefactor was discovered that he was canonised and became St. Nicholas, and afterwards any unknown gifts were attributed to his kindness.
Centuries later, this spirit was to be captured in the familiar figure of Santa Claus or Father Christmas, who was created in the US along with the distinctive red coat, white hair, and beard. Now some 17 centuries after St Nicholas, the joy that Santa Claus brings to so many people both in sickness and health remains just as magical.
I have always believed that just his presence or the expectation of his arrival brings so much joy to children all over the world.
I will never forget a particular incident involving a visit by Father Christmas to my daughter’s village playschool. I had been assisting the playschool in this role for over 10 years and my daughter was in her last year before leaving for primary school. My wife was concerned that our daughter would recognise me, so I purchased some additional whiskers, leaving very little of my face visible underneath the hood of my red coat.
I would change in my office before driving to the village complete with a sack full of presents. This always created some amusement from passers-by, but it gave me so much pleasure to see the happy, smiling, and excited faces of the children.
A chair would be placed in the centre of the room, I would call out each child’s name as written on the present and they would come and have a brief word with me before taking their gift and returning to their place on the floor. I sat with great trepidation as my daughter approached me. I asked her “What would you like for Christmas?” and she replied “I would like a talking doll”. Determined to disguise my voice I replied, “If you are a very good girl and well-behaved to your mummy and daddy, I am sure your wish will come true”.
She looked very long and hard into my eyes, smiled, returned to her place clutching her present and sat down with the other children.
On returning home from the office that evening she ran to me very excited to inform me that Father Christmas had attended Playschool. I held my breath and wondered what was coming next. I asked her what he was like.
“He was very nice” she replied “and when he asked me what I wanted for Christmas I told him. And guess what, Daddy? He had the same watch as you have!”.