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The true spirit of Christmas

By Spalding Today Columnist

Years ago, I was a member of a carnival committee that also ventured into ‘doing bits’ at the festive time of the year as it was a long - plus boring if allowed - time from one summer to the next, as carnival events are a summer thing after all, so to keep our minds collectively together in the meanwhile, we put together a festive float that we took around the town or rather towns in our area to collect for local causes and pretty much standard fayre really, but at that time for somebody with our background it was rather ‘trend-setting’, as it was always left to the accepted ‘traditional ’ bodies or organisations to be doing that, well, sort of thing.

Initially, we obtained the required street collecting licence/permit, converted the carnival queen float with festive lights, decorations, plus the sound system to ‘belt the music out’ as together with the committee members and families, plus our respective obliging neighbours, the Carnival Queen and Princesses, plus Santa, then set off not knowing what to expect on that first evening just after six o’clock.

However, as we getting ready outside Merv’s house, our soundman (who ran an electrical repair business and PA hire) who was supplying the said sound system, plus had also installed it, when somebody walking past with his dog stopped and asked what was going on.

John Ward (5506796)
John Ward (5506796)

On hearing, he reached into his pocket and put something in one of our collecting buckets, but as it didn’t make a sound, the person holding it took the lid off (they were converted large food/catering type buckets with slots in the lids) and nearly fell over in shock as the ‘nothing’ was a folded ten pound note! The general enthusiasm soared about a thousand per cent at that point, as we had not even started or played a note of music, but somebody walking his dog certainly seemed to think we were doing something ‘right’.

We went out on what was to be the start of many events or ‘rounds’ over the years leading up to Christmas, as a dedicated sleigh was constructed with all ‘singing and dancing’ lights, PA system etc and we did very well, with the all-important bit being that local causes benefited as everybody donated their time. Merv would not accept anything for the use of his equipment and apart from the legal bit of paper, it cost ‘not a lot’, as the late magician Paul Daniels might have said.

Looking back at the photos of those cold night times, it was a fun thing to do but we did it because we enjoyed doing it, as opposed to having to do it under sufferance because it was somehow expected - although we did get ‘rained off’ on occasions, with frost forming on the sleigh once as we drove around one night.

During the run-up to Christmas, I was in conversation with someone at a social bash when I mentioned in passing about our ‘extra’ activities and he made assorted comments about it before wandering off to mingle with other guests.

Later that week, he rang to ask would there be any possibility that Santa ‘might be passing early on his way to work’ on Christmas Eve by a certain address at a certain time and if a certain child was looking out the window of their home, would Santa perhaps give the little lad a wave as the little lad was unsure if Santa did exist - as if there could be any doubt, after hundreds of years or more.

He explained that a friend had arranged for ‘Santa’ - via a ‘Kiss-A-Gram’ company (remember them?) - to do the same sort of thing for his son and a neighbour's son, but what turned up was some imposter in an (obvious) white, fur-trimmed, red dressing gown, ill-fitting beard, wellingtons and cost WHAT? It was HOW much?!

On hearing again about the ‘appearance’, it involved standing by their front gate, waving at a prearranged time, before jumping in a car and speeding off - seen by everybody, so shattering the illusion if you like for those of a certain age.

So would it be possible to contact Santa, what with being a busy time with no promises, of course, but perhaps something could be sorted for, say, a reasonable cheaper donation than his friend had been charged, but which would go to a local cause, hence some letter writing went on and once sorted, word of mouth also gained a few others in the same neighbourhood who would also like an ‘unscheduled’ visit or wave from Santa on Christmas Eve for a minor donation.

Santa was contacted and he duly agreed, I’m told, then appeared with his lantern all aglow at the end of assorted gateways and drives that evening before he was whisked away to get the sleigh ready for a long night's trip out doing his usual home delivery work.

According to the nice chap who suggested it, plus did the collecting in of the donations, it was well received apparently, as word spread and the following year there was an even bigger list of little folk - and some not so little - to ‘visit and wave to'.

Santa had asked beforehand that any donations should be in coins, although notes did appear, but it’s interesting nobody afterwards who received a visit refused to donate, as it was all done on that thing you don’t seem to see or hear much about these days - ‘trust’.

Once it was all collected in, it was then fed into assorted local collecting tins and boxes in shops and pubs in the area for local causes that needed it but all done anonymously. A few ‘freebie’ visits also went to those less fortunate of whom word was passed on to Santa that it might bring a bit of cheer, as some had suffered real hardship and Santa does not discriminate.

One piece of sadness was the second year.

As the list was being put together for the that forthcoming ‘night before Christmas’, one visit was not on the list from the previous year and it was the home of one little lad, as during the summer he had passed away, after suffering with a debilitating disease for some time and had finally lost his fight, but the family were pleased that his last Christmas was magic for him, as he saw the man who left presents for everybody, but above all else, he had waved to him.

Life is or can be bewildering at times, as fact is sometimes even stranger than fiction, as possibly the above might suggest; but the fact that one small lad believed in what he saw that night might well go a long way in an age of people trying to take the magic away from those who believe in something that has been about for ages, that is quite harmless and importantly harms no one.

So regardless of whether Santa will appear at your garden gate, drive or whatever, it costs nothing to believe as to some it’s their dream come true and who knows, next year he could be outside your's.

Have a Merry Christmas.


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