We stood in queue to have our photo taken with Santa for a tad over half an hour. The closer we came to the jolly man the more my boy's bottom lip began to quiver, and by the time we were almost there he was flat out refusing to go any further. I crouched down and told him that I completely respected his decision and that he wouldn't have to have his photo taken but that we couldn't go yet because perhaps his sister would like a photo. As I was endeavouring to have an empathetic and soothing conversation with my son the woman behind us in the line decided that she, a person we've never met, should intervene to try to encourage my child. She did this, while I tightly pursed my lips and glared at her, by sharing with my son that her boy used to be afraid but wasn't anymore and then proceed to point out to E. all the mechanised Santas in the shop windows - something that if she knew my boy she'd have known freaked him out even more than the old men playing dress-ups! I was livid.
Eventually it was Ms. M's turn to sit on Santa's knee for a quick snap. I place her on Santa's knee. She and Santa looked at the camera, but the young staff were chatting amongst themselves until finally Ms. M lost her patience with the situation and began to squirm and cry. At this point grumpy old man Santa started hollering at the staff to quickly take the photo and that they needed to be quicker with babies - but it was too late. M. was over it!
At the end of our forty minute adventure we all walked away traumatised and not one photo had even been snapped.
E. who had planned to tell Santa that he wanted a teddy bear for Christmas advised me in the car heading home that he actually had rather a lot of teddy bears and that he wasn't in need of a gift from Santa anyway. The boy does own a lot of bears so I was surprised by his intention to ask for another - surely something that he didn't already have would be better - so his revelation in the car heading home filled me with much pride. My heart burst with admiration when he next revealed his concerns that his sister would miss out on the car (that according to E) she wanted. So, since M. didn't have any cars of her own, E. declared that he would share his with her. Now that's true Christmas spirit.
The closer Christmas comes the more anxious E. becomes in regards to the man in red who shant be named at our house. One of his primary concerns is that this strange man is going to come into our house in the middle of the night. I'm with the boy on that one - I don't want strangers hanging out in the house at night either. I tried to explain to E. that the jolly ol' man is mythical, a part of folklore, and so there is no real physical person who can show up. The big red man is a symbolic representation of the spirit of Christmas - kindness and selflessness -but my explanation seemed to go over E's two year old head. So in the end I assured him that his father would stay up all night and stop the big man of Christmas at the door, taking over any gifts without him even needing to cross the threshold. Dada, of course, will thank him kindly.
This festive season has really highlighted to me the wider community's general intolerance to diverse attitudes and approaches to celebrating Christmas. How bizarre must it be to have complete strangers ask you on the street if you've been naughty or nice? (concepts that aren't even discussed in our home for philosophical reasons that I won't elaborate on right now) And how terrifying to be continually asked by big people "how many sleeps" until your house is invaded by a stranger that you're petrified of?
The photo at the top was taken on the day we visited the big red man of Christmas who won't be named.