The Big Red Bloke

Who is this Big Red Bloke that haunts us throughout December? Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Pere Noel, St Nicholas, Papa Noel. All one and the same, but not quite the same. We see him with different beards, and different boots, carrying sacks of different sizes, perched in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, or maybe pulled by six white boomers (kangaroos). And am I right in thinking that once upon a time he didn’t even wear red, but green?
Well, there he is on our television screens, advertising bargain sofas, and persuading us to buy extravagant toys for our children or new electrical appliances for ourselves. His jolly smile promises us happiness if only we will succumb.
And our children have so many questions; how should we answer them? How does Santa get down the chimney?….. And what happens when we haven’t got a chimney?….. And how can reindeer fly?….. And how does he know we’re staying at Grannies?…. And how come he looks different on TV?….. And?….. And?….. And do we tell the absolute whole truth, and shatter some of the magic of childhood? Or do we lie, and risk them throwing out the truths of Christmas when they’re older, along with childish fantasy? Or do we do something in-between? It’s a difficult line to tread, and each child is different. When they’re little, the magic sparkles as they strain to stay awake listening for reindeer bells, and it seems cruel to disillusion them; but as they grow older and their childish delight is being replaced by scepticism, what do we say then? I don’t claim to have got it right, but when my children asked the question, ‘Is Father Christmas real?’ I would always throw it back to them and ask, ‘What do you think?’ And while they were still young enough to believe, they would oblige with an answer that satisfied them. But when they were older, and ready to understand the reality, they would come to that conclusion themselves.
But we mustn’t be fooled into thinking that buying all the latest toy crazes and gadgets will fulfil the needs of our children, or indeed satisfy us. And we must always remember that there is more to Christmas than the Big Red Bloke and the fantasies that he offers.

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