Santa's Little Helper

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In the weeks leading up to Christmas Santa makes trips on his sleigh to see the children and adults of Tameside courtesy of various Rotary clubs in the area. This can be a sign that Christmas is on its way and many adults can remember the sleigh visiting when they were youngsters. This week I helped out across various locations in Hyde and Ashton. My first time of meeting Santa was on a street corner in Waterloo in Ashton. I wasn’t sure I would be able to find him as I was running late; I spotted a group of elves and other helpers. I was told that Father Christmas was running late and handed a bucket to collect donations for local charities, a big fluorescent coat and a torch. The coat was very welcome even though I already had two coats on underneath. I was told to keep the sleigh in sight once Santa had arrived and be ready to collect donations. Oh and not to get run over by the sleigh. We had travelled only a few streets when it looked as if the sleigh had broken down. Luckily it was only the music so we broke into an impromptu rendition of Away in a Manager. Embarrassingly I couldn’t remember one of the lines but I think I got away with it. The music was soon up and running and we were off again. Some children were waiting for us outside their homes in their pyjamas. Some wrapped in blankets and others peeping through the curtains. One little boy was clutching a Santa stop here sign. He looked so sweet and hopeful that I shed a tear and shouted for Father Christmas to wave.

After a few more streets we had a fan club following the sleigh including a girl on roller blades. Most people were very pleased to see us but there were a few people who felt a little sad at this time of year who had lost family members including a little girl whose dad had died. A lady who had broken her leg hobbled to the door and a man who had recently lost his wife said he wasn’t celebrating Christmas this year. One lady leapt out of her house to tell us that she had been waiting for ages. Another telling us she had rushed to decorate the house knowing we were coming tonight. We even met a dog dressed as Santa on our route. Everyone was very generous. Volunteers on the route were different ages and from different backgrounds and many of whom had been part of the team for over 15 years. For the briefest of moments I thought I had lost Santa and had to run on after him. A volunteer I was with said she had lost him one year and had to go around the streets asking people if they had seen Santa Claus. As we finished the route I was told that I had walked just under five miles. I was exhausted but delighted; it really didn’t feel that far.

My next time I met Santa was in Hyde on a cold and rainy evening. Not quite as far to walk this time and still the same delighted faces from young and old. One lady said, “It is better than watching the telly”. One young girl ran out of her house shouting, “Can I get a Selfie with Santa?” At one point there was so much smoke coming out of Santa’s sleigh that I was concerned but it seemed okay. My final meeting with Santa was outside a supermarket in Hyde. This time I got to speak to Santa as I was his personal elf for the day. Lots of children wanted their photographs taken and unfortunately they wanted the elf too. I will go down in history in someone’s photo album when they remember Christmases gone by. Father Christmas asked each of the children, “What do you want for Christmas?” One girl said a squirrel. He thought this was a new game but I explained that it probably was a squirrel. He asked the children if they had been good and the older ones said no with a knowing look from their mum.

It has been a hectic exhausting week but so worth it. To see little children with complete wonderment is worth my icy cold feet. Merry Christmas Tameside from Santa’s little helper.