The festive season isn’t complete without a visit to a man dressed in red and rocking a white bushy beard, right? That’s what we thought too, so last Sunday, we took the boys to see Santa at Alice Holt Forest.
We met up with two other families and the kids were hopping about with excitement. Once the adults had figured out how to use the car park ticket machine (seriously, it took four of us and some choice words before we mastered the damn thing – was it a test? If it was, we clearly failed), we headed over to the entrance, where we were met by an elf.
By this point, Big Monkey could hardly contain his anticipation, which manifested itself in a weird jigging dance combined with a whining (on repeat) of, “I want to see Santaaaaaaaa!” Not at all irritating.
I must admit I was a little nervous at first – we’d heard some bad reviews about the whole experience, but I have to say it was great. We were guided down a woodland trail lit with beautiful fairy lights and woodland creatures and whilst the boys took in the magic of it all, I was overcome with a mixture of festive love and a fear of ruining my new boots. Note to self – buy some wellies.
We were led into a yurt to watch a small play about a bear and a rabbit. Or was it an owl? And something to do with Santa. You can see how much I paid attention. It was pretty rubbish but Big Monkey was enthralled and watched agog as the bear (or rabbit/owl) finally met Father Christmas. I love his absolute enthusiasm for things like this; he clapped along with total dedication and joined in with the actions of the songs. It was a sterling performance on his part.
The elf lady then took us into an adjoining yurt, that was filled with low tables, stools and arts and crafts materials for the kids to get creative with, whilst each group took their turn with Santa. It was a really nice touch and all the children were getting festive by sticking sparkly things onto bits of paper. Apart from mine. Mine was drawing on his face with a felt tip pen and when I asked what he was doing, he said, “I’m drawing Spiderman on my face, mummy.” Of course you are dear, crack on.
Once we’d managed to wipe most of the pen off Big Monkey’s face, it was our turn to visit the big man in red. We made our way into the third yurt and I silently prayed that we would be greeted by an authentic replica of the man himself – and praise be to the bear/rabbit/owl, we weren’t disappointed.
The yurt was beautifully decorated and Father Christmas was suitably old, beardy and jolly. Little Monkey had a look of ‘who on earth is this man in a big red suit..?’ on his face and Big Monkey’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw him. He was a little wary at first, but once Santa engaged him in conversation, there was no stopping him. He told Santa that he wanted a gun for Christmas (how very festive), asked why he was wearing gloves and in true three year old tell-it-like-it-is style, he finished with, “You can’t get down chimneys, you’re too fat.”
Santa took it like a pro, noted his present request and explained that he could indeed fit down chimneys because he was magic. He then handed out the presents, had a photo with each of the kids (which made Big Monkey’s day) and then reminded all of the children to be good before bidding us farewell.
On the way out, the boys got the chance to feed a reindeer (who looked like he’d rather be anywhere but here) and we sat in a lovely wooden sleigh and had the obligatory family photo, complete with squirming kids looking in every direction but the camera.
As we headed back up the muddy trail through the woods and twinkling fairy lights (wellies, damn it), Big Monkey was chattering excitedly about meeting the big man and Little Monkey was pointing at the twinkles in the trees. And the fear of ruining my boots aside; it all felt a little bit magical.