I was slightly concerned this week when I heard two seven-year-olds discussing whether or not Santa existed. I thought they were slightly too young for that discussion. It was a bit like the night Fr Dougal asked Ted if he believed in heaven and hell. It’s a relevant debate but you don’t expect it between two priests in the parochial house bedroom.
I intervened to change the subject and then a ringing sound filled my ears. It wasn’t my phone nor the peal of church bells or indeed whatever dangles from Rudolph’s sleigh. It was a memory from 1970 when we lived by different rules and adults could dish out discipline whenever they saw fit.
The ringing was a haunting reawakening of being slapped across the head by Simon Black’s mother. Simon was almost two years older than me but we both played together with some other lads at primary school.
He was a gentle chap and his mother doted on him. She was still walking him to school when he was eleven. As a result he was given quite a ribbing by most of us especially as he lived much closer to the school than we did.
He was both popular and kind and I felt really sorry for him when in the year he did his 11 Plus he told us what Santa was going to bring him if he passed.
Everyone in P7 was laughing behind his back so I thought it was only proper to put him straight.
I waited until home time and took him aside in the playground. I remember the shock on his face as I explained how the system worked.
I remember the shock and the tears.
The next morning I had completely forgotten about my goodwill gesture towards Simon when his mother came charging through the school gate. She was shouting and flailing her handbag like an out of control garden hose. I tried to duck out of her way but she landed at least three hefty blows across the side of my head while shouting, “Don’t you ever again tell my Simon there is no Santa” and each time she landed a blow she cried, “there is a Santa, there is a Santa”.
There were howls of laughter from the pupils and those passing by. You don’t get that sort of Christmas craic in the school grounds today.
To be honest I should have known better than to think it was okay to let Simon in on the Santa secret.
A few years earlier I had almost spoiled Christmas for my four-year-old sister. My mother took us to see Santa in the community hall.
My sister was up on his knee in a flash but I hesitated as I was sure I recognised that man in the bright red suit.
“Uncle John, it’s you, isn’t it?” I shouted, as my mother pushed me out through the side of the tent that was doubling as a grotto.
Thankfully the conversation I heard between the seven-year-olds quickly changed and I managed to save the magic for those two at least.
However, it remains a reality that Santa is finding it harder than ever this year. With rising energy prices and household bills alongside Covid 19 restrictions, many families are discovering it is difficult to cope.
The big man will be busy with the elves loading up the sleigh and hooking the satnav to the reindeer.
He’ll take off on Christmas Eve and hopefully he will visit every home but he can’t do it without some generous helpers. They come forward every year with charitable projects including our U105 radio campaign at stuffabusni.com.
It’s the people who take time to help groups like The Salvation Army and Saint Vincent de Paul with a generous donation that make us all realise there is a Santa. Thank you for helping us to prove he does exist.
Frank presents U105 Phone In Monday-Friday from 9am-noon