VIDEO: ‘Fear not,’ says bell-toting Santa

Ol’ St. Nick expects to visit with 10,000-plus at Langley’s Willowbrook mall ahead of Christmas

Seven-year-old Charlie is distraught as he climbs on Santa’s knee at Willowbrook Shopping Centre.

This youngster is very obviously scared, a look of dread evident on his young face.

But he’s not fearful of the jolly old elf all dressed in red and white.

No, Charlie is terrified of something much more serious – at least in his books.

He fears Saint Nick won’t know where to find him on Christmas Eve.

“This little guy was just really, really upset,” Santa recounted.

Between soft sobs, Charlie explains that he’s recently moved. Although he still lives in Langley – just a few blocks from his old home – he’s been fretting for weeks that a move this close to the holidays means he won’t get any toys for Christmas.

But, with a big rumbling laugh and a wink of his eye, Santa reassures the young boy on his lap that – because he was such a good boy this year – he and the reindeer will most definitely be visiting on Dec. 24.

To offer a little extra reassurance, Santa reaches into his coat pocket and withdraws a tiny satchel that he holds out for Charlie.

A puzzled look crosses Charlie’s face as he accepted the odd little package. And as the gold bag bangs against the little boy’s hand, it made a noise – piquing the lad’s curiosity even further.

Reaching inside the little cloth bag, Charlie pulled out a small brass bell.

Santa reaches out, and takes the bell back for a moment. Dangling it from one of his white gloved fingers, Santa says: “Ring it three times, and I’ll know exactly where you are.”

A look of awe and amazement crosses Charlie’s face, bringing a huge smile to Santa’s.

“He was so impressed. He was shocked that Santa knew his name, but he was almost giddy when I explained the purpose of the bell,” Santa elaborated.

“And, the parents were esctatic. Crisis averted.”

.

Many moving encounters

On a break from visiting with children at Langley’s only indoor mall, Santa shared a few of the more touching encounters he’s experienced this holiday season.

One of the most moving was the gleeful interaction with young Charlie. But admittedly, he was one of several Santa heard from this season who shared similar concerns of not being found.

Another, for example, involved a little girl going to Germany, a young boy bound for New Zealand, and an eight-year-old girl going to spend Christmas with her father in Edmonton. While she was grateful for the bell, she shared her new fear that her luggage would be lost en route, and so too, the bell.

That’s when Mom stepped in and offered to zip the bell into one of girl’s often-unused jacket pockets, to ensure its was safely protected.

“They were terrified Santa wouldn’t know how to find them. So Santa fixed it,” he said.

Among other special moments at Willowbrook this season, Santa recounted how a group of nine RCMP babies were brought in for photos early in the season.

“That was definitely a highlight,” he said, explaining that it’s been a bit of a tradition with the local police force to bring in the new babies of the year.

Santa also received a visit from four expectant mothers, all scheduled to give birth before Christmas and all who vowed to return with their newborns before the season was over.

“They were expecting within a week or so, and they all said they’ll be back…”

He’s been doing this a long time now, but noted that in recent years he’s seen a significant uptake in expectant parents showing up to have photos taken with Santa holding a sonogram of their unborn baby.

In fact, he said, “it’s getting to be old hat… they come in with one child, and then pull up a sonogram.”

All I want… is peanut butter

Santa’s seen thousands of visitors already this year – ranging from as young as three days old up to 100 years old – come in to share their Christmas wishes.

He secretly chuckles as he watches different generations look to him as they pass by or wait with family to get their photos.

“Children and adults look at Santa from two different perspectives,” he insisted.

“When a child comes in to see me, the first thing they look at is my boots. Then they look at my belt. Then they look at my beard.

“Parents, on the other hand, look at exactly the opposite. They want a picturesque Santa,” he said, adding that provided there’s a red suit, a nice picture backdrop, and a jolly attitude, they’re usually content.

While the primary purpose of these visit is to get pictures taken with Santa, every child is invariably asked what they want for Christmas – if they haven’t already offered up that information before the toy guy has a chance to ask.

As is always the case each year, there have been a few odd gift requests in 2019.

Among them, one little girl – about five – asked for a jar of peanut butter to share with her family.

“According to her parents, she’s a very caring child. She shares everything she’s got,” Santa recalled.

READ MORE: Willowbrook gift wrap centre in Langley all for charity

He also had two kids asking for cows, and another wanting a goat. It took some convincing, but Santa managed to explain that he can’t deliver animals.

Santa was particularly humbled by a request from one 75-year-old-plus woman who had never before stopped in for a visit.

All she wanted was a picture with the old guy.

She reluctantly approached, and said: “Is this only for children? I’ve never had a picture taken with Santa. Can I have a picture taken with Santa?”

Of course, Santa replied, inviting her onto his knee for pictures.

She was all smiles, and not only for the photos, Santa said. Later that same day he spotted her in the mall – and noted that she was still beaming.

LAST YEAR’S COVERAGE: Merry Christmas, from our family to yours

.

Leaving Christmas Eve

Those visiting him at Willowbrook are not just from Langley, Santa explained. Most travel from around the Lower Mainland, with many coming from North Vancouver, Chilliwack, and countless from Surrey and White Rock.

He’s had visits with a few from Vancouver Island, at least one family from 100 Mile House, and a former Langleyite who relocated to Williams Lake and comes back early every Christmas season to see him at Willowbrook.

“From what I gather, I have a bit of a following here in Langley,” Santa said.

Set up in the mall for visits since mid-November, Santa will continue to meet with children and adults alike until 1 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.

By the end of this holiday season, he predicts he’ll visit with about 10,000 visitors – at Willowbrook alone. He anticipates that will be a slight uptick compared to years gone by.

.

RELATED: Where to find last-minute holiday gifts in Langley

_________________________________

Is there more to this story?

roxanne.hooper@langleyadvancetimes.com

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

_________________________________

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Four-year-old River Shelford, of Langley City, was animated as she explained to Santa what she wanted for Christmas. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance Times)

Excited to visit with the jolly ol’ elf were five-year-old Madison Collins of Walnut Grove and her sisters, five-year-old Sophie and six-year-old Jennifer (not pictured). (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance Times)

Twenty-month-old Nolan Sidhu, of Willoughby, wasn’t as thrilled as some to sit on Santa’s lap. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance Times)

Twenty-month-old Nolan Sidhu, of Willoughby, wasn’t as thrilled as some to sit on Santa’s lap. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance Times)

Just Posted

Ride For Doug Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser to proceed

It will be shorter and much of it will be online due to COVID-19 restrictions

Abbotsford football star Samwel Uko dies at age 20

Panthers star running back dies on May 21, cause of death not yet known

UPDATE: Police oversight agency investigating after shots fired Saturday night in Chilliwack neighbourhood

RCMP reported a ‘distraught male’ fired at police officers on Christina Drive – IIO is on scene Sunday

LETTER: Angels come to aid of elderly couple in distress

In the craziness of the moment, letter writer forgot to get names, and is anxious to say thanks

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping the Langley Advance Times to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

‘Not a joke’: Promoter wants to rocket-launch man the length of White Rock pier

Brooke Colby says he’s building an eight-foot rocket in his backyard

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

Boy, 2, left with ‘soft tissue injuries’ after being hit by car in Squamish intersection

Boy was release from hospital, police continue to investigate

Most Read