As children in the fifties, my brother and I always loved Christmas. In many ways I guess it was no different to what children experience now. Kids still love Christmas surely?
Kids are more worldly these days but deep down young kids are much the same as always.
For us as children and church-goers, there was always the advent book prize to look forward to, Church amateur pantomimes, the Christmas festivities and the school nativity plays.
One of the other highlights was visiting Santa's Grotto.
Don't know what Santa's Grotto is? Well let me enlighten you.
Visiting Santa's Grotto
We often had more than one visit to a Santa's Grotto when we were young. With two maiden aunts, who brought my father up, we were a little spoiled I guess, but we had no living grandparents. We were not well off by any means but compared to some of our neighbours in post-war Britain we fared quite well.
These two great aunts would buy us all sorts of gifts and treats, and at least one of them would take us to see Santa.
In the fifties there so many large department stores that Santa had a hard time keeping up. He had to delegate some of his work to understudies who would carry out some of his tasks whilst he was busy finishing his Christmas preparations.
Consequently Santa's Grotto often had an understudy playing the lead role
Each department store would have a Santa's Grotto and for a small fee children could tour around and receive a gift. The grotto was an example of what Santa's polar home really was like but some of these grottoes were simply grotty.
After the tour you could sit on Santa's knee and have your photograph taken. I was always too much in awe of the great man to do this. There were often a few elves who had flown in especially to make sure that all was well. After all Santa's reputation was at risk with some of these grottoes and Santa understudies.
There are still a few places that have a visit to Santa available but with more people shopping online and less high street department stores open for business, their demise is inevitable.
These days in the UK getting the prospective Santa understudies criminal records checked and cleared in time is tricky. Such measures I know are a vital, if not a sad, sign of the times.
So if there is a Santa's Grotto near you why not take the kids for a visit. Father Christmas will be pleased, and the kids can hand their Christmas list in here, for assured Christmas delivery.