It’s my baby’s first Christmas, and she hasn’t got a clue what is happening, but I am so excited that I couldn’t resist booking a visit to Santa, in what I hope will become an annual tradition.
I was a little nervous that taking her too young might backfire if she ends up scared of Santa.
When I was younger I volunteered as an elf for a work kids Christmas party. It was a real eye opener into how varied kids can be, from the sweet child who said he wanted a sandwich for Christmas to the little hell raiser that repeatedly attacked a blow up snowman. I particularly remember one girl who was so scared of Santa she couldn’t come in. We tried to pursuade her that Santa was hidden in a grotto (actually a meeting room covered in bin bags and fairy lights) and she didn’t need to go in, but she point blank refused, and missed out on all the fun and games with the other kids.
I also heard recently of a lady that took her granddaughter to a garden centre where a motion activated animatronic Santa made her jump. She now cries at the mention of Santa and says “ho ho no!”
However, my baby is usually ok with strangers, so I figured it was worth the risk and the payoff would be some lovely family photos we could share with her in future.
I didn’t want to spend too much money on anything too fancy that she wouldn’t appreciate. The local shopping centre have a free Santa but the queues have been unbelievable, and she wouldn’t have the patience yet for that (I’m not sure a child any age would).
So in the end I settled on booking The Santa Experience at Ardgillan Castle and booked online.
It was a cold windy day, but we whisked her from the car park into the castle and parked up the buggy. Inside there was a nice waiting area with plenty of Christmas children’s books and sparkly trees. We were only waiting about 10 minutes before an elf came to escort us through a secret door to see Santa in the old castle study. It was a nice dark tradionional room which really made Santa and the tree lights stand out.
He was a nice Santa, obviously ready with some questions for the kids, but with a non-talker it was a little surreal, and we were a bit lost for words.
Our little girl sat on Santa’s knee and wasn’t scared, but she had a very curious cautious look on her face, like she was studying something she couldn’t quite figure out. She was so fascinated by him, it was very hard to get a nice photo with her looking at the camera.
On the way out she got a gift from the elf but as we were carrying her she didn’t get a chance to open it.
The nicest thing about seeing Santa at Ardgillan Castle is after the visit you’re not straight back out. There’s a trail set up round the house with lots of trees, decorations and fun facts about Christmas traditions around the world. I found that really interesting, and in theory there were plenty of opportunities for more photos, but we never seemed to be able to get a good shot, as out baby was always looking around with a quizzical expression.
When we got home we opened the present and got a flavour of what Christmas day will be like, as she was far more fascinated with crinkling the paper wrapping than the toy. However it was a good stuffed penguin and later in the day she was playing with it.
So overall it was a worthwhile experience and worth the ticket price. We didn’t get the perfect family photos we hoped for, and she didn’t really know what was going on, but she wasn’t scared either. We enjoyed it and will remember it, and it will be great to see the changes in her reactions over the years as it becomes a new family tradition.