Ampersand

Ho! Ho! Ho! Pop’s Santa Tradition Resized to Fit

By PATTY KELLY | Dec 19, 2018

It’s that time of year ... when the world tries to fall silent and reflect on the traditions that make the holiday season bright. That is what brings our block on LBI together every year. We celebrate this festive time and reminisce about the year or summer that was. We gather every year at the same time to have dinner at the Engleside Inn and enjoy each other, most of whom we haven’t seen since the unofficial end of summer, Labor Day. Happy to reunite, we all chat about what the holiday for each will entail and look forward to the New Year ahead.

Traditions are what bring us all together and, for many, back to our childhood. For me it was when Santa Claus made a very special visit to our house on Christmas Eve. We could hear the jingle of his sleigh bells from a mile away (so we thought) and upon his arrival at our front door, the jingle of his Santa bell, announcing his formal arrival. Once we unveiled all our dreams and wishes that he would hopefully bring us the next day, he would quickly make his departure as he had a big night ahead of him.

We would rush to the window to see if we could get a glimpse of his sleigh as it took off from our roof. We knew he was up there because we could hear his Santa bell ringing down through the chimney and out of our fireplace.

Later, when we grew up, we determined that the man in the red suit who visited us every Christmas Eve was not the real Santa but his helper, our dad (Pop). We realized as we grew older and had our own children that Santa needed the help of others during the season because he was a very busy man. His helpers continued to spread the holiday cheer amongst all so he could focus on the big day. Packing up all those presents and keeping all the elves moving along at their task was a big job.

My dad continued the tradition through the years, not only for his grandkids, but also for other kids in the neighborhood. He would travel on foot or in a car to make his appearance at his requested destination. The tradition was carried on until his health began to interfere and the suit was placed into retirement. It stayed there in its box until a replacement stepped up to the plate, my husband.

Now, my dad was only 5 feet 7 inches tall, so adjustments would be needed to make the suit fit just right. The Santa suit was over 50 years old, so it was determined that it should stay packed in its retirement box and a new suit found. With the new Santa suit in place, the tradition resumed its proper place in time with the help of my husband. Though it’s not my dad behind that suit or beard, it still brings butterflies to my stomach and a tear to my eyes when I hear the ringing of the traditional Santa bell.

Santa arrives in a big way at our house during our holiday party with the family. The kids line up to sit on his lap and tell their secret desires for Christmas presents. With smiles on their faces after they receive a promise that “Santa will do his best to get that special gift under the tree” and a candy cane in hand, they hop off his lap to share the good news with their mom and dad that Santa said “yes!” to their request.

The Santa bell rings as he leaves, and the kids run to the fireplace to see if they can hear Santa on the roof. With anticipation they wait for his departure so they can peer into the night sky to get a glimpse of that famous sleigh with its eight reindeer leading the way and maybe, just maybe, Rudolph’s red nose.

Traditions are what bring us together on LBI and in our homes. Traditions are what we believe in and wait for every year. If not for traditions, I can’t even imagine not seeing my friends until the next summer. What fun would that be?

Enjoy your own traditions and have the happiest of holidays. And to my Pop, we miss you and thank you for making all our Christmas dreams come true, even now.

Patty Kelly lives in Blue Bell, Pa., and Beach Haven Park.

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