Christmas in London: Santa is Booked, But An Elf Might Be Available

Posted on November 24, 2011

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It’s Thanksgiving and the best way to celebrate is to get in line now for all the “Black Friday Sales That Start on Thursday” sales. The second best way is to post this brilliantly reworked piece about Christmas in London and to hope that the people who read the inferior post  last year are too busy this year standing in line for the “Black Friday Sales That Start on Thursday” sales.  So, off to London we go.

As a Jewish American, I feel uniquely qualified to pass judgment on how the Brits celebrate their Christmas season.  All the same trappings are there: the trees, the lights, the shopping mania, the scary, bleary-eyed pseudo-Santas roaming the streets.  But I am here to observe some of the differences.  After all, as with the English language, things might appear on the surface to be the same.  But in a very short time, you discover that there are a lot of words and phrases you don’t know and soon you are extremely weirded out because someone is telling you their baby is “tucked up” and you hear something other than that they mean they put the baby to sleep for the night.

Backtrack needed: In honor of my visit, London got cold and snowy.  “Coldest end of November in 20 years! ”  “Londoners Even More Grim Than Usual!”  “Queen Forgoes Crown for One of Those Weird Hats With Earflaps!”  “It’s 63 in DC!”  (The last comment was gratuitously supplied by Now Husband Dan, who was back home, doing whatever important things husbands do when their wives leave town.)

Back to London.  I asked my daughter if she had taken the baby to see Santa.  She said she hadn’t made an appointment early enough and so might not be able to this year.  I was sort of appalled at the idea of having to make an appointment and wondered if Santa had a voice mail system that informed people that the menus had changed and then gave a lot of options, like “Press 1 for Santa, Press 2 for the reindeer, Press 3 for the elves….

I knew I would do anything to get my grandson to see Santa.  Because of my strict Jewish upbringing, I didn’t get to sit on Santa’s lap until I was about 30, and Santa was really Dave, and I was a Santa Slut.  But that’s another story.

On Saturday, we all  went to Oxford Street , Europe’s Busiest Shopping Street.   Oxford St was closed to traffic on Saturday, so that shoppers could take over.  If you tried to do that in New York, you’d get run over by a fleet of taxis that didn’t get the message about street closure.  In DC, there would be some kind of marathon and you’d be trampled to death by thousands of grim, skinny people.  On Oxford St, there were balloons, free shopping totes, live music, kiddie amusement rides, and discounts in the stores all along the street.  But there was no Santa.

On Tuesday, I was on a mission: Make sure Jonah would see Santa.  I bundled him up, hailed a cab, and headed for Westfield.  Digression, here.  I am in love with cabs in London.  They have humongous interiors, so you can just wheel the stroller right in with the baby inside.  It’s sort of like an ambulance, except you don’t have to be seriously injured or ill to catch a ride.  Now, back to Westfield, Europe’s largest shopping center.  We made a beeline for “Santa’s Magic Ice Palace.”  Santa’s Executive Assistant asked if we had an appointment.  We didn’t.  The EA looked at Jonah, who accommodated by looking like Someone who Needed to See Santa Real Bad, and the EA said he might be able to “get us in the back door.”  Words were exchanged with Santa’s two Front Desk Managers, and an agreement was made.  We were told to return in 15 minutes after Santa finished his pastry break. We weren’t given any further instructions, but it was clear that I was to tell no one of this encounter, and if pressured to divulge anything by anyone, to pretend I spoke  no English.  Just in case, we spent the 15 minutes in a bathroom stall.

When we arrived back at the Ice Palace, Santa was waiting.  In spite of consuming pastries, this Santa was quite thin, and had apparantly never gotten the memo about the “Ho Ho Ho” thing.  He was nice, in a sort of shy accountant-type way, but seemed to be using all of his energy digesting his food.  But we got the photo, and that was the important part.

After I am gone, my daughter will take Jonah to London’s Santacon. Last year, I had mailed a Santa suit for Jonah and he wore it to the event.  He was the only Baby Santa there and so was the hit of the gathering. Unfortunately, he couldn’t accompany his new friends to their pub crawl after the event, as he had to go home for his nap. This year, he will attend the festivities again, but I suspect he will have to miss the pub crawl for the second time. Hey, sometimes even at Christmas, you just can’t have it all.