Christmas in London: Santa is booked, but an elf might be available.

Posted on December 4, 2010



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 bleary-eyed pseudo-Santas roaming the streets.  But I am here to observe some of the differences.  After all, like 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! ”  “Whoa!  It hardly ever snows in London!”  “It’s friggin’ cold out there!” “It’s 63 in DC!”  The last comment was gratuitously supplied by Now Husband Dan.

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.  After all, isn’t sitting on Santa’s knee some kind of right that all children should have?  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, another realtor in the office who dressed as Santa for our annual Christmas party.  And I along with another realtor named Dee, was one of the two costumed Santa’s  Sexy Sluts. It was still sort of a thrill for me, even though I think Dave got more out of it than Dee and I did.  But that’s another story.


On Saturday, we all  went to Oxford Street , Europe’s Busiest Shopping Street.   On Saturday, it closed to traffic so that shoppers could take over.  Where else on earth would that ever happen?  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. And, thanks to the folks at American Express, there were balloons, free shopping totes, live music, kiddie amusement rides, and discounts in the stores all along the street.  Jonah and my son-in-law Bryan were on TV.   Bryan opined on American Express and Jonah fell asleep. 

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 there are no sirens or medical equipment, and you have to pay the driver when you exit.   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 responded 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 a password, but it was still all very speakeasy-ish.


Inside 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 very nice, but just sort of sat there, digesting his food.  Photos were taken with me looking like a grinning idiot (I’m a sucker for any photographer making silly faces and noises) and Jonah looking like a typical toddler who had just found himself eye-to-eye with a strange skinny man wearing a red suit with crumbs all over it it.  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.