One of my favourite things about Christmas is the sense of tradition that goes with it. There are books and music that only come out at this time of year. There is the choosing of the tree and the dressing of it - lights first, then beads and finally the decorations. There is the word 'decanations' that we have embraced since Patrick first uttered it about 5 years ago and the giggles we all share every time someone says it. My childhood Christmases are bound in lots of little traditions that my parents built up for us, and we're gradually creating our own little traditions with the boys as they get older.
This was the third year we visited Santa at Mountstewart and every year it is utterly magical. I'll admit there was nothing magical or festive about our allocated time slot of 9.15 on a Sunday morning, but this particular Sunday morning was a perfect frosty, sunny morning. So everyone was happy. The boys didn't know that we were going to see Santa, so once they found out the magic really kicked in.
The experience starts with some craft - this year a homemade calendar with instructions from some kindly elves, followed by some very neat colouring in.
(I love how intent they are on their colouring and drawing - it makes me very happy that they got the creative gene from me if nothing else!)
Craft is followed by a short journey (literally a circle around the entrance to the house, but no one even slightly cares!) in a fabulous horse drawn carriage and then another very short journey on foot to the winter wonderland that is Santa's home. Silly photos at this point are entirely optional!
Next, Mrs Claus greets us and leads us through to where the jolly old man is waiting for us. Usually at this point Conor hides behind a parental leg and refuses to speak to Santa, but at almost 5 years old it turns out he is ready for a chat with him. It was completely magical watching him look with total wonder at this man with the beard and furry red hat. I could almost hear the little cogs in his mind working overtime trying to take it all in.
I love that Patrick is still in awe of Santa - he was so polite when he was talking to him about what was on his list!
By the end of our visit both the boys were on cloud 9, especially after they opened their presents! We finished with a wintery quiz trail around the lake which was frozen solid, but I will share the frosty pictures in another post. A cup of tea and treat rounded off our perfect morning. And it really was just that. Perfect. I am going to make a note to self on my new calendar to book earlier for next year so that we can swap the trauma of the early start for a more festive late afternoon time! And I will look forward to it eagerly. I am only too aware that there are a limited number of times we can enjoy this experience and I want to savour them while I can.
In other news, my creative mojo has momentarily come out of hibernation and I have created my first completely digital layout! I know, it was as much of a shock to me as I imagine it is to you. But I very much enjoyed it and may even do it again! So I wll leave you with my creation and await your thoughts on this humble offering!