When you move somewhere new it’s almost inevitable that you come across people whose Christmas traditions are wrong. There’s no two ways about it. For example, when I lived in America they did not have mince pies and I made a friend who told me her favourite Christmas song out of all the available Christmas songs was ‘Feliz Navidad’. She’s probably reading this, and she’s definitely incorrect. As another example, since moving to Falmouth I’ve heard a lot of talk about The Polar Express being one of the best Christmas films ever. These people are wrong, and it is my lot in life to learn to forgive them for it.*
Basically, Christmas traditions are weird and I’m still learning to accept those that do not align themselves exactly with mine.
On Saturday I went into town to do my yearly good deed. I helped marshal the Falmouth Santa Run, which turned out to be an excellent decision because my role lasted all of ten minutes and I felt just as good about my virtuousness afterwards as the time I helped to marshal a full marathon. Which, incidentally, made up five of the most miserable hours of my life. The santa run was great, though. I got to ring a massive bell in the street, and many of the participants were dogs in costumes. These are my key criteria when choosing to attend a sporting event in any capacity.
After the Santa run I mooched around the shops for a while pretending I had a larger budget than the £1 I’d specifically set aside to buy a new pound shop washing up brush. It was weird – I thought I could hear drumming a couple of times, but I shook it off as I ate the mince pie and custard pasty I miraculously managed to find the funds for. As I wondered around WHSmith – and found an entire second storey I didn’t realise existed – I eavesdropped on the staff’s conversations.
“What time do they get here?”
“About two, I think.”
I didn’t think much of it. But when I left the shop and walked away, I bumped (almost literally) into something like fifty santas in Falmouth high street. And these weren’t the runners having a post-run browse. Although there were a few wtill wearing their outfits watching in a bemused kind of way, as though these Santas were crazy for being dressed like Father Christmas. The costumes belonging to the Santa gang ranged from the detailed and high-quality to the actually-I’ll-just-wear-my-red-dressing-gown-because-that’ll-do, but every incarnation carried a drum. They’d stopped to sing a few verses of a Christmas carol, but they soon started drumming and marching up the high street.
I followed them because, well, they were Santas and I have Christmas in my heart and soul forever. Every once in a while they’d stop to sing another song. Sometimes that took place in the street. Occasionally it involved going into a shop. You really haven’t lived until you’ve seen a full marching band squeezed amongst the racks in Clarks serenading a bemused-looking woman who they persuaded to stand on a shoe-trying-on stool.
I walked up and down the high street behind the pack (What’s the collective noun for Santas? Is a sleigh? A twinkle? A ho?) of Santas for as long as it wasn’t weird, and then a little bit longer for good measure. It is not a Christmas tradition I’ve encountered before. To this day I haven’t been able to work out exactly what was happening. But whatever it was, it was a beautiful few hours where Falmouth went absolutely batshit crazy while full to the brim with Santas, and it was the first alien Christmas tradition I could immediately get on board with.
Is this what personal growth feels like?
*Except that deep down inside I know I never will and while we’re at it we can probably take that whole ‘personal growth’ thing out of the equation too.