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Have you been good this year?

Christmas is hugely busy in schools one way or another, as Headteachers juggle diaries and manage so many different tasks to make sure everything happens in time for the end of term. There are shows and fairs to put on, nativities and parties to organise; not to mention all the other bits to fit in.

Running a school at this time of year is definitely hectic, but this is nothing compared to the logistical challenge faced by Santa. I have always been impressed by how he manages to get so much done in such a short space of time. Yes, he has a lot of help – with an army of elves on hand to make sure the presents are ready in time, but how he manages to fly single-handedly through the night sky, and deliver presents to all the children, is something to make the mind boggle.

And then there are all the appearances that need to be squeezed in. Church halls, department stores, school fairs – how could it all be possible?

We always welcome visitors at Highgate Primary, and last week we had a rabbi, a vicar and a winner of Mastermind. My childhood friend, Marc Soloway, shared the Hanukah story in assembly. Shaun Wallace, a criminal defence barrister, talked to us about what it takes to win Mastermind, and on Monday we were visited by the Reverend Timothy Miller – our new parish vicar. Timothy addressed the children in assembly, telling us about the work he does at All Saints in Church Road, which among other things, includes organising the Christmas Fair.

It was Timothy who revealed a very closely guarded secret: occasionally, and only very occasionally, and only when the diary is completely chocablock, it’s not always the real Father Christmas. Due to a double booking, a stand-in Santa was going to be required to start proceedings until the real one could get there and take over. As he was clearly struggling to find a suitable stand in, I volunteered my services.

In the days leading up to the big day, I prepared suitable questions, pressed the red suit and spent a lot of time practising my ho, ho ho…ing. To ensure nobody knew I was only the substitute Santa, I cleverly enlisted the help of Horace the Other Reindeer, who complete with a set of red antlers, looked quite the part.

We settled into the Grotto and awaited the procession of excited children, keen to share their Christmas wishes. Our first young visitor walked in, pointed at Horace and the conversation went like this:

‘Father Christmas, your reindeer looks like a dog?’

‘He’s Rudolf the black-nosed reindeer.’

‘Why isn’t his nose red?’

‘It’s soot from the chimney smoke. It’s been a long flight.’

‘Why has he got a tail?’

‘Hmmm, I don’t think you’re allowed to dock reindeer tails these days.’

‘And why does it say Tesco on his antlers?’…

Confident that I’d got away with it, I went through my repertoire of questions, got extremely hot and itchy under the polyester beard and gave away a sack full of presents. It was quite a relief when the real Father Christmas turned up.

I have to say I felt a little bit guilty deceiving so many children, but I guess it was a little unfair to have been put in such an awkward position. It’s just lucky the real Santa was on hand this Saturday to make an appearance at the school’s Christmas Craft fair.

Ho, ho, Ho!

William