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Father Christmas 2016

Each year the guys on my block take turns dressing up as Father Christmas and sit out on a sled in the median on our street asking kids who line up each night between 6:30 and 8 chatting about their hopes and dreams for Christmas morning. It’s a tradition that goes back to the 30’s and one that allows for me to take the pulse of the in toys for the season.

Here’s my unofficial survey of what’s popular in 2016.

Pokemon cards are back! Several kids asked for specific decks of this old school game which is experiencing a comeback no doubt due to their older siblings who are playing it again on their phones. Pikachu stuffed dolls and other characters from the game were a close runner up. Props to the kid that insisted (much to the frustration of his mother) on posing for his Santa photo with his poke-ball.

Playstation 4 beats out the XBox. There was also one mention of a Nintendo DS.

iPhones were mentioned a few times with one girl asking specifically for the iPhone 7. One kid also asked for a GoPro. No mention of any Android devices or Apple Watches.

One kid asked for a Nerf Gun and the parent’s and I did a double-take when we heard his younger sister say she wanted a, “shotgun” but she later clarified that it was a ShurikenBest to stay clear of that house on Christmas morning.

There were several wishes for a dog and one boy that wanted a swimming frog while his sister hoped for “birds in a cage” but the prize for the best wish goes to the little girl who is wishing for a flying turtle.  The father and I exchanged a panicked look and I said something about “seeing what I could do” – maybe her dad can rig up a drone or something, he’s got his work cut out for him.

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Christmas Eve 2014

Thompson Avenue was its usual carnival of lights this year as the neighborhood lit itself up and residents prepared to greet the thousands of people that came to walk our street, see the lighting displays, and of course visit with Santa.

Each December, all of the dudes on the block volunteer to play Santa Claus for an evening or two between December 6th and 23rd. It’s always fun to hear what the little ones want for Christmas. Hightlights this year were:

  • the boy who wanted a tuba (I made a deal with him to play it when his parents are asleep in the morning)
  • the girl who, amidst a long list of video games wanted a book of poetry
  • the little girl who whispered to me before she left, “Why do people still fight wars?”

Merry Christmas everyone.

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Christmas Tree Lane #hyperlapse

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Christmas Tree Lane

Over the weekend I got to play dream maker again. Each December, my street transforms itself into a carnival of lights. Each house on the 3200 block of Thompson Avenue in Alameda drapes itself in lights including the big pine trees down the center isle. This is a tradition that has been going on since the 1920’s and people come from all around the Bay Area to walk down the street each evening to take in the sights. Also part of this tradition is that all the dad’s volunteer to play Santa for visitors to the block and this past weekend was my turn.

We’ve been on this block since 2004 and each year the spectacle gets a little richer. This year was our first time back after two years away, and it’s clear that things have definitely turned up a notch.

The Blacktop Knights

Christmas Tree Lane (as our block of Thompson Avenue is called) now has a Facebook page, reviews in Yelp, and even some intrigue as thieves hit some houses on the street last year to making off with some of the decorations. Thankfully, the community rallied even stronger and a dancing troupe called the Tap Dancing Christmas Trees raised everyone’s spirits and raised funds for those that lost their decorations. This year the Trees came back for another performance, this time they are raising funds for a trip to London for the 2012 Olympics.

One of the great things about being Santa is that you get an intimate glimpse into the hopes and dreams of kids today. Lots of requests for BeyBlades and iPods but also some challenging ones (a real dragon? a reindeer?) that require some quick thinking. I’ve learned to repeat loudly the presents the children ask for so a quick sidelong glance up at the parents tells me whether that new bike or ‘puter is a go or no go.

A couple of kids wondered where the reindeer were (they were “resting up”) and then there was the precocious young man who, after asking him what he wanted, replied, “Don’t you remember? I just told you yesterday!” and glared at me until his parents quietly reminded him that Santa sees lots of kids leading up to Christmas and tends to be forgetful. All the more reason to write a letter.

There are some challenges. The child with a mom, reeking of vodka, trying hard to make the best of it, and the young girl who couldn’t stop frowning. When I asked her what was wrong, she said she wanted her grandma back from Christmas.

Some glimpses of hope too. A few kids asked not only for something for themselves but also wanted to make sure that I remembered what their kid sister or brother had on their list. One boy even reminded me that her mom wanted a necklace which made her (and Santa) smile.

Very much worth it and a great way to kick off the holidays.

Also see my post, Playing Father Christmas, from 2004.

Being Santa