Finding Father Christmas
Looking for the real Father Christmas to fulfil (!) all your little ones Christmas hopes? Cadge an invite from the man himself to visit his magical world at Lapland UK. Big Folk welcome too…
Article by Lauren Naylor
Christmas as a child, was, of course, an exciting occasion. Except for the time I discovered my present – a brand new sparkly Yahama keyboard wrapped meticulously in a bin-bag (I couldn’t exactly miss it). Tears and a momentous tantrum ensued. I refused to accept the gift as I’d ruined the surprise (things haven’t changed since) but it’s a tradition of mine – without a surprise and excitement the gift means nada! Later, boasting eight distinction grades and a musical theory test under my belt – I eventually managed to get over it.
Each year I thoroughly enjoyed my godmother taking me for our seasonal trip to London with my cousin, swiftly followed by Dunkin’ Donuts – those saccharine sweet rainbow-hued delights – remember them?
But unless you’re a platinum card member or have friends in high places, you’ll be hard-pressed to even get a sniff of tinsel, let alone a polar white beard. So Christmas meant Santa at the local arcade, and to his credit, he wasn’t too bad. But the missing piece? The authentic, immersive experience.
Entering through a billowing velveteen red curtain, with some faux snow and a few stuffed reindeer scattered about for good measure, didn’t exactly cut it. But as a child, anticipating a glittery donut afterwards, I think we were happy to accept his elasticated beard and cotton-wool stuffed belly.
A long time ago, well, 2007, Mike and Alison Battle felt much the same. They searched high and low for a festive experience that didn’t entail five minutes with a rotund Santa impostor, as they wanted to give their four young sons an experience to remember. Alison, a former primary school teacher for 19 years, said: “We went looking for the real Father Christmas over a decade ago. Following an extensive and international search, like many others, we were close to losing our belief. Then we stumbled across the secret pathway, and since then our belief has never wavered.” With the help of their elven friends, they found a home for Father Christmas and for small folk to come and be part of the experience by helping to make toys with the elves in the Lapland Toy Factory.
Magical Lapland UK is situated in the Crown Estate Forest, near Ascot, just over an hour drive from London, although invites are strictly through the big man himself (Father Christmas, that is).
A conveyor belt grotto this is not. Lapland is an immersive experience for all of the family. The doors burst open on the 18th November and are operating until Christmas Eve – so unlike most UK Santa spots, there is plenty of availability, and invitations start from as little as £49pp (do hurry to purchase the last tickets as they are filling up fast!)
Some 100,000 families including Big Folk (the elves’ names for grown-ups) have helped and visited over the last decade, and there has even been a flurry of famous Big Folk too; such as pop-royalty Sir Elton John, almost Royalty The Beckhams and actual Royalty Mike and Zara Tindall…
Visitors can enjoy an experience second to none as they get to meet Whittle, head of the Toy Factory; Eeko, Mother Nature’s friend and Pixie Mixie, maker of the most amazing elven sweets. Little Folk can enjoy writing letters at the elven post office, while Big Folk can enjoy white or milk hot chocolate, and for novice skaters, there’s the offer of penguin assistance on an enticing ice rink (Big Folk are also welcome to use the penguins too!).
You can meet beautiful huskies and reindeer, and just as Mike and Alison intended a decade ago – be greeted by THE Father Christmas who knows EVERY little thing about your little ones (thanks to personalised invites duly filled out by yourself). Shhhhh….! As children’s author Roald Dahl famously said, “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
Talking of great authors, if you can’t make it down to Lapland, Mike and Alison now have a published book with Bloomsbury: The Untold Story of Father Christmas you can purchase from Amazon, Bloomsbury.co.uk and of course Laplanduk.co.uk
Enquiries: Lapland UK, Whitmore Forest, Swinley Road, Winkfield Row, Ascot SL5 8BD / Laplanduk.co.uk