I’M not usually one for getting into the Christmas spirit before December, but this weekend we had an offer that made us dig out the festive jumpers a week early – we were invited to meet Father Christmas at Hamleys in Cardiff. The store was launching its Father Christmas experience, so we took Santi and Ezra along to meet the big man himself, and it has really put me in a festive mood!
As we arrived at Hamleys, in the St David’s shopping centre, there was a group of elves waiting for us, decked out in green and red costumes with pointy hats and rosy cheeks. They were so energetic it was hard not to get involved, and even shoppers who weren’t there for the Father Christmas experience were joining in and cheering.
Singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, we made our way to the party room at the back of the store, but it was locked … disaster! Luckily, after shouting the magic word and sprinkling some elf dust the door swung open and we found ourselves in the cosiest I have ever seen. It was decked out with Christmas trees, a fireplace lit with candles (fake ones, of course) and an arm chair for storytime with Santa. The lights were dim, fairy lights were twinkling and it felt a world removed from the toy store bustling with shoppers the other side of the wall.
Father Christmas hadn’t quite arrived at Hamleys yet, so the children were invited to decorate cookies with icing, while the elves sung, danced and generally made sure the atmosphere was merry. Suddenly, the doors opened and Santa walked in to gasps of excitement. Despite it being quite busy, with 12 children and the same number of adults, he took time to say hello to everyone as he made his way to his arm chair.
The little ones gathered around while Santa read The Night Before Christmas, before playing Santa’s Footsteps and Elf Elf Reindeer. The games were a bit old for Santi to join in with, so he went back to finish decorating his biscuit. Noticing that he wasn’t playing, Father Christmas sat with him for a little chat and asked what gifts he would like, which he didn’t have to do but it was so lovely that he made that extra effort.
The group then split into two, with some writing out their Christmas lists and the others taking it in turns to sit with Santa on his chair. Everyone had a chance to take photos and there was no feeling of being rushed to move on. It might sound odd, but I thought it was really nice that the children were actually allowed to sit on Santa’s knee – it added to the personal feel, and made the experience very nostalgic.
As we left each child was given a Hamleys balloon and a gift bag which was very impressive. It contained a Mr Men book, a Christmas tree decoration, a big bar of chocolate and a teddy bear wearing a t-shirt that says “I met Father Christmas at Hamleys” which is something to treasure. You definitely get the ticket price back in quality gifts.
At £19.99 it is a pricey event, especially if you have more than one child, but I think it is worth it as a one-off. We really felt as if we had met Father Christmas, rather than being rushed through a grotto at a shopping centre. The only downside I could see is that usually only one parent is allowed, which means if you only have one child either mum or dad have to wait outside. I understand why this rule stands as the room isn’t huge, but it would be disappointing to miss out.
The I Met Father Christmas events are running at Hamleys Cardiff until Christmas Eve and can be booked here. It is suitable for children aged two to eight, and sessions are available by age group 2-5 and 6-8.
*here’s a little video of our visit…