A very Woodstock Christmas

Christmas Eve found us on the Woodstock Village Green waiting for Santa Claus. We were not alone: a couple of thousand other hardy souls surrounded us in equally eager anticipation. You see, every year, at the same time, Santa shows up on the Village Green, to distribute presents to the children and to reconfirm their belief in his magical existence. This he achieves by arriving on an ever-changing – and constantly surprising – mode of transport. Apparently, past years have seen him arrive on the back of an elephant and a camel – hardly animals suited for the subzero December Catskills weather – as well as the more traditional reindeer. Nobody but nobody on the Green Saturday evening knew how he would arrive this year.

We arrived well ahead of Santa’s 5.30pm ETA to notice a crane tucked behind the Village Green, which we promptly forgot about as Campbell firstly left his glasses at a local store and then managed to lose a lens in the middle of the crowd. Poor baby Noel, who should have been at home enjoying his first birthday, was much put out by the circumstances and started crying and Posie had to find a bench on the Green to breastfeed him (a brave move given the temperature) and Campbell started complaining that he couldn’t see anything and I pointed out that he wasn’t wearing his glasses and he pointed out that he couldn’t as only one of them had a lens and so, as we heard the noise emanating from the vicinity of the fire house (the annual sponsor of the event), I lifted him up despite his heavy, heavy weight…

…And from down Tinker Street we saw dancing marionettes followed by the fire department’s ladder truck, decorated as the neck of a guitar, complete with tuning pegs and a giant peace sign in lights. On board the truck, a rock band was playing a bluesy instrumental rendition of ‘Santa Claus is Coming To Town.’ A couple of the musicians had Santa hats on and we quickly said to ourselves, Surely this isn’t it? But of course we’d forgotten all about the crane on the Green. Having successfully diverted our attention to the other end of the village, the crane now swung into action and, as “oohs” and “aahs” and raucous laughter made its way through the crowd, we turned our heads to see a giant dove slowly flapping its wings above our heads.

On the wings of a dove, Santa comes to Woodstock town

The cat was now out of the bag, but Santa stayed inside his flying machine for many more minutes, milking his grand arrival to maximum applause. Eventually, a red-coated hand punched its way out of the dove’s back and extended, and extended, and extended… until it became obvious this was a fake hand, and when the dove then started pooping on the crowd, I promised I would never again accuse Woodstock hippies of lacking for humor. Finally, Santa emerged through the top of the dove, waving and smiling as the giant hand-built wire-framed bird was lowered towards the fire truck, onto which he stepped, picking up a festively decorated guitar and proceeding to mime his way through several solos. Once the live music stopped and Santa stepped onto the village green to distribute the presents, the PA played the only song you could possibly expect to conclude such a peaceable festive celebration in the village of Woodstock… John Lennon’s ‘Merry Xmas (War Is Over)’. I can be a cynical git at times, especially when it comes to hippies, but I’m also an unabashed sentimentalist and I make no apologies for admitting that the song brought a tear to the eye.

The ladder truck converted peace guitar. Note the peace symbol on the pizza store too.

Campbell thankfully being uninterested in the free gifts, we made it home in time to host a proper birthday meal for Noel and ensure that we had everything ready for Santa’s subsequent visit to our house. Campbell, who knew for certain that the Woodstock Saint Nick was a “fake” and who, as per last year, has been voicing serious doubts about the whole myth surrounding Santa Claus, woke up on Christmas morning to have his own cynicism knocked for six. Santa had not only cleared his way through the logs in the fireplace, eaten the chocolate, drunk the milk and shared the apples with his reindeer, but he’d also brought Campbell several of the Bionicles recently requested in writing. Campbell has suppressed his disbelief for one more – probably just the one more – year. The younger kids in Woodstock will have not even such mild doubts about Saint Nick’s magic. For them, only this question: how will Santa make his appearance next year?

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December 2021