Santa Claus. Father Christmas. Sinter Klaas. Magical. Fun. And for some three year olds terrifying.
As a family we have had our own small dramas with Santa over the years.
Your assumption, as a parent, is that Santa is an entirely benign figure. At least that was mine.
That jolly, red clad, bearded, chubby stereotype who hands out presents to children. What's not to like?
Apparently a big head when you're three.
Our daughter's first encounter with Santa was at her elder brother's school Christmas Fayre two years ago.
Santa's Grotto was the Headmaster's Office. The children queued quietly, anticipation rising as they reached the front of the line and saw their fellow schoolmates come out of the office their gifts.
"Do they want to go in together?" Asked the mother, dressed as an elf, organising the all too brief visits.
"Yes, that's probably best" I replied.
Our son went through the door and sat next to Santa. Who patted his head and then looked up in a kindly manner at our daughter, now in my arms.
Her eyes widened. She reached around me and clung onto the door frame. And she screamed.
"He's got a big HEAD!" Our daughter yelled.
"Don't be afraid," Santa said as kindly as possible.
"WAAAAHHH! He's SCARY!" Our daughter wasn't going to be assuaged. Her tears genuine. Her terror writ large.
"Sorry," I mumbled.
Santa was somewhat discombobulated. The poor chap wasn't used to this reaction. Quiet, awed excitement was the norm. Occasional verbal diarrhoea. He'd not signed up for screaming hysteria.
"Here." He shoved a present at our son. "Happy Christmas!"
We exited the room as quickly as possible. Our daughter slowly calming. Our son looking dejectedly at the Princess hair clip set he had been handed by Santa, too panicked to notice whether the present was coming from the boys or girls pile of gifts.
I'm a Governor at our children's school. A position that carries some responsibilities. One of these becoming apparent one December morning three years ago.
The phone rang. "Nick?" Asked the school secretary. "Don't worry, nothing's wrong," the usual opening to any conversation with the school when they call. Reassuring that your child does not, this time, require collection immediately as a consequence of their having vomited/fainted/been poked in the eye. This time.
"We've forgotten to book a Santa. You couldn't come and help out could you?"
"When?" I asked, cautiously.
"In about an hour," the secretary replied helpfully. "We've got the outfit ready. We got confused as to who was due to book the normal chap and now he's not available!"
Which explains why our son, then five, was pulled aside by his teacher at lunchtime where it was explained that Santa had a problem with his sleigh and that Daddy had very kindly agreed to fill in.
It all went rather well I felt.
So well indeed that I've been asked to do the job in each of the succeeding years.
This year was of course the first year that both children were in school.
Both were appraised of the story. Santa was too busy to come. He'd sent Daddy a text asking if he could come and distribute the PTA Christmas presents to each child instead.
The reaction of each class was, as usual, quite different.
Stunned. Open Mouthed. Adoring. From the Reception class.
Class Two, a mixture of five and six year olds had questions. Lots of questions. How would I get down their chimney? Did I know where they lived? (This luckily from a child where I did know where she lived). Could they ABSOLUTELY rely on me to bring them the Nerf gun they so very much wanted. (I used my best politician's duck the awkward question strategy on this one)
Class Three twigged who I was. But were still shocked.
Class Four, eight, nine and ten year olds, where our son resides greeted me by name and much joking about how the suit was a bit small and I needed to put on some weight.
Finally, the nine, ten and eleven year olds of Class Five. Who mobbed me. With their phones, iPads and tablets. All wanting their own selfie with Santa.
As usual, on my Santa clad rounds, I asked the same question in each class. "Hands up if you've been good this year."
The school has one hundred and thirty two pupils. One hundred and thirty raised their hands. Two didn't.
At least my children are honest!