If you were shopping in Santa Cruz last week, you might have seen a road train full of infants, grinning and waving, and shouting out “¡Feliz Navidad!”
The road train belongs to the local bus company. It’s available for hire all year, but it seems to be pretty solidly booked in the last week of school term.
The school where I used to work had a regular routine. We put Father Christmas hats on the kids (a fun way to make them easy to spot in a crowd) and loaded them onto the train. First a short drive into town, waving and yelling “Merry Christmas” at everyone in sight. Then we got off and went down the main street into the square, where we had a group photo taken. We carried along the main street towards the post office, with the kids handing out hand-coloured cards along the way. It was great to see random shoppers and tourists forget their tired feet and beam as a four-year-old pressed a wrinkled bit of paper on them.
Father Christmas / Santa Claus is a very new introduction to Spain. These days he does turn up for most kids and leaves a few sweets, but the main presents arrive with the Three Kings on January 6th. So when we got to the post-office, the kids posted their letters to the kings, (the first time some of them had posted a letter) and we got back on the road train for a drive down to the next village along the coast, Los Cancajos, which is the tourist beach.
Well it was great. Bemused tourists waved, and workmen digging a ditch cheered, and passing cars (and one bulldozer!) honked their horns in salute. I felt like the queen, although I knew most of it was for the kids.
But I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the occasional adults who just glared. All religion apart, if you can’t raise the tiniest twitch of a smile or wave for sixty-odd kids grinning at you, then I think you’re sad in every sense of the word.