Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and time for a favourite family tradition. The Santa Train has been an annual Christmas event since my eldest son was 18 months old. He loved steam trains, so what could be better than going on a steam train to see Father Christmas?
The first time we went was a completely magical experience. The station is properly old-fashioned and authentic, it was starting to go dark and something about the Christmas lights reminded me of Narnia. (Yeah, I know, no steam trains in Narnia, but it was seriously magical.)
We used to go on the Sunday before Christmas, but more recently we’ve switched to Christmas Eve, which makes it even better and is a fabulous start to Christmas. It also gives some focus to a day which is traditionally all about kids bouncing around going wild and parents at a complete loss for what to do with them.
For us, the Santa Train is a real family treat. That first year we had just one child and no less than EIGHT adults – Mummy, Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa and two sets of Aunties and Uncles. Even now, we still have six adults accompanying the three kids.
The train travels from one magical old-fashioned station to another. There is a rather large elf on the train who tells elf jokes and is always happy to listen to 8 year old boys and their hilarious comedy. At the second station, everyone gets off and waits for their turn with the big man.
There are drinks and mince pies and a rather long queue to see Father Christmas. I’m not a mince pie person myself, but apparently these mince pies are the best ever. I always have to take one so my husband can have an extra one. And he buys a bag of them to take home, too.
All the kids get their turn with Santa, but somehow everyone is happy to stand in a very long queue for fear of missing out. Few dare take the laid back option of mince pies first, then saunter over to see Father Christmas as the queue disappears and the train is fired up and ready to leave.
Father Christmas has a cosy room in a train carriage surrounded by cuddly toys. There are elves on the platform (all very friendly volunteers) and a lot of very excited children. The presents are good quality and keep the kids amused on the short journey back, plus well into the evening.
Times are changing, though. The train was cancelled last year due to the ridiculously bad weather. This year it is going from a different station – much closer to home, but I suspect not as beautiful.
Now the kids are nearly grown up, I’m guessing it’s our last year on the Santa Train. It’s become a real tradition and I will miss it next year, but if we carry on much longer, it’s not going to be for the kids. It’s going to be all about the kids humouring Mummy, Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa AND their Auntie and Uncle.