While the weather outside was dreary on Thursday morning, inside the Pi Beta Phi sorority house, the holiday season was kicking into gear.
Next to a grand piano draped with the traditional reds, greens and golds of Christmas, Santa and Mrs. Claus sat waiting to receive greetings and wishes from a line of preschoolers. Each tiny, patient child had a handwritten letter decorated in stickers and crayon drawings.
This practice has been standard for decades at malls and holiday office parties for decades. But Thursday, Mr. and Mrs. Claus were bilingual.
Sandy Riddle, who played the part of the jolly guy’s wife, said when they use Spanish-speaking children’s first language, it helps them feel more comfortable.
“I think that they love being able to converse in their first language and just feel that love from Santa,” Riddle said.
The St. Nick sighting is a part of the annual Santa’s House Boulder benefit sponsored by the Boulder Area Alumnae Panhellenic. The official event will be this weekend, with an admission fee of $5 per person and includes carnival games, face painting, Christmas storytelling and a bake sale for an extra cost. A portion of those proceeds will be donated to the Imagine! Dayspring Network and the Emergency Family Assistance Association.
Thursday’s event was a special, invitation-only greeting with the big man in the red suit for children who, due to medical or financial reasons, might not be able to visit Santa’s House over the weekend. The invitations were extended to kids at Dayspring and the Family Learning Center in Boulder.
Kathleen Jefferies, chair of Santa’s House, said the more stripped-down, relaxed version of the meet-and-greet benefits children with different needs. Children are able to take their time approaching Santa before sitting on his lap and taking a photo. The event provides a unique experience for children and their parents where they don’t feel rushed, overwhelmed by long lines or overstimulated, she said.
Leah Borgmann, parent of 2-year-old Nikolai, said this was her son’s first time meeting Santa, and it was the opposite of the notoriously bad experiences most parents have going to the mall or other public places.
“If you go to a mall, you’re waiting for two hours and they’re melting down and then you get the crying pictures with Santa,” Borgmann said. “You don’t have time to get used to Santa. So for him to be able to just come up and talk to them and not have any pressure, it was really fun.”
Although there was still some obligatory parent-leg-hugging to hide from Santa and a few tears, preschoolers from the Family Learning Center were generally excited to see the bearded guy and his Mrs.
Manuela de la Cruz, a teaching aid and parent, said her daughter, Alexanni, spent a long time Wednesday night picking out her outfit. When she finally got to meet Santa, Alexanni said she asked him for a Barbie house.
In between outbursts of joy from the bustling kids around her, Jefferies said the special meet-and-greet was the ideal way to start the holiday season.
“It gives you the warm fuzzies and everybody’s having fun,” she said. “You’re here to have a good time and it’s just joy all around. It’s the embodiment of the holiday season.”
If you go
What: Santa’s House holiday family event
Where: Phi Beta Pi sorority house, 890 11th St., Boulder
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Cost: $5 per person, cash only
More info: santashouseboulder.org