It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

So, last Sunday, Ruby, Junior & I really wanted to throw our merry selves, straight into Christmas ‘with bells on,’ joy in our hearts & that simple old festive excitement. We already have our tree up at home. We’re already wearing our Christmas onesies. Mulled wine is already my‘go to’tipple. 

Life is pretty great!

I don’t know about you, but when you have an 8 & 6 year old, Christmas just becomes ‘alive’ again. I mean Ru & Ju are just filled with an irrepressible glee of giddiness & seeing them so happy, by the smallest ‘glisten’ of tinsel draped treasure, just fills me with actual excitement! It makes my heart swell.

I love Christmas, regardless. I’m a December born baby! To me, there’s just a magic in the air. It’s filled with a warmth…There’s an oozy, happy kinda soul, to it.

In Wunna land, we celebrate ALL that we can because we don’t EVER take the happy ‘day to day,’ moments for granted. Why would we? They’re the moments we want to remember forever! We love life. We love tradition. We love merriment. We love family time…OVER everything! (I mean, I never understand why people go out of their way TO BE miserable at Christmas? Lol. I don’t get it? It’s a great way to celebrate ALL that you’ve achieved through the year!

Anyway….

Our Christmas festivities DO NOT begin, until the kids & I have visited Santa in his Grotto. It’s theNUMBER 1thing that we DO, to begin the festive season. We don’t leave it ‘til late. We do it FIRST! 

Obviously we’re a family that gets out & about, quite a lot. So, I’m our time, we’ve tinkered to MANYa Grotto. 

But now, we ONLYever go to ONE & the only one we ever go to, is the Santa’s Grotto, at Ackworth Garden Centre. (It’s certainly Ruby & Junior’s favourite Grotto & also MY FAVOURITE Grotto!!) 

We ONLY go to that one in particular, simply because it’s literally THE BEST one.   It really is as simple as that! Lol. 

The staff go out of their way…FOR MONTHS planning & creating the experience for us…They literally build it by themselves, by hand…It’s just remarkable! It’s almost breathtaking because so much hard work, has gone into something so wonderful! I don’t even know how Jenna & Simon do it? Every year it’s without doubt fantastic. However each year, it just seems to better & better!!

It’s hand built & created by a family business (as opposed to a corporate ‘churn ‘em in- chuck’em’ out shindig,) and it’s main purpose is to create joy for OTHER families, so that they have a shot at making some of the most special MEMORIES at Christmas time toooo! You only pay £15 per child to visit the Grotto. (I mean some places are charging double & TRIPLE that, for a lot LESS of an experience.)

One of the main reasons we love going to this particular Grotto, is because The Garden Centre themselves, make no actual profit from it! 

You should see the faces of ALL the staff members, whether their on the floor, in the Grotto, in the cafe…Even Simon (the owner) himself…they were literally all BEAMING with excitement, when they saw the families waiting to go into the Grotto. When you’ve created something yourself, it means so much more to you, doesn’t it? When you see something you’ve created making people so happy…you just get this buzz of excitement!!! That excitement alone fills the Garden Centre with magic. 

It’s such a friendly & beautiful vibe from the moment you walk in & that’s what you want.

As soon as we stepped through the glass door into the building, Frozen’s ‘Elsa & Anna’ we’re there to meet, greet & book the babies in, to see Santa in his Grotto!

Some of you will know, that I have excitable, and some would say, rather high spirited children! Lol. They were so excited, they could’ve BURST!

But when Disney ‘Elsa’ calmly looked and them, smiled and handed them TWO special tickets to the North Pole…that was it…their world, life and existence was absolutely complete!!! They could’ve gone ‘boz eyed’ and passed out with glee!

They were then given a game to play around the Garden Centre, where they were to help Santa find his Reindeers! Some were inside. Some were outside. They had to find as many as possible & write them into the big Reindeer sheet they were given!

AFTER that, they followed Santa’s snowy footsteps along a path, which led them to a closed entrance, with a curtain, gate & red velvet rope. You couldn’t see inside, but outside was a sign that read, 

‘The North Pole!!’

Even I was excited by this point!!! Haha. 

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Oh GOSH!!! It was just AMAZING! I was mesmerised and sold on the magic of it all. I mean the kids and I LOVE that it’s a ‘walk through’ Grotto, where you’ll experience things along the way, before you get to Santa! You don’t just queue up, have a bunch of elves try to entertain you for a bit, whilst you look at tinsel and go sit on his lap for a couple seconds….a toy. Haha. 

As soon as they entered the North Pole, ‘Princess Anna’ told them (whilst they’re sat in a cosy Christmasy workshop) that they could sit down and write Santa a letter. They could also post it…there was a giant post box there…and Santa may even reply!!!!

Once they did that, they slowly opened an iron gate that led them further into their walk towards Santa’s actual Grotto! 

It was just so beautiful. It was filled with nature and mysterious smokey lakes, by fairy lit blossom trees, bridges, reindeers, polar bears, a Christmas forest, a mini castle…Just so many interactive Christmas scenes! The kids stopped to look at everything…Junior nearly filled up and cried because he couldn’t believe how wonderful it was & Ruby looked like she was going to quite possibly EXPLODE with excitement!

But when they had successfully followed the path and got to the next curtain…they both paused, said they were nervous. They looked nervous! Haha. 

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Me: ‘What’s the matter?’

Ruby: ‘I’m really nervous to meet Santa! I hope we’re on the good list. Do you think we are Mum? Cos I’ve been a bit cheeky?’

She looked up at me, with doughy eyes, filled with hope and nerves. 

And in that moment I COULD’VE cried because how they felt was so real. It was so sweet. The Grotto magic had ALREADY swept them away and they hadn’t even been in to see Santa yet! That experience alone is beautiful! There was nothing artificial about it. It was raw. It meant everything to them. 

Then Anna peered out of the curtain again…

Princess Anna: ‘Ssshhhh…You can come in and see Santa now.’

…and after a big deep breathe, they held their little heads high and walked in…

It was just so mesmerising. I couldn’t even speak. I kept whispering because everything around me felt so delicate and magical. I hid in a quiet corner and watched..I let them have their moment with Santa. 

Santa at the Garden Centre Grotto is just so wonderful, because he’s not the crazy, fake, ‘high clicking heels ‘in the air, over jolly sort. He’s a calm, kind and listening sort. 

He told them a magical story. They were quiet and listened. He knew their names. What they’d been up too this year! Everything! They were amazed!!! I loved that their Santa time lasted for a really long while. He really took his time to talk to them about Christmas, family & kindness. He really respected their wishes and beliefs. 

(I mean usually at Grottos, Santa’s asks one question, Santa’s not that bothered, a picture is taken, you get a rubbish gift and your booted out for the next kid!! Haha.) 

Not here! Every little piece of detail is taken into account. 

Plus, the gifts they received from Santa that day were AMAZING. I’m not kidding!!! They were of super high quality!! Junior opened up a big interactive ‘makes noises too’ Monster Truck and a Build Your own Racing Car!! Ruby recieved a giant jigsaw that she could colour, once completed and a big ‘Make Your Own Unicorn’ String Art set! The gifts were actually fantastic! They were gifts that you would actually GIFT to someone’s child. 

(And i day that because two years ago, we once went to a grotto, in a popular shopping centre and Junior got a tiny, car…it was the size of a ‘Hot wheels’ one, but plastic and looked liked it may have cost 25p? Haha. Ruby once recieved a bag of sweets? They were in there for 3 minutes tops. We didn’t BUY the picture. It wasn’t included in the price…and we paid about £20 something per child.)

Nuts!!

So, if you visit a Grotto, this is your one to go to! The experience is phenomenal! It’s classy. There’s a raw family warmth to it. It feels exciting! The gifts are great. The time spend with your children is not only of the finest quality, but it’s just magical. There are games for them to play. They’re occupied, inspiring and active. There are Disney characters! Oh! And when they left the Grotto, with their gifts, & photos, they were greeted by a giant dancing Minion…who they followed around for a bloody good hour, I reckon? Lol. 

We made a family brunch day out, as there’s a coffee shop/restaurant there. merriment got the better of me. We could grabbed coffee, lunch, magic keys and all sorts as they sat down to open their gifts! 

Even when Simon came around afterwards, to see how everything was going, he was brimming with smiles because Ru & Ju had, had such a wonderful time! Isn’t that lovely!!! 

Then Jenna showed up later and I just looked at her with absolute amazement because any human who can MAKE an experience as phenomenal as that… with their bare hands…is just remarkable. 

We loved it and you should too! 

Don’t forget to make memories. It was the happiest Sunday afternoon! I was so grateful to have had that moment to treasure ever! 

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