A good friend of mine, Brendo, donates his time each December to spread Christmas cheer and glad tidings across the region. He bolts an armchair and two dining room chairs to the tray of a ute, dons his Santa suit, and is driven around the suburbs of Canberra by ‘Rudolph’ giving away lollies in the middle of the hot Australian summer.
My friend has been doing this since 1983 when it started as a bit of a joke with a few mates in their local area – in a hired costume and a pillow case for a Santa sack. Brendo was the obvious choice to play Santa because he didn’t need any padding. In the past, he would dye his beard but now he can go ‘au naturel’.
I was lucky enough to be an elf a few times (and amused myself by calling out ‘Bring out your children!’ while ringing Santa’s bell – hoping that none of the parents realised that I was mimicking a Monty Python scene in ‘The Meaning of Life’).
It was great to see the local kids rush out to greet Santa. Some of them would have waited home for days – not wanting to go out in case they missed him.
Santa’s route has expanded over the years and now includes Queanbeyan across the border (and sometimes even Wollongong on the coast). However, the sleigh can only visit a handful of suburbs each year, with a focus on migrant and lower socio-economic areas.
One night at a party I was telling this story, when another friend, Ray, suddenly interrupted me. He was quite partial to non-tobacco cigarettes* and other substances and couldn’t believe what he was hearing. ‘Are you serious?’ he asked. ‘Santa really did drive down my street on the back of a ute?’ He thought he had been hallucinating!
Vale Brendo: Gone to meet his maker on 17 Feb 2014 – but is his maker ready for him?!
Vale Ray: Gone long before his time
Photo & movie credit: © Pip Marks Dec 2013
* Possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use is decriminalised in the ACT – but not legal.