Traditions…tis the season, right? Even if you are a non-traditionalist in every way, you can’t help but feel all the holiday customs that drive the chill away from our spirits this time of year. There are lights, decorations, food and drink, songs, sayings, greetings, and general feelings that envelop the holiday season, whether your holiday is Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or just ringing in the New Year. Each one has its own traditional theme.
Having married into a profession such as firefighting, you should know that traditions are not only a way of life, but a rite of passage too. Firefighting is a life, not just a career. Along with this life comes a full culture, complete with its own set of traditions, decorations, and even colorful expressions too.
One of my favorite traditions combines these two things: holidays and firefighting. Every year since moving here, my husband has joined forces with the other firefighters on his department to, “Help Santa out,” as they tell our girls. You see…Santa is a very busy man, especially this time of year. He wants to be able to travel around and see all the children in the world, but he knows there’s no way he can possibly manage this. Instead, he asks some of the most amazing guys in the world help him out: our firefighters!
Every December, our firefighters gather together to drive Santa up and down all the streets in our fire district. They group up so that there are always two engines and an administrative vehicle that pulls a lighted and decorated trailer behind it. Santa rides in the trailer and stops to talk with and give a gift to every child he sees.
Santa riding with firefighters is quite the sight and it’s a huge deal here! Forget taking the kids to the mall; we don’t even have a mall here. And it’s all well and good that Santa will take pictures with pets at the pet supply store, but who cares? The most thrilling sign of the holidays here is the good old Federal Q siren crawling slowly through the neighborhood and the flashing lights of the fire engines, signaling their approach with Santa in tow. Children spill out of houses everywhere and line the streets. Parents stomp the cold away as they huddle with their cameras, waiting to catch a snapshot of their little ones with Santa and the firefighters.
To be honest with you, not all the firefighters are truly excited about playing Santa. Some of them don’t much like dressing up and heading out in the cold each December. But in this case, it’s truly not the firefighters who matter. They can get huffy and exasperated if they want to. They can posture and strut, but in the end, their efforts will make a special memory and an unforgettable night for some local children this holiday season.
So you ask, “Is it really that uber-special that Santa comes around on a fire engine?” Well yes, to some of these children it is the biggest deal ever! It’s crazy to think about because life is good for us. We don’t always have the income we want or the spare time we want, but we are very, very lucky people. We have a house that is full of love and joy. Christmas traditions fill every niche of our December days and nights. We have a kitchen stuffed with healthy food and scrumptious smells. We have books to read, stories to tell, games to play, memories to cherish, and loved ones to spend all of our time with. But not all of the kids in our fire district have these things. Some of the kids have none of these things. For many of the houses my firefighter has been in things like beds, privacy, clean clothes and a warm meal are luxuries, not the accepted norm. These children are the ones who matter when it comes time for the firefighters to dress up as Santa and drive around each December.
When a fire engine pulls up to a house and a child with a wide-open grin and colossal eyes screams, “SSSSantaaaaaaa!!!!!” and does a mad dash to the sleigh, you know that dressing up in the suit and driving around in the cold is completely worth it. Some of these kids will not receive any more gifts than the Fire Safety card and three rolls of Smarties candies that fire engine Santa brings them.
These kids aren’t sure why Santa doesn’t come to visit them in their homes on Christmas Eve. They wonder why Santa never sneaks in and leaves presents like he does for other kids. Some of them even question why Mommy gets new stuff but Santa doesn’t bring them something special. But with this one treat, this one outreach in our community, the firefighters can guarantee to bring at least one present and one moment of joy to all.
And with delighted children behind them and a warm firehouse up ahead, they can say to the neighborhood, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
Santa is so awesome, he even gets thank-you letters from the children who love seeing him with the firefighters year after year.
And this year, Santa even made a special trip to visit one of their regular callers: an elderly woman who has called them every week for at least 7 years. Her health is poor and her spirits are sagging, but this made Christmas special for her.
I just LOVE SANTA for soooooo many reasons!!!