Have you ever visited Father Christmas in Lapland?
13 December 2016 15:53
If so, it is very likely you have met our lovely blind veteran Ken.
You see, several years ago Ken came across an advert in a performing arts magazine. A Finish grotto were looking for an actor to play Father Christmas. Ken assumed the grotto would simply be of a ‘Finish style’ and as the advert stated the actor was only needed for a fortnight he jumped at the opportunity.
A couple of weeks later, and after an audition, Ken was offered the role. He was delighted but then there came a huge shock…
The grotto was not a local, ‘Finish style’ grotto. The grotto was in fact based in Lapland, Finland.
Still in shock Ken received his flight tickets and a couple of days later boarded the plane to Finland. He was shown his new home for the next fortnight and began work as Father Christmas straight away.
Ken says: “I thoroughly enjoyed working out in Lapland as Father Christmas. I had dressed as Father Christmas several times back in the UK so had plenty of practice. I even had my own outfit and beard which I brought over to Finland with me.
“I would spend most of the day in the grotto, and could see almost 160 children in one day. I was very patient with each child, I would ask for their name and where they had travelled from. I met people from all over the world, it was incredible.”
Ken enjoyed his fortnight in Lapland so much he decided to return the following year but this time for seven weeks. Ken returned to Lapland every year for the next seven years until his wife sadly passed away in 2000.
It was going to be Ken’s first Christmas without playing Father Christmas until he received a phone call out of the blue. Ken says: “I had a phone call one day from a father who had brought his family to Lapland for many years. He had discovered that I would not be there that year.
“He was very sad that he wouldn’t be seeing me that year and was worried his young children would realise that the new Father Christmas was a different person. Then he said to me; ‘Ken, how do you feel about visiting us here in New York?’
“Of course I said yes and later flew out to a suburb outside of New York City. It was fantastic.”
We discovered Ken’s incredible story after inviting him to our Remembrance commemorations. Ken is a Second World War veteran, who joined the Army in 1943 just 18 years old. Alongside his division, Ken landed in Normandy three days after D-Day; the largest seaborne invasion in history. The invasion finally freed France from Nazi control and helped the Allies to victory in North-West Europe.
Last year Ken was awarded the highest military honour; the Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur, for his part in the liberation of France.