OTTAWA — Al Page has been bringing the spirit of Christmas to children in Ottawa for decades.
He has had a place of honour at the Billings Bridge Shopping Mall for 31 years, spreading joy to hundreds of thousands of children in that time.
“It’s the total joy of the whole thing. When you look into a child’s eye, and it’s total belief, you know you have made their Christmas good for at least one more year,” Page said. “Christmas is all about family, love, and the joy of getting together and seeing family that you have not seen in months on end.”
The COVID-19 pandemic meant that Page, after donning his custom-made red suit and boots, would be separated from the children he cares so deeply about by a Plexiglas barrier and run the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 by spending 10 hours a day in the busy mall.
So, this year, Page decided it was time to park the sleigh and retire.
“The kids don’t have the chance to interact with you, it just didn’t seem to be worth the while to do that,” Page said. “Rather than take a chance I said no, step down, step away, and my wife said, ‘If you decide you want to do Santa again this year in the mall I’m moving out for 6 weeks.’”
Page is no ordinary mall Santa. He has spent years perfecting everything from the angle of his hat down to his custom-made boots. He has spent thousands of dollars to make sure he does not disappoint the children each Christmas.
He was inspired to bring joy to children at this time of year by his mother and her time with the Montreal Santa Claus Parade.
Recognizing his talent, he was asked in 1994 to drive the sleigh in the 25th edition of the Help Santa Toy Parade in Ottawa.
According to Page, “First you believe in Santa, then you don’t believe in Santa, then you are Santa.”
Page has even stepped in when former Prime Minister Chrétien was looking for the real Santa Claus.
“It started with the prime minister’s granddaughter saying, “What good is it having the prime minister as my grandfather if you can’t get the real Santa to come to the house?’” Page said. “Next year, Christmas is here and Santa showed up on Christmas Eve at 24 Sussex.”
Now that he is retired, Page says what he will miss most is watching the joy in the eyes of the children and parents he meets; however, he’s not quite done. On Christmas Eve at 7 p.m. you can watch him read the “Twas the Night Before Christmas” on his Facebook Page.
Page sums up his thoughts on his decades being Santa by saying, “Where is Santa? He’s seen in the smile the whole world is wearing. He’s found where there’s friendship loving and caring. He’s felt in the warm handshakes as people are meeting. He’s heard in the cheer of a Christmastime greeting, and his spirit is behind every gift you receive. He’s everywhere, always, to those who believe.”
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