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Since When Did You Have to Pay to See Santa Claus?

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Ok, so it was the Eighties.
Mum would take me down to Debenhams in Folkestone, Kent, hopping and skipping over to Santa to stick my chubby little hands in his sack to select one of his amazing goodies.
Which was probably a balloon and some Care Bears stickers. But that didn't matter to a 5-year-old, it was all about the buzz.
So what better way to get into the spirit for my baby's first Christmas than to sit on Santa's knee?
You'd think.
"That'll be £11.99 please."
Excuse me.
"£11.99 to see Santa, and £15.99 if you want a picture."
Santa better be serving up some champagne and canapés for that price.
Now, I don't mean to sound like Scrooge, but charging to see Father Christmas is a joke. Whatever happened to the spirit of giving, that warm feeling you get from a hug from the big man himself? Robbed in seconds, when I was told a squeeze from the famous white haired bloke, the man of my childhood dreams, would come with a price tag. Quite a steep one at that. Perhaps they should have just left a charity box out for donations, I mean a reindeer has got to eat!
After weighing up my options, I decided my little one would probably enjoy tearing off the wrapping paper from his toys rather than being thrusted into the arms of a stranger staring awkwardly at him while he tries to wriggle away.
So after checking my conscience, which was totally clear, well perhaps 99% clear, I joined the legions of mums quickly propping up their tots against the Santa's grotto backdrop to grab a cheeky snap of our babies on our phones. This left Santa's elves scratching their heads as to what else they could do to get shoppers to fork out that ridiculous entrance fee at a Manchester shopping centre.
While the Santa experience was a massive turkey, it was interesting to see which Christmas presents have been a hit with shoppers this year.
No 1, stocking filler - has to be Joey Essex' calendar.
The TOWIE totty has outdone himself with this 'reem' gift - which is even outselling arch-rival Mark Wright's calendar 5:1.
No 2, for the inner Lewis Hamilton's in us, Forza Horizon is taking the gaming world by storm on Xbox 360.
The driving game is kind of a welcome relief from the Call of Duty craze turning men into zombies (you hear me ladies?)
No 3, surprisingly, party lovers are ditching the watered down stuff and splashing out on Armand de Brignac luxury champagne to see in the New Year. The pink bottles are even a favourite of pop star Rihanna, who served it up to passengers on her jet for her 777 tour.
No 4, blokes have gone wild for the Panache lingerie collection, especially push up bras to transform their ladies into sexy Santas.
No 5, Mothercare is taking to the catwalk with its Baby K and Jools Oliver ranges including super cute white snowsuits, reindeer slippers, bibs and Santa bodysuits, perfect for a baby's first Christmas. Wonder if we'll see Harper Beckham modelling them in 2013?

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