Sorry, you can’t sit on Santa’s knee anymore

Santa Run.'Santa Run through Bury.''From left;
Santa Run.'Santa Run through Bury.''From left;

Santa will be taking a break from daily appearances at Debenhams this year thanks to child safety rules.

There will be no traditional grotto in the Bury St Edmunds store because the chain is redesigning its grottoes to make them look better while complying with the latest rules and regulations.

Store manager Gail Chandler said: “The company definitely wants to do it, but there are so many rules and regulations around it, it’s making sure the kit is right.

“You have to have 100 per cent visibility round Santa. There has to be a stall beside him for the children.

“Customers have complained their children were not allowed to sit on Santa’s knee, but you can’t do that anymore.”

She said they had problems recruiting Santas because they must be checked by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

But Debenhams do not want to be Grinches so staff who have been CRB checked will become wandering Santas on December weekends, saying ‘hello’ to younger shoppers.

But Santa will be making an appearance in his Abbey Garden’s grotto, with real reindeer, for the Bury Christmas Fayre on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Fayre organiser Sharon Fairweather said: “Our Santa is CRB checked, all the children are accompanied. We always get a huge queue and its very busy down there.”

Moyse’s Hall Museum is building its own grotto for December 15 and 16 when a well CRB-checked Santa will be coming. Because he makes appearances for several organisations he has to have a CRB check for each one.

The museum’s heritage and horology assistant Alex McWhirter, who has stood in for Santa in the past, said: “The thing that’s changed since my childhood is that it’s unacceptable to sit in Father Christmas’s lap or, stricly speaking, to hold hands. Santa is a non-contact sport today.”

Marlow’s and Bury St Edmunds Garden Centre are among the other venues in Bury who plan to have a Santa as usual during the run up to Christmas.