A local Christmas tradition

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Rye has lots of traditions but one of the loveliest at Christmas is the Fire Service’s delivery of Christmas presents on Christmas morning. Many of those who are delivering the gifts today remember back to their own childhood and the memories of Father Christmas actually arriving with their presents.

In the 70s, Rye Fire Station took on this task from the Rye Bonfire Boys; at the height of its popularity there were five Father Christmases and this year there were three.

Shane Rodgers, fire-fighter, told me that it was a family affair for him. “On Christmas Eve, my wife Charmaine and two boys Liam and Charlie spend the day at the fire station taking in the parcels and labelling them for delivery. We have a raffle on that day too, which helps to raise more funds for charity. It is a tradition now for us each year.

“I can remember as a kid just how exciting it was, the excitement was tremendous: to have our presents delivered by Santa on Christmas morning. I have been delivering the presents for twenty-five years and will be carrying on in the future. It’s in my DNA. It is a pleasure to pay things forward for a change.”

One of the special rounds is up Mermaid Street where The Mermaid and Jeake’s House get involved and have Father Christmas deliver presents to their guests. This round used to be done by Paul Williams who gave so much time and effort to this enterprise and was known as the spirit of Christmas by many. Now the round is carried out by Marc Bourn who has been doing it for over ten years. Marc said, “I worked alongside Shane in the beginning, he is a true character and brilliant for the rôle of Father Christmas. I enjoy doing the Mermaid Street round as you generally have a good audience from the guests enjoying their breakfasts. I love to give the adults big cuddles and let them feel the spirit of Christmas. I do my round with Peter Ashbee and Steve Nash. Peter drives and Steve is my assistant elf.”

There are too many people to thank but a couple of people must be mentioned. Keith Williams, Paul’s brother, lends his van for the deliveries and so too does John Fairhall. Without their generosity it just could not happen.

This is the first year that the Santa delivery has taken place since Covid and the uptake has dwindled a little. One reason for this might be the influx of new people into Rye who do not know about this amazing enterprise. So please spread the word so that come December the numbers will be up again and more money can be raised for charity.

Shane added, “Over the years, we have delivered all kind of presents such as built bicycles, engagement rings, wrapped ironing boards, to all ages of people.

“We have even encountered Father Christmas having a pager go off indicating fire call, to which Father Christmas had to think quickly on his feet to make a dash up the path not spoiling the magic for the gift receiver.”

Image Credits: Kt bruce , Stephen Nash , Jess Di Cesare .

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