Santa at your door: Annual Christmas tradition in Leyden brings joy to residents

Charlotte and Mason Facey with Santa.

Charlotte and Mason Facey with Santa. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Gary and Vanessa Russell excited to see Santa.

Gary and Vanessa Russell excited to see Santa. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Santa at Our Family Farms in Leyden.

Santa at Our Family Farms in Leyden. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Santa John Higgins and Head Elf Karin Parks.

Santa John Higgins and Head Elf Karin Parks. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Barton family, left to right, Carey, Elwin, Marylou, Tanya and Samantha, pictured with Santa.

The Barton family, left to right, Carey, Elwin, Marylou, Tanya and Samantha, pictured with Santa. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Pendelton family, from left to right, Lucas, Megan and Sophia, pictured with Santa.

The Pendelton family, from left to right, Lucas, Megan and Sophia, pictured with Santa. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 12-16-2023 7:01 AM

The Leyden Recreation Department decks the streets with boughs of holly for the Christmas program it hosts annually, partnering with the Leyden Firefighters Association and the library for some seasonal fun.

Since the beginning of the pandemic these three organizations have come together to deliver Santa visits directly to children’s homes.

“It is totally unconventional,” said Karin Parks, Robertson Memorial Library director and Recreation Commission member.

Created during the pandemic to spread joy in town when the community stayed home in isolation, families signed up in a Google Form to have Santa visit their homes coming on a fire truck to deliver small presents to children.

Town residents liked it so much that they kept organizing the event every year. This year, nine homes received the jolly visitor, played by Recreation Commission Chair John Higgins, in their driveway. Santa came with small teddy bears and candy canes, along with a holiday smile.

“We were trying to give smiles when things were down,” Parks said. “Since 2020 it has become our thing.”

Along with Santa, his head elf helper, played by Parks, and driver Carey Barton, assistant fire chief, visit as well.

While children were not at the Barton family home, Samantha Barton reported that she signed up to bring seasonal joy to her sister who has Down syndrome and her mother who has advanced dementia.

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“We all enjoy listening to the music on the fire truck as it comes down the road,” she said. This visit had an extra special treat with her brother being the truck driver this year.

Parks said the fire truck speaker is used to play Christmas music as the entourage travels around town. This year they also stopped at the craft fair at Town Hall put on by the Leyden United Methodist Church to give out candy canes and spread joy.

Being in such a small town, Parks said the library is the only thing in town, so it gets used for a lot more than just books. Residents often stop by what Parks described as a “teeny tiny library” to socialize or gossip.

She said because of the low population she gets to wear many hats, including being the party planner as well as the library director.

Many love the special activities small towns get to put on for the residents, such as individual visits from Santa. Parks said another event children in town love is the annual camp-out the Recreation Commission and library host together. This town-sponsored event gets families to come with tents and tell ghost stories while camping out all night.

“It is nice to have that small community feel with Santa coming house to house,” Barton said. “This small little piece of community is the reason my children and I moved back to Leyden. You don’t find this everywhere.”

Also coming up next summer is the fun run hosted by the same organizations. This year there will be .5K, 5K and 50K races to compete in.

“I am a total Grinch until I get in that fire truck and then it is so much fun,” Parks said.

Reach Bella Levavi
at 413-930-4579 or
blevavi@recorder.com.