“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, and at the Gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers it is a wonderful Advent season, as we await the annual visit from old St. Nick on Christmas Eve. Only this year, Santa came early as he thought to schedule a mini visit to the gallery. At noon on Saturday, December 7, “out jumped good ‘ol Santa Claus” to a group of excited children. Many of them dressed in their pajamas, anxiously waited to have lunch with Father Christmas himself.
The gallery welcomed him with a choir of children caroling to celebrate his first visit to the heritage museum focused on sharing the history of Portuguese immigration to Canada. The choir was led by two local teachers, of Luso and Chinese origin, who volunteered to share their gift of music. The party truly reflected our multicultural city as various cultural groups gathered to welcome the man of the hour, Santa Claus. One Oakwood Village family brought along with them their visiting grandparents from Dubai. It was a first for some of the guests as it was their first time meeting Santa. There were some tears, but all would agree that is was a magical time.
The gallery pulled out all the stops by providing a pizza lunch, a toddler play area, and other festive activities for the diverse group of children and their families. As the children sat eating lunch, Santa and the curator led a read-a-loud about one of his many Christmas Eve trips to Toronto. The story highlighted many Portuguese-Canadian Toronto landmarks, such as Little Portugal and St. Mary’s Church in Portugal Square, making it extremely relatable to all who listened ever so attentively.
Santa assured the children that to date, they are all on his nice list and if they keep it up, they will continue on it. The children were mesmerized as Santa called them each by name. He gifted them with personalized ornaments that were produced by a local business, Ashleen Designs, who is contracted by the North Pole’s Toy Factory. Although Santa loves pizza, he is hoping to come back next year to another story time with Santa with delicious Portuguese malassadas, rabanadas and milk.
No Santa visit is complete without a photo opportunity with the jolly guy, taken by the gallery’s photographer. Santa got to hear what the children wanted for Christmas, but the children guarded their Christmas list, much like a birthday wish, to ensure it will come true Christmas morning. Aside from the personalized ornaments, Santa delivered a special gift to the gallery. He and Mrs. Claus sent the gallery a note read by 10 year-old Noah Ferreira. The note announced that the curator’s Christmas wish for a Mini Explorers Program will come to the gallery in 2020. The group will meet once a month and explore an artifact from the museum’s extensive collection. The children will then create an art piece to bring home so they can bring their experience to others.
The magical day ended with a gingerbread cookie decorating activity in the Gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers’ José Mario Coelho Library. At the front entrance of the museum, a glitter tattoo station was set up to temporarily mark the celebration that will be forever etched in their hearts. Santa wished them all a good day and night and gave them the same advice Mrs. Claus and the Tooth Fairy give him all the time: “Be sure to brush your teeth”. The children were so busy and so engaged with cookie decorating that they missed the click, click, click, from up on the gallery’s rooftop, as Santa flew back on his magical sleigh with his reindeer.