Growing up in a large Catholic Mexican family in Southern California, we had big traditions. Good Mexican food was not one of them, but my most memorable was each Christmas Eve, the entire extended family – up to 75 at our peak – would gather at my mom’s house, which became my brother’s house. The Santa of the Year (this rotated) would bang on the door promptly at 7:00 P.M. The children would squeal, greet him, get a hello, pat on the head, and then take their places at the spot that would be about a foot from his boots. He was seated in a large chair, and the aunts and uncles brought out seemingly endless bags, pillowcases, and the like of gifts they had brought for each of the children. There were always gifts for the older people, too. EVERYONE got a gift because EVERYONE got an annual photo on Santa’s lap. Children have their Christmas Eves documented from being tiny babies asleep to arched backs wailing as he tried to calm them down, to the snatchers, the eye-rollers, the gleeful, the sassy, and even the flirty. This distribution and photo opp would take almost exactly one hour.
By 8:00 it was time to sing a chorus of Jingle Bells as he waved goodbye to all as the children trailed behind him before diving back into their new loot. This went on for 70 years until COVID. Families continue to grow and get more complicated, move further away, including our own family in Oregon.
That brings me to this community-building multi-pronged marketing idea. This year I was missing another holiday tradition, “Roush Christmas” at my other brother’s home. We started this to avoid the glut of commitments right before Christmas. It’s always the first Saturday in December. We make it every other year. I wanted to recreate and share the magic of Christmas Eve and get my mind off missing Roush Christmas. I decided to host a free Santa photo booth in our garage. Three friends helped me set the stage. My husband rented the portrait lights, flyers were posted on light poles in the neighborhood.