This man has been bringing Christmas joy as Santa Claus for 60 years
“The reason I do Santa is because I didn’t have the best life growing up."
By Adam Dutton via SWNS
Britain's longest serving Santa Claus is celebrating his 60th year of bringing the magic of Christmas to children - and has no plans to hang up his sack just yet.
Ray Hulse, 78, has handed out thousands of gifts to delighted youngsters since donning the festive red and white suit as a stand-in back in 1962 when he was 18.
The grandfather-of-one has never missed a single year dressing up as jolly St. Nick – even managing to carry on through the pandemic with socially distanced appearances.
He spends the festive season visiting schools, supermarkets and village halls and has raised well in excess of $67,000 during his six decades as Father Christmas.
Now, he's celebrating reaching his incredible 60 year milestone and has vowed to carry on for as long as he can.
He believes he is not only the longest serving Santa Claus in Britain, but also in the world.
Ray created his first grotto in a Ford garage and now has a specially-made Santa suit along with vintage glasses and gloves and a custom sleigh fitted with 300 LED lights.
Dad-of-three Ray, of Bridgnorth, Shrops., said: “I’ve been doing it every year, even when the pandemic was on.
“I’ve never once missed a year. There isn’t many people that can say they’ve done something for 60 years.
“I am actually the longest serving Santa in Great Britain, and quite possibly the world. There can’t be many doing it for as long as I have.
"People have been doing research and say they can find no record of anyone doing it longer than me in the world.
“It started when I was asked to do a kid's party at 18, I said I was far too young but eventually I said yeah. Once I saw the sparkle with the kids, I thought I’d carry it on.
“When I first started I did it on Christmas Day. I've done it on horseback, in my car, I've raised money for charities and hospices.
“Whenever I go out and I'm doing it, I'm not me, I’m Santa Claus. I go straight into character and stay in character.”
Ray’s 60 year long obsession with Santa is down to his troubled upbringing and wanting to make sure children experience Christmas unlike his own childhood.
Ray added: “The reason I do Santa is because I didn’t have the best life growing up.
"There were no photographs of me when we were younger and I had to give my wages over after working down the mines.
“This is why I do this, to give children something I didn’t have.
“Last year I did a school in this beautiful grotto and this girl came in and opened her arms and ran towards me.
"If I can bring so much joy to kids like to that little girl, this is why I do it.
“The reward I get is to see the expressions on the kids’ faces and the sparkle in their eyes."
Ray, who is supported by his wife Kathleen, 80, says he’s always loved Christmas and will keep going for as long as his body lets him.
He added: “As long as I’m capable I shall carry on going. I have no plans to slow down, I'll keep on going and do what I can for other people.
“I try and do what I can, when I can even though my heart is a little dodgy.”
Ray has always made his own costumes, donning antique specs and white gloves to complete the look and has recently attached seven diamonds to his new boots.
He added: “No other Father Christmas has diamonds on their boots. I was on holiday outside the caravan stitching all seven diamonds on these boots.
"It creates a lovely rainbow look for the children.
“I found the beard ages ago, and it pushed me to design my own costume and I had it specially made.
“I have a stocking which all lights up and I put 5p lollies in it. I have a ring of lights that I’ve made that lets parents get the most magical pictures.
“When I’m driving, I have a registration plate on my roof which says Santa 1. I scrounged a trailer and have these sacks with soft toys for the children.
“I get the kids in and the dads, and ask them if they had a lit fire last year. If they say yes I tell daddy off for burning my bum.
“Everything I think of, is how to make that sparkle and bit of magic even better and after 60 years of doing this I'd like to think I'm getting something right by now."
For the past 30 years, Ray has been raising funds for Hope House Children's Hospices, following the loss of his son Nicholas in 2012.
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