Mother complains about Manchester Santa she claims was smoking

A mother has said her daughter was left traumatized by a ‘Bad Santa’ who was caught smoking in public and slurring his words during a meet and greet with kids.

Charli Lewis, 26, said she felt ‘let down’ by the festive experience at a children’s club in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, which had left little Layla, 6, with ‘a lot of questions’.

Her concerns were first raised when she arrived at the venue and saw the father Christmas impersonator ‘smoking a cigarette’ in full view of children.

Later, when the event’s organiser asked him to return to his ‘grotto’, she said the Santa seemed bewildered and replied that he didn’t know where it was.

Charlie Lewis, 26, brought her six-year-old daughter Layla to see Santa Claus at the Radcliffe Girls and Boys Club

Once Layla finally had managed to meet to the Father Christmas, Ms Lewis said he appeared ‘slumped on the couch’ and had made no effort to be festive.

She said: ‘He was just slumped on the couch. He wasn’t being cheery at all.

‘There was no effort in his voice. Nothing to resemble Santa at all.’

‘I felt I had let her down as a mother.’

Ms Lewis said she took little Layla to see Father Christmas at Radcliffe Girls and Boys Club on Saturday (Nov 27) as a last-minute decision to get into the festive spirit.

She said: ‘It was a last-minute decision. We just took her down to get her into the Christmas spirit, basically.

‘It was shared on Facebook, so I just thought I’d give it a try.

However, Ms Lewis began to notice some red flags as soon as she arrived in the car park of the venue where the meet would take place.

She said: ‘We arrived in the car park, an he was smoking a cigarette in full view with his bird around his neck.

‘I just tried to stall Layla in the car and make it a little bit longer, so she didn’t see.

‘But she did say, “Oh, look there’s Santa.”

‘I don’t know whether she saw the cigarette in his mouth.’

Later, Ms Lewis said that the event’s organiser asked the Father Christmas to ‘go back to his Grotto’, a remark that seemed to leave him confused.

She said: ‘We followed him in after a little bit, and we were just behind him, and the event’s organiser had said, “Go back to your grotto.”

‘He replied he’d forgotten where it was.’

Once inside the grotto, she said that the Santa appeared ‘slumped’ in his chair and wasn’t getting into the festive spirit.

She said: ‘He was just slumped on the couch. He wasn’t being cheery at all.

‘There was no effort in his voice. Nothing to resemble Santa at all.’

Ms Lewis said that Layla was left with a ‘lot of questions’ following the meeting.

She said: ‘She’s quite a nervous child, so she sat there happily and took it, but once we left, she had a lot of questions in the car.

‘She said that she knew that wasn’t the real Santa, stuff like that.

She added: ‘I’ve tried to get Layla to see Santa in the past before, but she’s a bit of an anxious child.

‘She’s always ended up backing out last minute, so this was the first time that I’ve actually manged to take her, and that is the first experience she’s got now.

‘Children don’t get long to believe in Santa, which is why it’s so important for them to have a good experience, but this Santa didn’t act like Santa at all.’

Laura De-Foe, who organised the event, described their Santa as a ‘great and gentle man’.

She said: ‘He would never knowingly make a child uncomfortable, and several other children left feeling very happy and told us we had done a good job and that they would come again.’

In her free time, Ms Lewis works with Radcliffe Litter Pickers, and fellow volunteers have now paid for a trip to Santa’s Grotto at Radcliffe Christmas Markets.

A litter pickers spokesman said: ‘A good Santa keeps the magic of Christmas alive which is so important for the early years of a child.

‘They need to have a good first experience, so we want to help clear Layla’s bad memory.’

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