A BIG-HEARTED pensioner has grown out his beard so that he could play Santa to children in Crumlin.
While plenty of local people have been showing off a wild look thanks to the repeated closure of barbers and stylists, John McAree decided to embrace the trend and spent lockdown developing authentic Father Christmas-style snowy facial hair.
He initially wanted to provide a treat for his own six granddaughters, but as he ended up looking so much like Santa, he set out to spread the festive spirit to other children.
His daughter Maria McAree said she was very proud of her dad and that he had brightened up the day for many families as he sat outside Crumlin Flowers & Coffee on Main Street last week.
Maria said: “Dad started growing his beard at the start of lockdown so that he could dress up as Santa for his granddaughters and give them a really special Christmas.
“Then, as he really looked the part, he thought he would go out and spread a bit of joy to other children who might not have had the chance to go out and see Santa.
“We went out one day and bought hundreds of selection boxes and spent Saturday in Crumlin meeting with children and handing out presents, all socially distanced of course.”
“We are so proud of him for doing it and you could see how happy all of the children were to meet Santa.”
John, from Ballymurphy, said he was happy to spread a bit of joy too many youngsters during a much-changed and unsettling Christmas period.
“I started growing my beard as a bit of a laugh at the start of lockdown and I realised that I could use it to do something really nice for my granddaughters at Christmas.” he said.
“After that, I thought about how Christmas won't be the same this year for a lot of children, who maybe have not been able to go out and see Santa themselves, so I went up to Crumlin for the afternoon and handed out selection boxes.
“It was brilliant hearing what all the children want for Christmas and how they have been being good for Santa.
“Then when I got home I went about the houses in my street, wrapping on doors and bringing Santa to all of the children there.”