For generations, having your picture taken with Santa has been a much-anticipated annual event. I remember as a child standing shyly in line and concentrating, eyes squinched shut, on exactly what I would say when my turn arrived – it seemed crucial to get it just right. Even in today’s fast-moving, digitally-driven world, a glimpse of Santa still propels little ones into awed, reverent silence.
Sunday morning at the Sun Valley Lodge, the scene could have just as easily been from 1952 as 2012 as Santa made his appearance at breakfast in the Lodge Dining Room. Gorgeous little girls in holiday plaid with their hair meticulously combed sat on one of Santa’s generous knees, politely taking turns whispering their wishes to him and smiling for the camera. Two little boys in matching turtlenecks and perfectly pressed pants were next. Parents and grandparents, whose smiles stretched as wide as the children’s, surrounded Santa for a keepsake photo with the festive Lodge Dining Room as the backdrop.
Wishes duly noted, families (and couples) then enjoyed a bountiful buffet breakfast filled with options to please every palate. After telling Santa what they would most like to see under the tree, my children made a beeline to the made-to-order omelettes and loaded their plates with fresh fruit, French toast, breakfast meats, yogurt and pastries. Our servers treated us like the most important people in the room. Each child’s hot chocolate arrived in a personal silver pot with fresh whipped cream poking out the top. Fresh squeezed orange juice poured in crystal stemware made even my youngest feel very grown up. Santa smiled and ho, ho, ho’ed. The Christmas lights twinkled. Gigantic metallic ornaments festooned the ceiling. The food smelled and tasted delicious.
Breakfast with Santa in Sun Valley provides the antithesis of what Santa pictures have become. Just before we left the East Coast, I packed up my three little ones for a trip to the local mall to visit the elaborately advertised “North Pole.” There, we waited in lines that serpentined through the mall’s furthest hallways. By the time we reached Mrs. Claus (the point of entry), my children were cranky, hungry and in a very humbug kind of mood. My mood was humbug, too, as we exited past the Santa gift kiosk and photo gallery (20 different packages at exorbitant price points).
While Santa photos can be sweet, touching and even downright funny (I, like everyone, have a few where my precious child is simply wailing and clawing at Santa to be PUT DOWN!), in aggregate, they tell a story. I will add this year’s photo to (gulp) 13 years of memories, this time, standing next to my daughters who are now nearly as tall as I. I will remember the laughter and conversation generated by gathering around the table on a sunny Sun Valley Sunday morning to share a wonderful meal and the joy of the season.
Breakfast with Santa is a part of Sun Valley’s Winter Wonderland celebration and will be offered Saturday and Sunday December 15th and 16th and 22nd and 23rd. Reservations are recommended and may be made by phoning 208.622.2800. The buffet is served from 8 until 10:30 a.m., leaving lots of time for some ski runs, sledding or holiday shopping!
It really isn’t Christmas without a visit to Santa. I’ll take this one, away from the madding crowd and corporate North Pole, any day.