Who’s getting a lump of coal for Christmas?

I can guess who will not be doing well this Christmas holiday. You know who you are. For those of you who aren’t the people at “Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre”, let me tell you a tale. Imagine St. Nick and a respected Anglican priest appearing at a center where children are detained, ready to pass out gifts that had been collected by London area churches. You can picture the scene, right? Scores of happy children, delighted by the cheery presence of St. Nick, opening their gifts with glee. You would be wrong.

Here’s what happened instead.

But when the Anglican church’s leading expert on Father Christmas, dressed as St Nicholas himself, arrived with one of Britain’s most distinguished clerics to distribute presents to children held at the Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire, things took a turn straight out of Dickens.

An unedifying standoff developed that saw the security personnel who guard the perimeter fence prevent St Nicholas, the patron saint of children and the imprisoned, from delivering £300 worth of presents donated by congregations of several London churches.

In a red robe and long white beard, clutching a bishop’s mitre and crook, St Nick – in real life, the Rev Canon James Rosenthal, a world authority on St Nicholas of Myra, the inspiration for Father Christmas – gently protested that he was not a security threat, but to no avail.

Well, there are lots of things one might say here. Maybe the security staff needed more advance notice. Maybe they should have been willing to deviate from the normal plans a bit. And perhaps they should pick up their phone, call the good Anglicans who tried to bring some cheer, and reschedule things. Because if they don’t, I’d imagine Santa will not look kindly on their Christmas lists. There is no way they’ll be making it onto the “nice” list.

By the way, the particular Saint Nick who got turned away has good connections. Below, please find a photo of him with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

If you’d like to learn more about the work of the St. Nicholas Center, please visit their amazing website.

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  1. December 15, 2009

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