A real-life Santa decked out his home in 3,000 glittering Christmas lights to fulfill his wife’s dying wish – and sends letters to all the children who write to him.
David Brown, 63, was widowed in August when his wife Ann died days before her 69th birthday.
But before her death, Ann asked her husband to pull out all the stops for a tradition which began 11 years earlier, when she first became ill.
To please his wife when she first became bedridden with COPD, a progressive lung disease, Brown decorated their home in Bonnyrigg, Edinburgh, with Christmas lights.
And the ex-miner even left the windows open so Anne could hear the children laughing, as he donned on a Santa Claus costume – every day for the month of December.
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In tribute to her, Brown challenged himself to make this year’s display – which will be the last at the family home – even more spectacular.
He built a Cinderella-style carriage from scratch, complete with six rocking horses, which will be named by children living nearby.
And he stepped up the Christmas lights by another 1,400 on top of the 1,600 which were lit up last year.
“I started putting them up in September, it takes eight-and-a-half weeks,” he said. “I had to build a frame first – it’s quite an enterprise.”
The grandfather-of-eight delighted in writing Santa letters to his own children decades ago.
And this year he has set up a post-box for schoolchildren living nearby to post their requests, and sometimes confessions, ahead of December 25.
From December 1 until Christmas Eve, Brown will dress up from 3:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. every day, and hands out bags of sweets, which cost him £1,500 in total.
“I started 11 years ago when my wife was not well,” he said. “It was to keep her amused when she was looking out the window, and it got bigger and bigger. She died in August and I promised her I would do them again this year. It’s a tribute to my wife.”
The couple was married for 31 years, and the elaborate display has raised funds every year for a charity which helped Ann, Marie Curie.
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Brown hopes to raise £6,000 from donations this year which would bring his fundraising total to £30,000.
Last year he received 72 letters in the post, from children listing what gifts they would like to receive – including one which included 104 items.
“They all get a reply, they get it the same week,” he said. “I’ve got a rapport with the bairns – the schoolkids love it. Every child gets a bag of sweets. My fuel bill is between £8 and a fiver on petrol for six generators – it does add up.”
This year, he has received three letters addressed to Santa – including one 3-year-old boy requesting a puppy, robots and toy cars.
And another one from a little girl asking for Barbie clothes.
Brown speaks to the children’s parents before writing a response, which is then mailed in the post.
One naughty child confessed last year that he had tipped his breakfast cereal over his sister’s head.
“I have got to be really tactful,” Brown said.
Next year the lights will be handed over to the community to take on the astonishing display.
“It is the end of an era. It will be missed here,” he said. “I would like to think my wife would be really proud.”