A man who has dressed up as Santa Claus every Christmas for the past 60 years has no plans to stop anytime soon.
Ray Hulse, 78, has handed out thousands of gifts to delighted youngsters since donning the celebratory red and white suit as a stand-in in 1962, when he was just 18.
The grandpa hasn’t missed a single year and even made sure to appear socially distanced during the pandemic.
Ray visits schools, supermarkets and village halls, raising over £55,000 for charities in the process.
Now the Shropshire father-of-three is celebrating reaching his incredible 60th birthday and has vowed to keep going for as long as possible.
He said, “There aren’t many people who can say they’ve been doing anything for 60 years.
‘I’m actually the longest-serving Santa Claus in Britain, and maybe the world. There can’t be many who have been doing it as long as I have.
“It started when I was asked to throw a kid’s party when I was 18. Once I saw the kids shine, I thought: I’m going to continue.
“I did it on horseback, in my car, I raised money for charities and hospices.”
“Whenever I go out and I do, I’m not me, I’m Santa. I go straight into character and stay in character.”
Ray explained that the role means so much to him because he “didn’t have the best life growing up.”
He said: ‘I had to hand in my wages after working in the mines. This is why I’m doing this – to give kids something I didn’t have.
“The reward I get is the expression on the children’s faces and the sparkle in their eyes.
“As long as I am able, I will continue. I’m not going to slow down, I’m going to keep going and doing what I can for other people.
“I try to do what I can, when I can, even if my heart is a little unreliable.”
Ray has always made his own costumes, donning antique glasses and white gloves to complete the look.
He said, “All I’m thinking about is how to make that sparkle and that bit of magic even better and after 60 years of doing this I’d like to think I’m getting something right now.”
For the past 30 years, Ray has raised money for Hope House Children’s Hospices, after losing his son Nicholas in 2012.
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