By Benji Bickley | Photo By Kelly Michelle
Christmas is thought to bring the joy of family and is meant for spreading the Christmas spirit and cheer. One man who gives his time, love, and infectious smile to do this in the community is my dad, Whup Bickley. While many others know him as Santa, to me, he is my best friend and the man who symbolizes Christmas cheer.
Whup began giving his time to the Santa role when he retired from Deerfield Plantation in 2014. He has always enjoyed this time of year, as I remember him getting excited as we would go Christmas shopping, wearing a Santa hat, as one of my fondest memories. Kids would see him in a store and instantly gravitate to him as Santa Claus, despite the parents’ hesitation. Nevertheless, Dad would always play along and before it was over, the kids indeed knew that he was Santa and even got the parents to believe it, too.
Though Dad loves being Santa, he also values being a Christian. When in the role, he makes kids aware of the real reason for the season, our Savior Jesus Christ being born, which not only brings smiles, but brings twinkles to the eyes of all. Whup is surely a great model of the man whose virtues inspired the character of Santa Claus that we know and love today. Originating from the 3rd century in what is modern-day Turkey, St. Nicholas was a monk who traveled the countryside helping the less fortunate and sick. By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe due to his giving nature and, by 1446, he was canonized as the patron saint for children and sailors. Through time, St. Nicholas became a symbol of generosity, and in the 19th century, gift giving became a custom meant to embody his spirit.
Now, St. Nicholas has been transformed into a beacon of cheer and presents, but his selfless and giving nature are at the very heart of who we know as Santa Claus. Dad has learned to use his white hair, beard, and jolly personality to give joy to others and spread the love of Jesus and his birth throughout Newberry County during the Christmas season.
My dad enjoys going to numerous places in the community during the Christmas season, including being Santa in parades, parties, and various churches in the area to spread Christmas joy. He loves to see the smiles that he is able to bring to the little (and big) kids’ faces.
You can find Santa at the Whitmire Christmas Tree Lighting on Friday, December 2nd for classic holiday cheer. If taking Santa pictures with Kelly Michelle Photography this year, you’ll get to meet Whup as he’s posing with the little ones. Also see him on Saturday, December 10th at Little Mountain Fire and Rescue for breakfast from 8 to 10 am and Liberty on the Lake from 11:30am-1:30pm.