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Guests are in for a jolly ole time at Santa’s house

You might think you’ve arrived at the North Pole when visiting a Bamberg home that offers up an old-fashioned country Christmas hosted by the Hartungs.

Richard and Marilyn Hartung are known as Mr. and Mrs. Claus in these parts. They’ve lived near Heidelberg for several generations, raising their children and being part of the community. For the last decade they have enjoyed taking on the roles of Santa and his wife for holiday programs.

They also enjoy highlighting the area’s history, with a number of holiday antiques on display as part of the tour of their Christmas cottage.

The seasonal Christmas tour is by invitation only, though many community groups and neighbours are scheduled in, Marilyn Hartung said she has more than 100 people lined up so far. In exchange for an item for the Knights of Columbus toy drive, visitors can take a walk through one of the jolliest houses in the region. Yuletide antiques, an Elvis-themed holiday room and decorations hung from ceiling to floor await those visiting the Hartungs’ cabin.

As Hartung takes you for a tour, she tells lively stories and leaves you with warm recollections of Christmases past.

“I’m looking forward to welcoming people to see the cabin again – it’s been over two years since we’ve been able to do it,” she said.

This will be the first year they have been able to show people their completely decorated cabin since the pandemic started.

“Everyone brings a toy for the price of a tour, so we have a big box that we’re going to put on the porch. Everyone will bring a toy or two and then we deliver it all to the Knights of Columbus. They have given out thousands of toys already to different establishments,” said Hartung.

Before Richard and Marilyn collected toys during their tours, they were collecting food donations that went to feed residents in Woolwich, Wellesley and Wilmot through different community food banks.

“I welcome them at the door to the cottage and then I bring them in and tour the Elvis room first, showing them some unique collectables and then bring them through to the angel tree and share how the angel tree is something very special to me. Then move through to the dining room and talk about all the antiques, and the old-fashioned Christmas tree. I show them all the pictures of all the family that has always resided in the Heidelberg area.”

All guests must sanitize and wear protective face coverings before starting the tour. Due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, this year all treats and goodies will be put in bags for neighbours to take home, no food or drink will be available for consumption during the tour.

Richard Hartung, Marilyn’s husband and Bamberg’s Santa Claus, was saddened he won’t be able to greet the kids as Saint Nick this year during the Knights of Columbus toy drive, something that has grown on him since his wife first talked him into it.

“It’s going to be very different with Christmas this year because we usually did around 250 kids and now, we can’t do it because they’d have to put up plexiglass and keep Santa behind it. The kids couldn’t come up and sit on my knee, I couldn’t tell them any stories, or they tell me their stories, what they wanted for Christmas and they wanted their pictures taken; it’s going to be different this year. It was always great to have the kids come up straight to you, hand them out their gifts and things. They said maybe next year we’ll do it again,” said Richard. “Kids need their Santa.”

Anyone going for a tour of the themed cabin can expect to see the man in red on a rocking chair in a festively decorated room that lies at the end of their journey.

“They can still write their letters; they all remember the postal code: H0H 0H0. The elves are still busy making all their gifts, so they don’t have to worry,” he said.

A little more local for your inbox.

Seven days. One newsletter. Local reporting about people and places you
won't find anywhere else. Stay caught up with The Observer This Week.

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