The children of Oceanport may have a different perception of Santa Claus than most of us. For one thing, Santa's traditional sleigh and reindeer is actually a vintage Oceanport fire truck. Still red like Santa's well-known sleigh, Oceanport's fire truck adds a bit of spice to the holiday season.
Stemming from a long-standing holiday tradition, Oceanport Hook & Ladder Fire Company has delivered gifts on Christmas morning for over twenty five years. One Oceanport volunteer fireman dresses up as Santa Claus, while the rest of the fire department act as his elves. From 7am to noon, the children of the west side of Oceanport wake up and wait to greet Santa in their pajamas, receiving a gift…as long as they are on the good list.
When Oceanport's tradition first began, the volunteer fire department delivered toys they bought. However, through the years, they realized a personalized gift might be better. Parents began dropping off presents for their children at the fire house where Santa would pack them up on his "sleigh" and deliver them on Christmas morning.
Mark Patterson, a current volunteer fireman and longtime resident of Oceanport, remembers how excited he was on Christmas morning to see Santa arrive on a fire truck.
"I used to jump out of the top bunk bed as soon as Santa arrived," Patterson recalls. Now he and his twin brother, whose alter ego is Santa Claus on Christmas morning, are sharing the joy they experienced with the children of Oceanport.
The Oceanport Hook & Ladder Fire Co. recently started a new tradition with "Breakfast for Santa" at the firehouse. For the second year, they will hold a breakfast on December 12th from 9am to noon where children and their parents can meet Santa at the firehouse while eating eggs, pancakes, bacon and sausage. This event also gives parents the opportunity to sneak in their child's wrapped gift from Santa and leave it at the firehouse for Christmas morning.
"We are a volunteer firehouse. This is a way to give back to our community because we are nowhere without them. And the kids eat it up!" says Patterson.
This inspirational tradition has been going on for over a quarter of a century and, as long as there are children in Oceanport who look forward to Santa on Christmas morning, and firemen who want to reach out to their community, there's no way this tradition is will end anytime soon.