AUSTRALIA: Jingle bells and jet skis

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Against a backdrop of ominous grey clouds, a tiny speck of scarlet appears on the watery horizon, growing brighter and brighter as it dodges between the waves. Men, women and children splash excitedly into the crystal clear shallows of Coral Bay, Western Australia as the faint hum of an engine growls steadily louder.

Forget reindeer, sleigh bells and a snowy entrance – this year, Santa’s riding into town on a jet ski.

As if by magic, his arrival coincides with the sun kicking the grizzly gloom clean across the sky.

Although it’s still only around 9am, the temperature is already climbing closer and closer to yesterday’s sweltering highs of 46 degrees Celsius. The sweat has started, trickling along every crease of suntanned skin.

But despite the heat, poor old Santa has stuck with his traditional garments – no bermuda shorts or hawaiian shirts for him (although he does accessorize with a rather fetching set of shades). From beneath his long gleaming locks and fur-trimmed hat, he waves hello and bellows his trademark ho ho ho across the waves as he bounces towards the shore and the awaiting crowd.

He expertly dismounts his jet ski (he’s had some practice, clearly) and sploshes barefoot through the refreshing saltwater of the Indian Ocean as kids and parents flock around him. Sweeties are generously distributed, photos taken for the family album. Then the tourists move in, all keen for a snap with Father Christmas.

But before the novelty has a chance to wear off, Santa is scooped off the sands by the local emergency services, carrying him away across the beach in a fire truck. He shouts goodbye from atop the truck, flanked by two bikinied babes, as everyone resumes the BBQ’s, beer drinking and cricket games of their day of celebrations on the sand – this is Christmas Oz-style.

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