Each Christmas since 2008, Harout Harboyan has donned his Santa Claus costume to entertain kids in his hometown of Beirut with his “Santa Show.” This year, however, Harout, who with his naturally white moustache, sparkling eyes and beaming smile actually resembles Santa Claus, decided to organize such shows for kids in the country of his roots.

“Our ‘Santa Clause Mission’ aims to help abandoned children and orphans feel the warmth of the season and celebrate it with their beloved Santa,” he said.

Entertaining children is a hobby for Harout, which he does throughout the year at various venues. Last year, he and several friends in Beirut decided to collaborate to bring the “Santa Claus Mission” to Armenia. They raised enough donations to buy gifts for children in Armenia and to cover Harout’s travel expenses.

During his visit in December Harout met with kids in Yerevan, Gyumri and in the Tavush Province. As soon as he learned about FAR’s Vanadzor Old Age Home he was excited to also meet with residents and provide them a little holiday entertainment.

“From the moment I entered I felt that it was a different world. When I saw the elders at the windows waving to me and calling, ‘Dzmer Pap! Dzmer Pap! (Santa Clause),’ I felt like I was going back to my childhood days,” said Harout, who had expected a more depressing environment from elders who would spend Christmas alone, without their loved ones. Instead, he witnessed the joy of VOAH’s tight-knit community of 55 seniors who inspired him with their vigor and enthusiasm.

VOAH residents were equally delighted about the visit. They sang carols, recited Christmas poems, and treated their “Santa” to a great meal, all in the spirit of Christmas.