A couple who re-located to Hopkins County from another state has found a niche in our community. Philip Gabbert and his wife Barbara have portrayed Father and Mother Christmas for at least a dozen years. It wasn’t long after getting settled in their new home near the Midway community that the Christmas season was upon them. So they donned their custom-made robes and began making appearances for the holiday season. One of the first was in November at the Christmas Market on Main Street where they posed with people and answered the children’s questions. And yes, he is a real Santa, but chooses to dress in the original costume of the European Father Christmas, or Saint Nicholas. According to Philip, “my appearance puts a new slant on how children perceive Santa Claus, and the grown-ups too, for that matter. Typical of the English personification of Christmas, Father Christmas exudes peace, joy and love in his manner and speech, without the hype about gift-giving and commercialism. Father Christmas is more of a saint-like character, and often associated with a wooded or rural setting. Children and adults alike are drawn and immediately warm up to us, because they sense we are real people bringing a message of love and good will. When pressed if I’m truly Santa Claus, I just say, “No, I’m his much older brother”. And instead of Santa’s traditional ‘Ho-Ho-Ho, Merry Christmas!’ Philip usually greets everyone with a heartfelt ‘Happy Christmas’, which he believes to be more in keeping with the cultural roots of Father Christmas.
The Gabberts began presenting their characters at The Heard Natural Science Museum during McKinney’s Holiday of Lights. The couple is in demand at Renaissance Festivals, with Philip dressed as a wizard and Barbara as a Rose Fairy or as Mother Nature. You may have seen them at the 2019 Renaissance Festival in Sulphur Springs, and back in the Spring, as Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty during a local Memorial Day event. And Barbara being a seamstress, she custom-makes most of their costuming as a creative outlet. Father and Mother Christmas will make their final local appearance at the Free Community Breakfast in the First United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall on Christmas morning.
Gabbert also serves in dual roles as the Adjutant and Chaplain of VFW Post 8560 in Sulphur Springs. He is also an ordained Minister, and has constructed a small chapel on his property in southern Hopkins County so that couples can be married there. He also owns and operates a computer repair business. Philip quips that he started in the computer industry during high school a long time ago,”when Moby Dick was just a minnow!’