Hundreds flock to Hartlepool as Santa comes to town to launch Christmas celebrations

Santa Claus has come to town - to kick off the countdown to Christmas in style in Hartlepool today.

A bumper crowd of hundreds - young and old alike - were given a yuletide treat as the very special guest made his merry way to the town’s Middleton Grange Shopping Centre today.

Santa meets Hayden Cuthbertson and mum Jane

Santa meets Hayden Cuthbertson and mum Jane

But it was more than just a flying visit from the North Pole - as Father Christmas set up home in his very own grotto to hear the festive wishes of scores of youngsters.

Santa was joined by his very own army of little helpers - in the form of Hartlepool Round Table - who dished out goodies to the assembled festive throngs.

While the familiar bearded fellow arrived just in the St Nic of time - there was plenty of entertainment throughout a fun-packed day to make the event a Christmas cracker.

Enchanted families who braved the cold weather to cram into the shopping centre were serenaded by crowd-pleasing live music from the Bishop Auckland Pipe Band and colourful Christmas characters from Red Dreams.

The day proved a Christmas hit for little Hayden Cuthbertson, 4, and his mum Jane who had a chance to meet Santa himself.

Mrs Cuthbertson said: “He loved it, he really enjoyed the day.

“The centre have put on a really good show.

“Hayden was really excited about meeting Santa.”

Millie Walker was feeling decidedly Frozen - but it had nothing to do with the weather.

The happy four-year-old was give a festive welcome by Frozen characters Anna and Elsa.

Grandad Norman Cass, 62, said: “It was great for Millie as she loves the Frozen characters.

“We come down for the Christmas event every year and they always put on a great show.

“Millie had a really nice time and is looking forward to meeting Santa.

Father Christmas is due to greet youngsters in his Grotto until 4.30pm today - but may go into extra time to ensure every child gets the perfect start to Christmas by meeting him.

Santa will be at the Christmas Grotto from 10.30am until 4.30pm each Thursday to Sunday during the run-up to Christmas and will even be swinging open its doors on Christmas Eve.