A group of schoolchildren, some as young as 7, were left reeling in confusion after an elderly Catholic priest took it upon himself to tell them that Father Christmas was a myth and doesn't exist.
While delivering a mass at a Catholic school in Buxton, Derbyshire, Father Dennis Higgins threw some serious shade on the jolly bearded fat man in a red suit and told the gathered assembled that Father Christmas was not real.
The priest's stark words on the subject of Santa not only visibly upset the younger children, but left the concerned parents fuming that a clergyman felt it wise to shatter their children's belief in a friendly and fantastical figure that looms large in every child's mind this time of year. Livid parents accused the Santa-denier of "ruining the magic of Christmas" and said that the Priest was being "plain mean."
"How dare he say such things to such young children? To try and take away the magic of Christmas is just plain mean. It really saddens me that someone who people should respect and look up to can do something so mean."
The Daily Mail reported that when Father Higgins, who is based at St. Anne's Catholic Church, was asked to explain his comments, he launched into a foul-mouthed tirade.
Other members of the Grinch's, sorry, priest's congregation rushed to defend the Santa denier's comments, insisting that the 80-year-old was trying to teach the pupils the true meaning of Christmas. Yeah? Well try telling that to little Jack and Jill when they wake up on December 25 to find there's nothing under the tree but hot air and the whispered promise of what could have been.
As people tend to do when they feel seriously aggrieved in this day and age and want to right an immeasurable wrong, a Facebook page called Support Father Higgins was quickly set up, calling the priest an "honest and courageous" man.
"This page is being set up on behalf of Father Dennis Higgins who has dedicated his life to God and the Church. He has been a pillar of Buxton's community."
One poster wrote, "Father Higgins is in his 80s, he's a good and decent man, still working when he could have retired long ago bless him. Can't see many parents working as hard as he does when they reach that age. Get a grip."
Another poster had nothing but praise for Father Dennis's habit of keeping it real and refusing to sell out. They also snarled that anyone who couldn't deal with the priest's vicious rap on Father Christmas, should just "deal with it!"
"I know Father Dennis, he keeps it real in every sense, even with regard to the bible and gospel. He is an honest, true, courageous man, who strives for justice, fairness and compassion. I have nothing but respect for the man and I think those who spew bile should aim it in another direction, certainly not at him. The school is Catholic, Christmas is a Christian festival celebrating the birth of Christ. If you send your kids - deal with it."
Yet nowhere on the Facebook page is there any solid evidence presented to prove that Father Christmas doesn't exist and Father Andrew Cole, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Nottingham, which includes Buxton and the surrounding area, has apologized for Father Higgins' "intemperate language."
"Christmas is a wonderful time of the year, especially for our children. Father Christmas is always a welcome visitor in our homes, and we will all be looking forward to his arrival on Christmas Day, including me."
Brendan Hickey, headmaster at St. Thomas More Catholic School, remains deeply apologetic for any Santa denial in his school, and has personally got in touch with Father Christmas himself to beg for forgiveness.
"I want to reassure all year three pupils at and their parents, that I have personally spoken to Father Christmas and told him about what has happened. He was sorry to hear about the confusion and has promised me that he will arrange for his elves to write to each of the children and reassure them that he will definitely be coming to visit them this Christmas."
But just you remember, all you Santa deniers out there. He's making a list, he's checking it twice, he's going to find out who's naughty or nice, and he's coming to town very soon. So for god's sake, be good and have a very merry Xmas! Ho! Ho! Ho!