FAMILIES packed out a garden centre to welcome Father Christmas, his elves, reindeer and - unicorn.
The festivities kicked off Christmas at Keydell Nurseries, in Horndean, on Saturday.
Scores of people lined the route at the front of the centre to catch a glimpse of the big man as he arrived after a unicorn, in a horse-drawn carriage.
The event was held to mark the opening of the grotto, which runs every day until Christmas Eve, and the centre’s magical Woodland Walk.
Tracy Goddard, 40, from Waterlooville was at the centre with her children Lilly and Alex, both four, Ryan, 10, and their grandmother Gloria Goddard, 72, from Hayling Island.
Tracy said: ‘We are very excited. I have been wanting to come to the opening for years. We normally visit the grotto every year. It is nice to come here and have a day out. There’s a lot to do, it’s brilliant.’
Gloria said: ‘It is brilliant, there’s something here for everyone.’
Vicky Strange, who was helping to run the event with her father David, who owns the centre, said: ‘It is one of the biggest events of the year for us. There has been lots of work put in. It is lovely to see so many people come to enjoy it, and it’s nice to see people come here who used to come as children. People come year after year. They love it and we love to see that, it means that Christmas has started.’
She said there were new additions to the centre’s Woodland Walk, which includes dozens of displays featuring animatronic characters and lights. Families can also visit the centre’s two reindeer, which they look after on the family farm during the summer months.
The business also stocks a huge range of Christmas decorations as well as plants.
Another family enjoying the festivities on Saturday was the Guedeneys from Drayton.
Rachel Guedeney was with her husband John, daughter Amelia, one, and son Louis, three.
She said: ‘It is the best thing, it is turning into a family tradition. It starts the build up to Christmas for us.’
Cousins Leo Harbon, five, Berrie Field, four, Honey Harbon, two, George Field, six and Ronnie Catlin, three, were having a great time.
Mum Sadie Catlin, 31, from Portchester, said: ‘I love it. Every year we come here without fail, Keydell is the best for Christmas. It really gets us ready for it.’
Tickets for Santa’s Grotto cost £13 and include a gift and entry to the Woodland Walk. To book or for more information go to keydellnursuries.co.uk