CHEMAINUS -- Although Joan is covering her husband’s face with a big, white beard, you can’t disguise Geoff’s seasonal spirit.

“I was born on Boxing Day,” he says with a smile. “So I’ve always been a Christmas person.”

He spent more than 30 years wearing a Santa suit over the holidays to make appearances at local senior centres.

“I think Santa brings a lot of joy,” Geoff says. “That’s why I do it.”

And that’s why when the pandemic started plundering that joy, Geoff and his wife came up with a plan that begin with filling the front of their house with festivity. It’s decorated like Santa’s workshop at the North Pole.

“A neighbour came by and said, ‘Oh! I like your porch. Really good Santa.’ And then Santa waved!” Joan laughs, revealing it was Geoff in costume. “They [clutched their chests] and went, ‘Oh my God! It’s Santa!’”

While COVID caused in-person Santa appearances to be cancelled — Geoff decided that an in-porch Santa should keep spreading holiday cheer.

“Wow!” A group of children say when asked about seeing Santa. ”It’s so cool!”

A young woman who drove from Victoria to see Santa proclaimed, “He’s so cute!”

Santa sits in a rocking chair surrounded by the North Pole display, waving at people passing by his home at 2952 Severne St. If they come closer, he goes to the top of his stairs and, from a safe distance, talks with his visitors at the bottom of the stairs.

He listens intently to every one of their seasonal wishes. While the specifics requests range from video games to fluffy cats, the lists always also include an end to the pandemic.

“It’s been a tough year for everybody,” Geoff says with a sigh.

It’s been particularly challenging for Geoff, who’s also battling cancer and kidney failure. Yet, he still starts his daily Santa sessions just 15 minutes after finishing his fatiguing dialysis.

Santa is greeting people from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends until Dec. 20.

“It’s amazing he’s taken the time to brighten up everybody’s lives,” says a woman who brought her daughter to see Santa.

It’s also amazing how being so bright can often reflect back on you. It’s true for this man who focused on giving and found himself receiving priceless gifts of gratitude.

They range from exuberant choruses of, “Thank you Santa!” from groups of kids, to handmade picture books — “It’s an adventure with a bit of romance,” its author beams — to seasonal serenading.

“It’s wonderful,” Geoff as Santa says from the top of the stairs, clearly moved after a family sings “We wish you a merry Christmas,” to him from their car.

Perhaps this is why — at almost 77 years old — Geoff says he still believes in Santa. His wish to spread joy has been granted.

“I love Christmas and I love Santa,” he smiles. “I hope I’m doing him good.”

He couldn’t be doing it better, his grateful visitors say.

“He made our Christmas this year!” A woman who brought her mom and daughter says, before they all wave back at him. “Thank you Santa, thank you!”