A story of Santa and his Christmas Bear
DUTIFULLY, Christmas Bear checks the list twice and then hands Santa a bear to place in the hands of the smiling girl, six, maybe seven years old, sitting in the back seat. Cars are lined for what appears to be miles outside the Rio Grande Farm Park as Santa and his Christmas Bear greet families who’ve traveled in to see them for the annual Gingerbread Festival hosted by SLV Tu Casa.
This is what the holiday season is about for Rikki and Bruce Lukow – Rikki donning her Christmas Bear costume and Bruce dressed as Santa – bringing cheer and goodwill to everyone they greet.
“It’s just to have some fun,” he says. “Just getting a gift, they light up.”
The Lukows have played the roles of Santa and his Christmas Bear ever since Rikki went looking for a costume one year when she was searching for her own purpose in life, years after raising the couple’s four children and in need of another way to serve the community.
“This bear thing just started coming up and I would dream about it and so I started looking into it,” she says.
A little faith can go a long way.
The Lukows met when Bruce was a police officer and Rikki a dispatcher for the Alamosa Police Department some 45 years ago. Rikki is from Colorado Springs originally, while Bruce grew up in Buena Vista and both came to Alamosa to attend Adams State.
“I came down here to go to college, and then I met tall, dark and handsome here,” Rikki says. She’s the spark, the dancing and playful Christmas Bear who’s had to slow down a bit due to heart problems and a back that wants to act its age.
The COVID pandemic created a setback for the annual in-person greetings from Santa and his Christmas Bear, but Tu Casa figured a way around it with a drive-thru festival that had Santa and Christmas Bear greeting cars of families and handing them a gift as they drove through the park.
“At first we just did skits at church and had fun with that, playing with the kids,” she says of how Christmas Bear got started.
One time she decided to wear the costume to show her mother-in-law at her assisted living community home at The Bridge at Alamosa. “It took me an hour and half to leave the building,” she says of the reception Christmas Bear received that day. “People had to stop me and tell me how cute I was and would say, ‘I had a teddy bear that looked like you when I was little.’”
She knew then that the costume made people happy and she had found the answer to her own prayers.
“When you walk in, the whole atmosphere changes. It’s just amazing,” she says.
When Ortega Middle School asked Lukow, the school’s resource officer, if he would play the role of Santa, he said he would but only if Christmas Bear came along.
They’re a pair, you see, and together they spread Christmas joy.