Little girl, baby brother take top honors in Christmas with Santa contest

Infant, who was less than 3 months old at the time, looks peaceful as he’s being cradled
Our popular-vote winner in this year's Christmas with Santa photo contest.
Our popular-vote winner in this year's Christmas with Santa photo contest.

SCHENECTADY — A Christmas surprise came early for young Abigail Hunter. 

In November, her mother, Susann Najafipour, took Abigail and her baby brother on a spontaneous trip, one that would eventually earn top honors in The Daily Gazette’s Christmas with Santa photo contest.

“I told her, ‘Come on, we’re going somewhere special.’ She was very excited,” Najafipour said. 

When the family arrived at Proctors for the Milk and Cookies with Santa event, Abigail was ecstatic. She had no problem waiting for Santa and proclaiming exactly what she wanted for Christmas, as soon as she met him. (In case he didn’t hear, she wants race cars and My Little Pony Mermaids).

But when it came time for photos, Najafipour thought the smooth ride was over. 

“She gets shy or looks the other way,” Najafipour said. 

This time, Najafipour moved quickly and, after placing John and Abigail in Santa’s lap, she immediately started snapping pictures, one of which won this newspaper’s photo contest, with a total of 92 votes.

A total of 47 entries were submitted for the contest between late November and Dec. 13; readers voted on their favorites, with voting concluding on Dec. 20. All the entries can be seen online

“We actually used it for our Christmas cards, too,” Najafipour said. It’s one of the few photos the family has where everything is in focus and Abigail isn’t hiding her beautiful smile.

The photo session was also a rarity for Santa.

“He said, ‘This is the youngest baby I’ve held,’” Najafipour said.

John was less than 3 months old at the time and looks peaceful as he’s being cradled by Santa. Abigail, holding sleigh bells, looks just happy to be there. 

It’s really the first year that she’s cared about Santa and held onto the notion that he’s the toy-bringer of Christmas. 

“We did elf on a shelf last year, and she had fun with that,” Najafipour said. But this year was the first where Santa mattered. During The Daily Gazette’s holiday parade, Najafipour said Abigail had to be sure she could wave to Santa; a scene Najafipour was able to capture in another nice Christmas photo.

The runner-up in the contest, with 70 votes, was submitted by Michele Walcek. In it, a smiling baby named Wes meets Santa and Mrs. Claus for the first time.

The Christmas with Santa Photo Contest is presented by Fidelis Care.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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