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Signs of Christmas: Mall Santa uses sign language to speak with young girl

Told the young child on his lap "can't talk very well," a mall Santa in England started speaking with the child in sign language.
/ Source: TODAY

Santa knows how to connect with children all over the world, in every different language.

So it should come as no surprise he could speak with a young tyke who visited him at a British mall over the weekend, despite her mom’s apology that the little girl had a hard time talking.

After asking if the young girl could sign, Santa tapped the tot on the shoulder and began speaking to her in sign language.

The girl answered back in sign, along with nods and smiles. The conversation was caught on camera and posted by the mall.

“It was incredible,” said Graeme Skillen, the Cleveland Shopping Centre manager who witnessed the exchange along with hundreds of visitors, mall staff and security members.

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“As soon as it happened, the whole area just went silent. Everyone was just spellbound by it. People were crying in the crowd,” he said. “Members of our security staff were almost crying. It was just an amazing moment.”

Skillen said the man who plays Santa has worked for the Middlesbrough mall for the past four years.

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He was hired partly because of his ability to work with children of all backgrounds.

“He works through the week at a school for children with special needs, so he learned the sign language via that,” Skillen said. “It was one of the things that really appealed to us.

"Obviously, he’s a great Santa anyway, but when he said that, that he was able to communicate and handle any kind of disability, we were really keen to get him in.”

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Skillen said the girl’s visit to Santa was her first, and the toddler’s mom wasn’t sure how it might turn out because of the language barrier.

“The little girl herself was over the moon. Her face lit up as she got off the stage," he said. “It was really one of those special Christmas moments that captured everyone’s imagination.”

Mall employees didn’t catch the name of the child or her mother, but have reached out through local media in hopes of connecting with the family to arrange for one more meet-up with Santa, "maybe a private visit to do a little bit more,” Skillen said.

The video of Santa and the young girl was posted Sunday, a day after the girl’s visit, and has since become the talk of Middlesbrough, Skillen said.

“This is all everybody is talking about today," he said Monday. "I’ve been out and about around the town and around the mall and everyone is talking about this, it’s incredible."

Follow writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.