"As soon as it happened, the whole area just went silent," an onlooker said. "It was just an amazing moment."
Christmas came early for a little British girl over the weekend.
Just like millions of kids all over the world, Mali Phoenix Williams-Cody, 3, climbed onto Santa's lap at a local shopping center to tell him what she wanted for Christmas. But when Mali's mother explained to Santa that her daughter struggles with speech and language, Santa found another way to comminucate with her: using sign language!
According to the photographer who captured the moment, Santa asked Mali's mum if she could sign and touched hearts all over the world when he sprung in to action, signing to Mali to ask if she wanted a doll for Christmas. "Her reaction is priceless and touched all of us who witnessed it live," the photographer wrote.
The photographer posted the video to YouTube, where it has so far been viewed more than 1.6 million times!
"How heartwarming is this...the true meaning of Christmas ...beautiful," wrote one Facebook user.
And according to shopping center manager Graeme Skillen, it's all anyone in the mall is talking about. "It was incredible," he told Today. "As soon as it happened, the whole area just went silent. Everyone was just spellbound by it. People were crying in the crowd. 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, and was hired partly due to 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," he said. "It was one of the things that really appealed to us."
And as for Mali, Skillen said he hopes to bring her back for one more Santa meet-up. "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."