CHRISTMAS was 'ruined' for one youngster after she saw Santa on his sleigh ­— without his beard and hat.

Kamarra Fox was enjoying Horwich Rotary Club's annual festive float with her six-year-old niece when they spotted Father Christmas partially out of costume.

Kamarra, aged 21, said her niece was left "confused" when Santa Claus appeared in an ordinary black hat without a beard.

The Rotary Club apologised for the sighting and stressed that Santa has been "absolutely spot on" every other night.

The sleigh, which has been doing the festive rounds for some 20 years, has been given a new coat of paint and adorned with new lighting and sound for 2018.

Kamarra said: "It broke my niece's heart. It was awful. My niece was so confused. She was really upset. She is only six.

"I woke up my niece to come and see Santa and I was shocked — the man in the sleigh did not have a Santa hat on. He wasn't wearing a beard and was just wearing a normal black hat.

"The kids were wondering what was going on. Without a beard and a hat, it is just a guy on a sleigh. It was not Santa.

"It ruins it for them. They are confused."

Kamarra, who lives in Ainsworth Avenue, said the annual sleigh rounds have been running for as long as she can remember.

The former St George's C of E Primary School pupil said that seeing Santa helped her get in the festive mood.

"I have seen the sleigh every year since I was little", she said. "It has always been Santa.

"I used to run out into the street and get really excited.

"It is supposed to get the children excited and in the Christmas spirit."

However, resident May Minion, of Thirlmere Avenue, gave praise to this year's parade.

She said: "I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought the music was fantastic."

The annual fundraising initiative sees Rotarians undertake door-to-door collections to help raise money for local community groups as well as the Rotary Foundation’s End Polio Now campaign.

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However, the Rotary Club said the fundraising was "secondary" for their members and that the most important thing was creating a festive atmosphere in the town.

Honorary secretary Phil Jones said: "We want to apologise. This is not what we would want the kids to see.

"I was out with the sleigh on Tuesday night. Every other time Santa has been absolutely spot on and the kids absolutely adore him.

"For us as a Rotary Club, that is what it is all about — seeing the kids' faces all light up.

"This happened near the end of the round while we were on wind-down."