MONTREAL -- A few days before Christmas, Premier Francois Legault held a very special news conference in the late afternoon on Sunday to address the children of the province.

"I want to say thank you, I want to say bravo," the premier said to the children of Quebec. "It was not easy for the children. You must have learned, like us, to wear a mask and to stay two metres from others."

For this very special news conference, Dr. Horacio Arruda left his usual place, to the right of the premier, to a distinguished guest: Santa Claus.

Installed in front of a more festive decor than during the usual news conferences, the premier and Santa Claus assured children that, despite the closure of non-essential businesses, the distribution of gifts was not in danger.

Legault also confirmed that after receiving the approval from public health, Santa Claus was now recognized as a "priority service."

"I am a priority, and I am even essential!' exclaimed the bearded man in his trademark red and white suit.

In the news conference room, journalists gave way to children, who were able to ask their questions to Legault and his guest.

"When will I be able to see my grandparents?" asked 10-year-old Maxime.

"That's a good question," replied Santa Claus.

However, we will have to wait for the vaccine, he explained to the children.

"Sooner or later everyone will receive the vaccine," he said, adding that "grandfathers and grandmothers will receive the vaccine first."

The premier also revealed his favourite holiday song: December 23, by Beau Dommage.

"Except that this year, instead of being from December 23 to January 7, it's going to be from December 17 to January 11!" explained Legault.

In the song composed by Pierre Huet and Michel Rivard, one of the characters, Mr. Cote, responds to the one who has just wished him a Merry Christmas that they will meet again on January 7.

He also assured the children: "You will see your friends again after Monday, January 11," when the confinement period decreed by Quebec will be over.

The premier and Santa Claus also explained that children will still be able to leave a glass of milk and cookies for Santa Claus on the evening of December 24, but that it will be imperative to always stay two meters from him.

"During the night he is going to distribute the gifts, it is important that all the children stay in their rooms. You do not want to infect Santa Claus!" warned Legault.

He also said that the distribution of gifts was not dangerous, since the North Pole is still a green zone, according to the colour scheme used in Quebec.

The event was pre-recorded and posted on Legault's Facebook page.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 20, 2020.