HITTERDAL, Minn. -- Sometimes it is a movie or nostalgic TV show that gets us in that Christmas mood.

Maybe it is a song or great aromas in the kitchen.

But how about a picture?

In rural Clay County, Santa Claus came to Hitterdal.

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Of course, many photos were taken, but one still has people catching their breath.



It all started in the small Clay County town of Hitterdal, Minnesota.

The annual Lions Christmas day celebration.

It was late in the day.

"We had gone through the whole day, pretty much. And getting ready to pack up," Hawley Police Officer Scott Steer said.

Steer, is the man beneath the whiskers, playing Santa for the kids.

"He [4-year old boy] really wanted to see Santa Claus, and I said, 'Absolutely we will,'" Steer recalled.

Santa and a 4-year old boy, and a photo that has captured holiday hearts everywhere.

"He was pretty big-eyed and pretty excited, he clung to me as soon as they set him down on my lap, and nuzzled right into me and he would not let go of me," Steer said.

Hitterdal Lion, Brian Nelson took the picture.

"One of my favorites," Hitterdal Lion member Brian Nelson said.

He then uploaded it to his computer.

"That is when it sunk in, got choked up, and hearing that story," Nelson said.

At the time, neither man knew who this little boy was.

"No, no, did not know the back story," Steer said.

They were about to learn.

"There is Santa," the 4-year old said.

The boy who found such comfort in Santa was four-year-old Coden Belgard.

WDAY News found him playing in the snow and enjoying the morning in Ulen.

"That is me," he said, looking at the now-famous picture on a cell phone.

Bobbiejo Desjarlais met Coden when he was a baby.

When he and his mother were trying to escape a bad home-life situation.

"She [Coden's mom] felt safe at my home. She was in hiding for about two weeks at our house,” Bobbiejo Desjarlais said.

Shortly after that, Coden's mother would die of breast cancer.

"We had the hospital bed there. I would lay with her during the night and hold her," Bobbiejo said.

"We ask Coden, 'Where is momma Donna?' and he says, 'In the moon, in the moon.'”

But before she died, she made a request.

"She asked us to raise one of her most precious things," Bobbiejo said.

And so Bobbiejo and family, including five brothers and sisters, have adopted Coden.

"Give me a kiss, love you to the moon," Bobbiejo said to Coden as he played.

And that brings us back to the touching photo.

"Brian sent me that photo and I was like, 'Wow, wow,'" Steer said.

This young boy finding comfort, security and the magic of Christmas in Santa.

"He was pretty excited and pretty happy and content. He could have sat all day on my lap," Steer said.

He sure has been through a lot.

Now after the loss at such a young age; a forever home.

And a photo that nobody here will forget.

"It makes me feel like she gave me a Christmas wish and I gave her a wish and at that moment, she was smiling down on us," Bobbiejo said.

The day Christmas came to Hitterdal and never left.