Editor’s Note: This article, written by Vicki Parfait, originally ran in the Dec. 23, 1998 edition of the Penny Record.

In the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, cranky cashiers,

holiday parties, religious observances, plastic money and big bank

loans, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with fa-la-la-la-la frustration

and tinsel tension.

The holiday season boasts the biggest retail frenzy of the year … and

the highest percentage of suicides. But in all its many guises,

secular and spiritual, Christmas is most importantly a time of giving–

of resources, of kindness, of self.

Some say Santa Claus should have no part in Christmas. It is, after

all, the celebration of the birth of Christ, the second most important

holiday in the Christian calendar.

But good “St. Nick” exemplified the spirit of giving. St. Nicholas was

born in Patara, now Turkey, in 245 A.D. to a wealthy family. When his

father passed away, Nick inherited his enormous riches … which he

distributed freely to the needy, most especially to the children, of

whom he is not the patron saint.

From him arose the legendary figures of Kris Kringle, Papa Baba and a

host of others, alter ego of the jolly old elf who flies through the

night skies and the dreams of American children when sugarplums dance

and cash registers ring.

Santa gives. His gift is mystery and magic, happiness and wonder to

believing children and to parents who delight in the joy on their

little ones’ faces.

Though some see Santa as the interloper in the nativity scene, others

see the character as a gently, loving parable of sharing, not all

inconsistent with the Christmas message.

Regardless of the disparate views, Santa, firmly entrenched in the

American Christmas tradition, will likely make his flight this

Christmas Eve and many more to come, tracked faithfully by NOAA and the

United States Air Force.

Also a part of Christmas tradition since 1865, the Salvation Army has

put the message of giving into action with toys for the underprivileged

and food for the needy. Major Carolyn Zuniga in Orange said the reason

for the Army’s charity is the love of God, to let people know that

there is a God who loves them all.

“When people are in need, it is hard for them to understand without

some practical evidence of His love, she explained. “The injunction

from Christ was for us to do for others, and that is doing for Him.

That is what we are trying to do.”

This year the need in the community is no less but the funds raised

have been. The Salvation Army in Orange will borrow from ongoing

services funds to make up the difference so none of the 600 families

who applied for help this season will be turned away.