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Hard Times for Santa

Santa Claus was on hand on the night of this year's first lighting of The World's Largest Living Christmas Tree.  That'll be it for this year, however.  Budget cuts in Wilmington (NC) have axed Santa and an elf, as well as the candy canes and small toys that Santa handed out to children on subsequent nights during past seasons.  Not to mention the portable toilets which also made a welcome appearance.

The US Postal Service's Operation Santa won't be sending children's letters to volunteers in North Pole, Alaska to answer.  Because of child protection concerns, the 55-year-old practice of sending letters to the the Alaskan town (which in actuality is 1,700 miles south of the North Pole) has been terminated with extreme prejudice.  Unless a solution can be found, the kiddos' letters won't bear the coveted North Pole postmark.

A last-minute reprieve in Sacramento (CA), however.  The on-again, off-again Santa Parade is back on.  The mayor-elect has donated $20,000 left in his campaign coffers to continue the long-standing tradition.  Lack of sponsorship had threatened demise.

Things have been trending downward in Santaland for a while, it must be said.  Last year professional Australian Santas were having trouble finding work or were being replaced by amateur talent in rented suits.  In 2005, hundreds of British children missed joining Santa and his helpers in Lapland when their tour operator became insolvent a few days beforehand.  Also in 2005, one of Santa's reindeer died of heart failure due to low-flying Danish Air Force planes; a Air Force spokesman announced a $4,800 settlement, acknowledging Santa's prompt-present-delivery concerns.


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