Thanksgiving is behind us and we turn our attention to Christmas, the magical time of year, a time of ribbons and reindeer and all the glitter and cheer that makes it so special. Of course, this is all in preparation for Christmas Eve, when little hoofs will clatter on the rooftops and Santa Claus will bound down the chimney to bring presents to all good little girls and boys.
Most of us can recall those special presents--the toy train, the porcelain doll or even the genuine imitation Davy Crockett buckskin outfit, complete with a coonskin cap with a real raccoon tail.
Could you imagine waking up Christmas Day without anything under the tree or nestled in your carefully hung Christmas stocking? That you had been forgotten?
One staff member of the Grand Forks Herald realized that without help, over 300 kids in the City would go without a Christmas present. So, on this date in 1916, he announced a plan to form the Santa Claus Girls. The pastors in the city were to pick two girls from each church, along with any volunteers, who were to aid Kris Kringle in locating boys and girls who might otherwise have a dismal Christmas. Every teacher, parent, church group, fraternal club and citizen was asked to submit names of any children who might be forgotten at Christmas.
Readers of the Herald were asked to contribute money, no gifts, and the presents would be purchased from local stores, at the cheapest possible price, to be delivered by the Santa Claus Girls at Christmas. The Herald would in turn publish the name of each contributor.
Unlike other charitable organizations, the Santa Claus Girls' sole purpose was to supply toys, candy and fruit to children who might otherwise receive nothing, whose letters to Santa would go unanswered. The first year was so successful that contributions totaled $270.23, which exceeded the expenditures by $39.10. No one within the organization received anything except the satisfaction of knowing they brought happiness to hundreds of children who would otherwise wonder why Santa Claus had forgotten them. For ninety-two years this tradition has continued to provide the happiness and joy of Christmas.
Christmas, with all its sparkle, is all about children. It is all about those special memories that will last through the ages.
"I knew you would come," one little girl cried as the Santa Claus Girls arrived with their load of toys in 1916. She exclaimed, "I wrote to the Herald."
By Jim Davis
Grand Forks Herald December 3, 1916.[podcast]http://www.prairiepublic.org/media/dakotadatebook/2008/Dec/03.mp3[/podcast]