Flying Santa

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The Flying Santa is the name given to a tradition that dates to Christmas of 1929, when packages of gifts were dropped from a plane to lighthouse keepers and their families along the New England coast. [1]

Christmas holiday originating in Christianity, usually celebrated on December 25 (in the Gregorian or Julian calendars)

Christmas is an annual festival, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is preceded by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night; in some traditions, Christmastide includes an octave. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season centered around it.

Lighthouse keeper Profession in the shipping industry

A lighthouse keeper or lightkeeper is a person responsible for tending and caring for a lighthouse, particularly the light and lens in the days when oil lamps and clockwork mechanisms were used. Lighthouse keepers were sometimes referred to as "wickies" because of their job trimming the wicks.

New England Region of the United States

New England is a geographical and cultural region composed of six states of the northeastern United States: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. It is bordered by the state of New York to the west and by the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec to the northeast and north, respectively. The Atlantic Ocean is to the east and southeast, and Long Island Sound is to the south. Boston is New England's largest city as well as the capital of Massachusetts. The largest metropolitan area is Greater Boston with nearly a third of the entire region's population, which also includes Worcester, Massachusetts, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Providence, Rhode Island.


The organization was the brainchild of William H. Wincapaw, [2] a floatplane pilot from Friendship, Maine. He was well known for transporting passengers and cargo along the Maine coast. He frequently took to the air in less than ideal conditions to provide transport for sick or injured islanders. His actions were responsible for the saving of many lives. On many of these flights, his only means of navigation were the lighthouse beacons maintained by keepers along the coast. He had a great deal of admiration for these men and their families and felt that something special should be done to show them how much their efforts were appreciated. On December 25, 1929, he loaded up his plane with a dozen packages containing newspapers, magazines, coffee, candy and other items - small luxuries that could make living on an isolated island a little more bearable. He flew to lights around the Rockland area and dropped these modest gifts for the lighthouse families. So well received were his Christmas gifts, he expanded the program to cover more light stations and Coast Guard stations throughout New England. Wincapaw did not initially consider himself a Santa Claus; the title was bestowed upon him by residents of the stations that he visited. Soon he was joined on the route by his son, Bill Jr., and by noted author Edward Rowe Snow. Snow participated in the program for over forty years before his retirement. [2]

United States Coast Guard Coastal defense and law enforcement branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is the coastal defense and maritime law enforcement branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the country's seven uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the U.S. military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency mission as part of its mission set. It operates under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, and can be transferred to the U.S. Department of the Navy by the U.S. President at any time, or by the U.S. Congress during times of war. This has happened twice: in 1917, during World War I, and in 1941, during World War II.

Santa Claus legendary, folkloric figure, who is said to deliver presents to children on Christmas Eve

Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or simply Santa, is a legendary figure originating in Western Christian culture who is said to bring gifts to the homes of well-behaved children on Christmas Eve and the early morning hours of Christmas Day. The modern Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas, the British figure of Father Christmas and the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas. Some maintain Santa Claus also absorbed elements of the Germanic god Wodan, who was associated with the pagan midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky.

Edward Rowe Snow was an American author and historian.

The Flying Santa flights have continued uninterrupted, apart from one year during World War II, since 1929; helicopters are now [2] [3] used instead of planes. Retired USCG Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Guthlein and retired Senior Chief David Considine are two of the people who suit up for the Flying Santa role today. The nonprofit Friends of Flying Santa [4] was established in 1997 to continue the flights primarily as a way of expressing gratitude for the work performed by the Coast Guard. [1]

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Helicopter Type of rotor craft in which lift and thrust are supplied by rotors

A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forward, backward, and laterally. These attributes allow helicopters to be used in congested or isolated areas where fixed-wing aircraft and many forms of VTOL aircraft cannot perform.

See also

United States Lighthouse Service

The United States Lighthouse Service, also known as the Bureau of Lighthouses, was the agency of the United States Government and the general lighthouse authority for the United States from the time of its creation in 1910 as the successor of the United States Lighthouse Board until 1939 when it was merged into the United States Coast Guard. It was responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of all lighthouses and lightvessels in the United States.

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  1. 1 2 Olson, Wyatt (Dec 22, 1997). "Santa Sentiment Soaring: St. Nick uses helicopter to visit area lighthouses". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved July 24, 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 Tague, Brian (Oct 7, 2016). "The Origins and History of Flying Santa". Friends of Flying Santa. Retrieved Oct 7, 2016.
  3. D'Entremont, Jeremy. "First Flying Santa Honored at Maine Lighthouse Museum". Lighthouse Digest. Retrieved July 24, 2015.
  4. Friends of Flying Santa