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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.
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.
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 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,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.
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, 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 nowused 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 was established in 1997 to continue the flights primarily as a way of expressing gratitude for the work performed by the Coast Guard.
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.
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.
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.
West Quoddy Head, in Quoddy Head State Park, Lubec, Maine, is the easternmost point of the contiguous United States. Since 1808, there has been a lighthouse there to guide ships through the Quoddy Narrows. The current one, with distinctive red-and-white stripes, was built in 1858, and is an active aid to navigation. Photographs and paintings of this lighthouse are frequently reproduced. The 3rd order Fresnel lens is the only 3rd order and one of only eight Fresnel lenses still in use on the Maine Coast.
Wood Island Light is an active lighthouse on the eastern edge of Wood Island in Saco Bay, on the southern coast of Maine. The light is just outside the entrance to Biddeford Pool and the end of the Saco River. The lighthouse is a 47-foot (14 m) conical white tower of granite rubble. The light itself sits 71 feet (22 m) above mean high water. Its automated beacon alternates between green and white every 10 seconds.
Halfway Rock Lighthouse is a lighthouse located on a barren ledge in Casco Bay, Maine. The lighthouse tower, which has a height of 76 feet (23 m), and the attached ex-boathouse are all that remain, as the other buildings have been taken away in storms. The name "Halfway Rock" comes from the position of the rock which is halfway between Cape Elizabeth and Cape Small, the southwest and northeast extremities of Casco Bay, which are about 18 nautical miles (33 km) apart.
The Pemaquid Point Light is a historic U.S. lighthouse located in Bristol, Lincoln County, Maine, at the tip of the Pemaquid Neck.
Nobska Light, originally called Nobsque Light, also known as Nobska Point Light is a lighthouse located near the division between Buzzards Bay, Nantucket Sound, and Vineyard Sound in the settlement of Woods Hole, Massachusetts on the southwestern tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It overlooks Martha's Vineyard and Nonamesset Island. The light station was established in 1826, with the tower protruding above the keeper's house, and was replaced in 1876 by the current 42 foot tall iron tower. The light station was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Nobska Point Light Station in 1987.
The Cape Neddick Light is a lighthouse in Cape Neddick, York, Maine. In 1874 Congress appropriated $15,000 to build a light station at the "Nubble" and in 1879 construction began. Cape Neddick Light Station was dedicated by the U.S. Lighthouse Service and put into use in 1879. It is still in use today.
Boon Island Light is located on the 300-by-700-foot Boon Island off the southern coast of Maine, United States, near Cape Neddick. Boon Island Light has the distinction of being the tallest lighthouse in both Maine and New England at 133 feet (41 m). The lighthouse has a focal plane at 137 feet (42 m) above mean high water. The light's beacon flashes white every 5 seconds.
Abbie Burgess Grant (1839–1892) was an American lighthouse keeper known for her bravery in tending the Matinicus Rock Light in Maine during a raging winter storm in 1856. She did so for nearly a month while her father, the head keeper, was away from the island. Her heroic actions attracted much attention and she was soon a popular heroine.
Santa Barbara Lighthouse was a lighthouse in California, United States, on the Santa Barbara Harbor, California.
Frank Albert Drew (1864–1931) was a lighthouse keeper. He was Assistant Keeper Pilot Island Light from 1899 to 1903, First Assistant Keeper, Green Island Light-Station from 1903 to 1909, and Keeper of Green Island Light-Station from 1904 to 1929.
The Prudence Island Lighthouse, more commonly known locally as the Sandy Point Lighthouse, is located on Prudence Island, Rhode Island and is the oldest lighthouse tower in the state. Sandy Point is nicknamed Chibacoweda, meaning "little place separated by a passage", because the location is a little more than one mile offshore.
Whaleback Light is a historic lighthouse marking the mouth of the Piscataqua River between New Castle, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine. It is located on a rocky outcrop offshore southwest of Fort Foster and south of Wood Island in Kittery. A light has been active at this location since 1820; the present tower was built in 1872. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
The Burnt Coat Harbor Light Station is a lighthouse on Swan's Island, Maine. It is located on Hockamock Head, at the entrance to Burnt Coat Harbor and at the end of Harbor Road. Hockamock Head is a peninsula extending south from the center of the island, dividing the island's main harbor from Toothacker Bay. The light marks the entrance to Burnt Coat Harbor. It was built in 1872, and is a well-preserved 19th-century light station. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
Great Duck Island Light is a lighthouse on Great Duck Island in the town of Frenchboro, Maine, USA. Established in 1890, the light marks the approach to Blue Hill Bay and the southern approaches to Mount Desert Island on the central coast of Maine. The light was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Great Duck Island Light Station on March 14, 1988. The light is an active aid to navigation maintained by the United States Coast Guard; the property is owned by the College of the Atlantic, which operates a research station there.
Little River Light is a lighthouse on an island at the mouth of the Little River, in Cutler, Maine. A light station was first established at this site in 1846, and the present structure was built in 1876. It is one of the only iron lighthouses in the state, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Little River Light Station on March 14, 1988. The light station is now owned by the American Lighthouse Foundation, which offers overnight stays in the keeper's house, and occasional tours of the property.
Whitehead Light is a lighthouse on Whitehead Island, on Muscle Ridge Channel, in the southwestern entrance to Penobscot Bay, Maine. It is in the town of St.George. Established in 1804, it is one of Maine's oldest light stations, with its present tower built in 1852 to a design attributed to Alexander Parris. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Whitehead Light Station on March 14, 1988. The property is now owned by not for profit Pine Island Camp. Whitehead light station offers to the public various stays at the light station from getaway weekends to learning retreats and renting the station as a vacation home. The light itself remains an active aid to navigation, maintained by the United States Coast Guard.
Baker Island Light is a lighthouse on Baker Island, Maine, which is part of Acadia National Park. The light station was established in 1828 as a guide to the southern entrance to Frenchman Bay. The present tower was built in 1855; the well-preserved tower, keeper's house, and associated outbuildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.