When I was a little girl one of the highlights of my Christmas season was Christmas Eve. Because that was the night my two older sisters and younger brother and I piled in our parent’s station wagon and went down to River Street, Valatie, NY to wait anxiously along with our passel of cousins for Santa to arrive.
You see the tiny village of Valatie, NY is home to the country’s first Santa Claus club.
The club was started way back in 1946 by fifteen area men who used their Army separation pay to provide gifts for the poor. Valatie was a mill town and the local clothing mills, the village’s biggest employer had slowly been dying out. These fifteen men brought a priceless gift to the Village of Valatie, they brought the Christmas spirit back. This gift continues through this very day.
I was the second generation in my family to receive that precious cheese cloth sack. After Grandma Mattoon moved from her River Street home, my sister Linda took over the honor of hosting our family for this tradition. My children and now their children fill my sister’s house on Christmas Eve and with their little noses pressed against the window, wait to catch that first glimpse of Santa. It warms my heart to watch them open their sacks filled with Christmas candy, books, toys, an orange or apple, a can of soda. Of course way back when we each got that special little white box filled with those glorious little pieces of Christmas candy! They were always a stocking favorite.
More importantly this is a huge effort by the community, with months of planning, that is carried out with love and joy. I think everyone who helps out at the club has been on the receiving end. I’m so proud that the village where many of my family members grew up and still live has carried on a tradition that has made many a child, myself included, smile in delight!
P. S. Virginia O’Hanlon of the famed “Is There a Santa Claus?”/“Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus” editorial appearing in the September 21, 1897, edition of The (New York) Sun., spent her last years in Valatie, NY residing at Barnwell Nursing Home.
Tracey sold her first book on 9/9/99! She is the best selling author of the Women of Surprise Historical romance series, Montlake/Avalon Books and writes the contemporary Wine Country Vixen series. You can learn more about Tracey and her books by visiting her website, www.traceylyons.com. Four Weddings and A Fiasco, The Wedding Toast is available now at http://tinyurl.com/n3927l5