Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Dayhoff: I believe in Santa Claus

Throughout history, Westminster and Carroll County have been filled with the spirit of the season for the Christmas holidays. No Grinches here.

I hope that by now you are putting the final touches on your Christmas decorations and wrapping presents with some soothing heavy metal Christmas music on in the background.


Actually, some of my all-time Christmas favorites include "The Chipmunk Song" sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks in 1958 and "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" written by John Rox and performed by Gayla Peevey, 10 years old at the time, in 1953.

Another classic that comes to mind is a little more offbeat, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" by Tommie Connor. He was only 13 years old when it was recorded in 1952. The song was actually banned by the Catholic Church in several cities.


Yes, of course, I believe in Santa Claus.

I believe because Dolly Pardon and local community leader Mary Bostwick Shellman have told me that Santa exists.

Parton said she believes in Santa Claus on December 2, 1984 when she sang "I Believe in Santa Claus" with Kenny Rogers in a Christmas special on CBS, "Kenny & Dolly — Christmas To Remember." According to her website,, the show was "inspired by their popular album, 'Once Upon a Christmas.'"

Kenny & Dolly sang, "… I believe in Santa Claus I'll tell you why I do … I believe that dreams and plans and wishes can come true. I believe in miracles, I believe in magic too. I believe in Santa Claus and I believe in you. I believe in family in country and in smiles. I believe in turning negatives to positives in life …"

Shellman first mentioned Santa Claus and "Kris Kringling" in a letter dated Jan. 2, 1867.

A Jan. 4, 1879 newspaper article in the Democratic Advocate explains that "Kris Kringling" had evolved into masqueraders going from house to house in town and collecting money for the poor in return for their entertainment.

The Democratic Advocate on Dec. 26, 1947, wrote of a Christmas "parade consisting of the newly organized Molleville Post of Foreign Wars," Carroll Post No. 31 American Legion, and the 29th Division Association. "Santa Claus rode in a large float. … The parade ended at the 'forks' where the community Christmas tree was lighted [by Mayor Joseph L. Mathias]."

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The "forks" at the intersection of West Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue was considered in the day to be the center of town. In those days, Pennsylvania Avenue was a combination of a many businesses nestled in among large, well-appointed homes.


In December 1947, Christmas carols, led by F. Kale Mathias, were sung by the community. Children under 12 each received a box of candy, an orange, and a noisemaker.

Much more research is needed to determine when the tradition of the mayor distributing a stocking with oranges and candy was discontinued, but I remember it as late as the 1960s. The earliest account of Westminster distributing presents is found in the American Sentinel on December 25, 1897.

In case you were curious, in December of 2009 I explained why a Christmas tree is better than a man: A Christmas tree requires a little water, very little attention, and it stays happy. A Christmas tree smells good, behaves, and stays in its corner. It adds charm to a home and never whines.

Now, sing along with me, "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas; Only a hippopotamus will do; Don't want a doll, no dinky Tinker Toy; I want a hippopotamus to play with and enjoy."

Now stop whining.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. Email him at