December 25 - 1939: Flying Santa "bombs" our lighthouses

1621: Pilgrims forbid the playing of games on Christmas day. 1651: Massachusetts citizens fined for observing Christmas
Capt. William H. Wincapaw. Photo courtesy of

1939: New England's flying Santa begins annual visits to USCG personnel

On this day in 1939, as reported in The Lowell Sun:

New England's flying Santa Claus tuned up the reindeer under the hood of his airplane today, readying Blitzen and Vixen and the others for renewal of his annual Christmas visit to the lonely lighthouse keepers along the bleak northern coast.

Santa, who in real life is William Wincapaw, will take off at dawn tomorrow to begin his 126 Yuletide calls upon the isolated posts which watch and wait for him eagerly.

At each lighthouse he will drop a package containing candy, cigars, newspapers and copies of "The Old Farmer's Almanac."

Santa Wincapaw, busy ferrying gold and mining machinery over steaming South American jungles, was unable to make the Christmas tour last year for the first time in nine years, but this year his employers made special arrangements to rush him back by phone for his chore, begun by Wincapaw because of all the favors lighthouse keepers did for him when he flew along the coast years ago.

He arrived in Boston yesterday, only to find that his flying license had expired. He took a test at once to establish qualifications for renewal of the permit, and his 10,000 hours in the air enabled him to pass the test with 'flying' colors.

The 54-year-old flier was unable to obtain a large ship for his Christmas calls this year, and as a result he will make the long haul from Cape Cod to Maine's northern tip in three trips.

His son, Bill Jr., will serve as the 'bomber' and drop the packages ..."

The tradition begun more than eight decades ago by Wincapaw and others continues to this day. Read about the origins and the history of Flying Santa here.

Below is an aerial photo of the welcome awaiting Santa at Chatham Lighthouse in 1991.

1621: Pilgrims forbid the playing of games on Christmas

Read about "Everything Else Which Happened Today" including in 1621 when Gov William Bradford of Plymouth Colony forbid game playing on Christmas.

Christmas celebrations in New England were illegal during part of the 1600s, and were culturally taboo or rare in Puritan colonies from foundation until the 1850s. The Puritan community found no Scriptural justification for celebrating Christmas, and associated such celebrations with paganism and idolatry. The earliest years of the Plymouth Colony were troubled with non-Puritans attempting to make merry, and Governor William Bradford was forced to reprimand offenders. English laws suppressing the holiday were enacted in the Interregnum, but repealed late in the 17th century.

1651: Citizens fined for observing Christmas

Massachusetts General Court ordered a five shilling fine for "observing any such day as Christmas".

In 1659, a law was passed by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony requiring a five-shilling fine from anyone caught "observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way." Christmas Day was deemed by the Puritans to be a time of seasonal excess with no Biblical authority. The law was repealed in 1681 along with several other laws, under pressure from the government in London. It was not until 1856 that Christmas Day became a state holiday in Massachusetts. For two centuries preceding that date, the observance of Christmas — or lack thereof — represented a cultural tug of war between Puritan ideals and British tradition. Read the rest in Mass. Moments. welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on