Happy holidays ? without Santa Claus or pumpkins

Author: By Guy Adams

A combination of freak weather and public paranoia about paedophiles means that this year American children will have to forego two traditional staples of their festive season ? pumpkin pie and proper messages from Santa.

The US Postal Service has decided to end the heart-warming practice, first adopted in 1954, of forwarding letters addressed to “Father Christmas, The North Pole,” to a remote town in Alaska called North Pole, where teams of volunteers send back individual replies, in envelopes carrying the local postmark. It’s all because last year an “Operation Santa” volunteer was identified as a convicted paedophile. All “Father Christmas” replies will now be written by specially screened volunteers, in the region where they were originally posted.

In North Pole, where the streets have names like Santa Claus Lane, the locals are livid. “It’s Grinch-like,” declared Mayor Doug Isaacson, who noted that in 55 years the programme had never resulted in a single known case of child abuse.

Meanwhile, families gearing up for Thanksgiving next Thursday are facing grim news: a severe shortage of canned pumpkin, the major ingredient of pumpkin pie. Nestlé, which makes 80 per cent of the nation’s stocks, says that freak rains in the Midwest meant farmers were unable to harvest the majority of their crops.

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