Santa Claus is not a roly-poly old man.
In the Lowcountry, Santa comes in many sizes and shapes. Our Santa often has too many debts at home to even consider giving gifts to perfect strangers.
But somehow it happens.
At the fire station next to First Presbyterian Church on Hilton Head Island, a few firefighters spend weeks of time and thousands of their own dollars for a dazzling Christmas light display -- simply to spread joy.
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Lt. Scott Lowther of Ridgeland said it also helps the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire and Rescue Division welcome the public it serves. Buses full of the elderly and car loads of children circle the station -- more than 4,000 vehicles so far this year -- to see the magic of a "family" skating on an "ice pond" and thousands of colorful lights.
These Santas work 24 hours on and 48 hours off.
The Christmas joy is all extra -- most of it done by Lowther, Doug Hubbard, Robert Scott, Wayne Cochran and Jack Wimberly. About five years ago, "Doug told Robert Scott he had a lot of Christmas stuff at home, and it's been all downhill from there," Lowther said.
They take donations of non-perishable food for The Deep Well Project and provide an address if anyone wants to send money to the private social services agency.
Child Abuse Prevention Association volunteers rounded up three gifts for each of 309 children countywide this year. These are children in stressed homes, to put it mildly. Businesses and homeowners associations countywide helped, and they got free use of a building for Santa's workshop. Hundreds of Santas are involved. They believe every child deserves a Christmas, no matter what they've been through.
Teachers at Hilton Head Island Elementary School for the Creative Arts dug into their own pockets to buy and deliver gifts to more than 70 of their students who otherwise would have had no Santa.
About 1,000 people came when a volunteer community choir performed the "Messiah" this month at First Presbyterian on Hilton Head.
The Red Rooster Cafè in Beaufort hosted two seatings of free dinners for people in the community who deserved it.
Hilton Head's Vari Asian Seafood and Sushi Buffet on William Hilton Parkway will host a free, all-you-can-eat buffet from 6 to 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Owners Jackie Zhao and Kyle Wang see it as a community gift. Tips and donations are encouraged, with money going to Deep Well. Volunteers are needed. (Call 843-785-9000).
Hilton Head's ninth annual Community Christmas Day Dinner is run entirely by 350 volunteers. They expect to serve 1,000 people from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Aunt Chilada's Easy Street Cafe on Pope Avenue. Donations go to three causes: next year's dinner, Meals on Wheels or 2nd Helpings.
Santa's comings and goings in Beaufort County cannot all be recorded -- or even known.
What does Santa look like at your house?
Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.