2200 Broad Avenue • Altoona, PA • 814.944.4043 | About News Jaffa Shrine Center Contact | | Shriners Hospitals for Children

History of the Jaffa Kiddies Christmas Party

The Jaffa Kiddies Christmas Party has been a long tradition at our shrine facility. As a new member of Jaffa in 1969, I remember the large turnout of shriners and their families sitting down to a full course turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and filling, with a slice of ice cream and a thumb print cookie for dessert.

Previous to my membership, the Christmas party was held for the benefit of several orphanages in Central Pennsylvania. Those children were brought in for the big dinner, with Santa’s arrival in the auditorium in a sleigh drawn by two reindeer – formerly employed in the 11th Avenue windows of Gable’s Department Store in Downtown Altoona during the yule tide season.

With the disappearance of the orphanages in the area, the dinner was then put on for the children, grandchildren and friends of shriners covering the entire jurisdiction from the New York border to the Mason Dixon line and from Blairsville in the west to Lewistown in the east.

Various menus have been utilized after the traditional feast was no longer favored. Too many children were not interested in a full course dinner, but more interested in going up to the auditorium floor and running around with their new found friends in anticipation of Santa’s arrival.

One potentate’s son had a pizza business and we could get a good price on pizza, but that didn’t work out as well as anticipated. Then somebody suggested that all kids like spaghetti, and that has become the standard fare recently.

At one time the bag of gifts presented by Santa and Mrs. Clause and their helpers, included a large rubber ball, a slinky toy, numerous other toys, a pop corn ball, and apple or orange, and an assorted box of candy from Boyer Brothers.

Recently it was discovered there are numerous needy families in the area who could use some help at Christmas, and our new chairman for the Christmas Party, Lanny Edwards and his wife Lynn have assembled a hard working committee that get the names of those we could help. That committee is now working to get the invitations out to those we are hosting and assess their needs.

Last year’s party was a great success, and Lanny and his committee are to be commended on an outstanding event. We’re looking forward to this year’s party. Bring your family, add to and enjoy the festivities. Santa will be looking our for you. He’s making a list and checking it twice.

Usually at the ceremonial prior to the Christmas Party, there is an opportunity for nobles to contribute to the fund at dinner before the ceremonial. Give generously. It’s a worthy cause.

Submitted by Ray Nycum, Jr.