Every community, organization and holiday event seems to have its own Santa Claus— a jolly volunteer behind the flowing white beard and garbed in that familiar red and white suit. Such is the case with Jeff Ruddell, a member of the Gannon Associates family working out of its Tunkhannock office.

Jeff has been playing Santa for “15 years at least” and was again the main attraction (for kids anxious to get on Santa’s good side anyway) at Tunkhannock’s recent Christmas in Our Hometown event. Gannon was the corporate sponsor, along with Travelers, of this year’s Christmas in Our Hometown held on Friday and Saturday, December 1 and 2. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived in a horse-drawn wagon, giving the reindeer a break before their busiest night of the year.

Jeff says the Santa gig helps him get into the Christmas spirit near the end of another busy year “and I just like the holiday feeling of it all.”

Although Santa isn’t necessarily the reason for the season, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without Santa there. He’s the ultimate seasonal symbol for the joy of giving, making the holiday brighter for both the young and the young at heart.

Santa, as we now know him, is a mixture of Christian and pagan traditions, but the contemporary version started to take shape with the Clement Moore poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” a.k.a. “The Night Before Christmas.” Thomas Nast, an illustrator, provided the visual version a few years later, a comforting image after the devastation of the Civil War. This unleashed a flood of Santa stand-ins across the country at Christmastime, with the numbers multiplying over the span of some 150 years.

It’s amazing how just about every town has its own Santa Claus who returns year after year to lend a lap to little ones sharing their Christmas wish lists. Santa is more popular than ever and technology has even brought us Santa tracking websites, streaming videos, interactive games and Santa hotlines. And, of course, there are all those Christmas songs about Santa, his reindeer and his polar workshop.

They range from the sublime to the ridiculous. We’ve got “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas,” “Up on the Housetop” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” who belatedly became more famous than Dasher, Dancer, Donner, Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Prancer or Vixen until we received the sad news that Grandma got run over by one of them.

Was Santa behaving improperly in “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” or is it true that “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy”? Santa proved he could be cool even at room temperature in “Santa Baby,” “Little St. Nick,” “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus,” “Santa, Bring My Baby Back to Me,” and “Dig That Crazy Santa Claus.”

Taking a turn toward the ridiculous, the following might apply: “I’m Gonna Lasso Santa,” “Don’t Shoot Me, Santa,” “Santa’s Gonna Come in a Pickup Truck,” and even a jazz version, “’Zat You, Santa Claus?”

So we offer special Christmas greetings to Jeff Ruddell and all the Santas who come to our towns.