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Heard on the Hill: White Lies and Senate Santas

Senate Historian Donald Ritchie last week regaled the Senate Democrats’ lunch with the heartwarming history of the chamber’s Secret Santa exchanges.

The hitch? There is no such tradition.

This is the first year the Senate has attempted the anonymous gift swap, sponsored by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).

Ritchie, taking his cues from millions of parents worldwide, was merely having fun in the holiday spirit.

“It was a spoof, framed around the history of the Senate,” Ritchie admitted. “I assured them that everything I said was a joke.”

As part of his fictitious yarn, Ritchie cited examples of what Members shared in sessions past. Kentucky bourbon, say, from Henry Clay. Or Senators of the Gilded Age might have traded railroad stock.

Some, such as Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), picked up on the joke right away. Other Senators were too busy eating during the luncheon and apparently wandered off without fully realizing Ritchie was pulling their legs.

The 37 Democrats and 21 Republicans participating in the inaugural Secret Santa program will get with the gift-giving at a holiday party later today. A Franken aide declined to disclose the location of the seasonal soiree but assured HOH the party would be filled with cookies, eggnog and $10-and-under presents.

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