Americana: The Krishna Kringles

Panhandlers from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness are a common sight on the streets of American cities. But at this time of year, some members of the sect exchange their saffron robes for red suits and white whiskers and begin chanting a Western mantra: "Ho, ho, ho." Santa Claus may not be a Hindu deity, but the Hare Krishna people have discovered that he has a divine power to attract charitable donations.

Christian charities consider the Hare Santas to be a pain in the collection plate. Don Schwartz, Manhattan-based operations director for the Volunteers of America, complains that they often crowd...

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