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Anonymous Santa picks up others' hotel tabs for a night

Hilton Garden Inn in Redding, Calif.
Source: Hilton Garden Inn
Hilton Garden Inn in Redding, Calif.

Where does Santa go after Christmas?

Maybe to the Hilton Garden Inn in the Northern California town of Redding, where an unidentified person paid the bills of everyone who was a guest Sunday.

Rates for a regular room at the inn range from $109 to $119, and about 50 of its 93 guest rooms were occupied Sunday, according to the Redding Record Searchlight.

"He wanted to make it anonymous," front-desk supervisor Tony Ross told CNBC on Thursday.

Though Ross said he could not provide further details, he confirmed that the story in the local paper was accurate.

(Read more: 'Layaway Santas' to the rescue!)

The hotel Santa is the latest of a number of do-gooders whose anonymous actions have come to light.

Using the Instagram handle @tipsforjesus, an anonymous person has left more than $80,000 in supersize restaurant tips—$2,000 to $3,000 a pop. In October, Starbucks launched a "pay it forward" program, urging customers to buy a coffee for another patron. And a rash of "Layaway Santas" paid off other people's Christmas gifts.

Even Beyoncé (not so anonymously) paid $50 off the bills of 750 shoppers at a Walmart in Tewksbury, Mass., just before Christmas.

Philanthropy experts often refer to the practice as "direct giving," which lets donors have the satisfaction of seeing exactly where their money is going—without being funneled through a larger organization.

(Read more: Mystery diner leaves thousands in tips)

And at least one of the beneficiaries in Redding has pledged to pay it forward, as well.

Linda Overby, who stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn while returning from a trip to Oregon, told the Record Searchlight that her family intends to donate their room savings to a food bank near their home in Santa Clara, Calif.

"I don't know what other people planned to do, but hopefully people will continue to pass it forward," she said.

—By CNBC's Amy Langfield. Follow her on Twitter at @AmyLangfield.

Follow Road Warrior on Twitter at @CNBCtravel.

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