The busiest division of that conglomerate based at the North Pole has to be the daytime soap department.

Christmas is the time when Santa delivers what his elves have been meticulously creating all year: new soap hunks and hunkettes. In the world of soap contracts, actors are hired according to a quarterly cycle. The end of the old year always sees an influx of new actors, who, with a little watering, might flower into major characters in time for next summer's crucial story lines.

The inside word is that Santa's delivery to "One Life to Live" could prove to be quite valuable. So what if Leonard Stabb is an unknown, a model with no real acting experience? He plays a mystery man who shows up to produce and direct a movie.

He's someone out of the past of resident actress Megan Gordon (Jessica Tuck). Now that Megan's love, Jake (Joe Lando), has married the sightless (give us a break!) Charlotte Hesser (Audrey Landers), Megan is at loose ends. Wouldn't it be great if in real life a new man (or woman) appeared exactly when we were in the market for one?

Santa's little blond bundle for "All My Children," Kelly Ripa (who plays Hayley Vaughn), should also have staying power. Hayley, niece of Trevor Dillon (James Kiberd), arrived on his doorstep in a black leather jacket, wearing a spiky black wig, with the word "hellraiser" all but stamped on her forehead. In the next few weeks, Hayley's alcoholic mother (not yet cast) will also arrive in town. Hayley is probably the spoiler in a major story line for 1991 that "AMC" is carefully setting up for its teen-ish players.

The elves needed to do only a mild touch-up to Santa's delivery for "Days of Our Lives," since she's someone we've already seen. Playing Dr. Whitney Baker is Claire Yarlett. Previously, beautiful Yarlett was the weakest link on "The Colbys," playing Bliss.

That familiar face we recognized on "General Hospital" turns out to be Kim Terry, who was the Aramis woman (to Ted Danson's Aramis man) in commercials. She plays Rita Lloyd, who has already stirred up problems for her stepsons Frisco and Tony Jones (Jack Wagner and Tony Maule).

"Santa Barbara" has recast the role of Keith Timmons, last played by quirky double Emmy winner Justin Deas. The new Keith, John Novak, isn't another Deas, but he is quite charming.