Saturday, December 24, 2005

Santa Watch

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For those of you who need to know just where Santa is, here's how to find out:
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Shalom aleichem shalom!

While Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Christ, our Jewish friends and neighbors celebrate Hanukkah, which begins this year on December 25th. I didn't want to simply ignore Hanukkah, but since it's not "my" holiday, I forget how important it is to much of the world. So, to my Jewish friends and readers, I wish you a Happy Hannukkah.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The letters pour in from children around the world, telling two magical far-off figures their holiday wishes.

These missives aren't sent to Santa Claus. They come from Jewish boys and girls who, for so long, had no one to write each December. They're for an ageless Kansas City couple known simply by Yiddish derivatives for grandmother and grandfather, Bubbie and Zadie.

The story was created in 1981 by Danny Bloom, then a thirtysomething public relations professional at an Alaskan community college who wanted to pen a holiday narrative for Jewish children.

"I remember as a Jewish kid myself growing up in Massachusetts every winter reading the newspaper and seeing the TV shows about Santa Claus. Jewish kids couldn't participate," he said.

The story told of a diminutive grandma and grandpa, bundled up for the cold, who are able to fly through the skies on the first night of Hanukkah. Bubbie and Zadie once lived in Alaska but later moved to Kansas City to run a tailor shop. They visit children everywhere, bringing them stories and songs instead of gifts.

In 1985, his story was published as "Bubbie and Zadie Come to My House." It wasn't a huge sell but publicity surrounding its release kept children's letters coming by the thousands. Bloom answered them all with handwritten notes.

The popularity of Bubbie and Zadie has risen and fallen through the years, as Bloom moved to Japan and now, to Chiayi City, Taiwan, where he is a freelance writer.

He is 56, single, and rents a fifth-floor studio apartment. He rides a bicycle and motor scooter because he has no car and sends e-mails from an Internet cafe because he doesn't have a computer.

With his book out of print, many of Bloom's young writers have found it at a library, come across it on the Internet, or have parents who as children read the Bubbie and Zadie story themselves.

Using an address posted online, most children send letters the traditional way, though Bubbie and Zadie have also received e-mail.

Some of the letters amount to Jewish children's wish lists, but most are exactly what Bloom hoped for - messages of innocence and simplicity.

"Your Hanukkah story in the book is so beautiful and I enjoyed having Grammy read it to me," wrote a 7-year-old Kansas City girl.

"I was so happy to get your letter in the mail because here in Idaho there are not many Jewish people," said an 11-year-old girl from Boise. An 8-year-old boy from Teaneck, N.J, wrote: "My older sister says you might be fake! Are you?"

When responding, Bloom says, he tries to put himself in his own grandmother's frame of mind, not preaching about religion, just being a friendly older presence who treats children as his equals. He signs all his notes "Bubbie and Zadie."

Bloom calls the Bubbie and Zadie project his hobby. But with no synagogue to be found and Judaism virtually nonexistent in Taiwan, it may serve a larger purpose, too.

"This program connects me back to my own culture," he said. "These letters fill up my life with something I don't have."

Bloom's program is now in its 25th year, and he hopes that it might someday inspire a cartoon or film.

"It's my big dream that writing to Bubbie and Zadie would become a part of American Jewish culture," he said.

Above story By MATT SEDENSKY

find out more about Bubbie and Zadie at:

Letters to Bubbie and Zadie can be sent to Bubbie and Zadie's Tailor Shoppe, Offshore Global Maildrop, Post Office Box 1000, Chiayi City, 600-99, Taiwan.
Festivus For the Rest of Us

ERIE, Pa. (AP) - The celebration of Festivus is alive and well in northwestern Pennsylvania, nearly a decade after the bizarre "holiday" garnered pop culture notoriety on "Seinfeld."

Residents were preparing to celebrate "the festivus for the rest of us" Friday with a night of airing grievances, feats of strength and, of course, the aluminum Festivus pole.

"It's all in good fun," said Jeff Boam, 36, a math teacher from Millcreek Township and longtime "Seinfeld" fan.

"More than anything else, it's a great excuse to get together with friends and have outrageous fun," said George Klapsinos, 38, a senior technical service specialist for Lord Corp.

Many people learned of Festivus through "Seinfeld," but its roots actually go back several decades, when writer Daniel O'Keefe's father started it. He was looking for something more from the holidays, something that wasn't political or religious.

O'Keefe wrote "The Real Festivus: The True Story Behind America's Favorite Made-Up Holiday" and co-wrote the "Seinfeld" episode.

In the episode, Frank Costanza, played by actor Jerry Stiller, comes up with the idea for a new holiday after struggling in a tug-of-war for a doll at a toy store.

Festivus'"traditions" differ from those of Christmas.

Instead of a tree, Festivus followers celebrate around a metal pole. Boam's Festivus pole is 6 feet tall and rooted in bucket of cement.

"No tinsel, no ornaments. Nothing should go on it. It should be bare," Boam said.

Guests also grab the pole and fume about how others have disappointed them in the past year.

"One year, we had a blizzard on the night of the party," Klapsinos said. "So we grieved about everyone who said they were going to show up but didn't. I mean, we made it, right?"

Finally, the festival features feats of strength.

"This usually means wrestling," said Jack Munch, a real-estate broker. "I've seen parties where it deteriorates into five people wrestling in the snow in the backyard. The whole thing is a blast. You never know what's going to happen on Festivus."
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

You know Dasher and Dancer
And Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid
And Donner and Blitzen.
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
(like a light bulb)
And if you ever saw it
(saw it)
You would even say it glows
(like a flash light)

All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
(like Pinochio)
They never let poor Rudolph
Play in any reindeer games
(like Monopoly)

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
(Ho Ho Ho)
Rudolph with your nose so bright
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?

Then all the reindeer loved him
(loved him)
And they shouted out with glee
"Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
You'll go down in history!"
(like Columbus)
A Visit From St. Nicholas
by Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas', when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that ST. NICHOLAS soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled down for a long winter's nap, When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of mid-day to objects below, When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer, With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name: "Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN! On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONDER and BLITZEN! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

"As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, so up to the house-top the coursers they flew, With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too. And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow; The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath; He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook, when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, Laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose; He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,
Christmas Customs

Many Christmas customs are based on the birth of Christ. Such as giving presents because of the Wise Men, who brought presents to the baby Jesus. Christmas carols based on Christ's birth and scenes of the birth with figures of shepherds, the Wise Men, and animals surrounding the baby Jesus.

But some of the ways people celebrate Christmas have nothing to do with Christ's birthday. Many bits of older holidays have crept into Christmas!

It wasn't until about 200 years after Christ's death that Christians even thought about celebrating his birth. No one knows the exact date of his birth. It is believed that December the 25th was chosen to turn people away from celebrating other holidays in this time of the year.

Saturnalia, was the Romans holiday that they celebrated in December. It was a time of feasting and parties. Also, in northern Europe there was a holiday known as Yule. They celebrated this holiday by making great fires. They then would dance around the fires, yelling for the winter to end.

In time, Christmas took the place of these holidays. But people kept some of the old customs -- such as burning a Yule log and having feasts and parties. The word Yule is still used as a name for the Christmas season.

As time went on, new customs crept into Christmas. One was the Christmas tree, which was started in Germany. As the Germans settled in new lands they brought with them this tradition.

Last but not least is Saint Nick. A long time ago, a bishop named Nicholas lived in what is now the country of Turkey. No one knows much about him. There are stories that he often helped children in need. Many years after his death, Nicholas was made a saint. In time, he became the patron saint of children.

Friday, December 23, 2005


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From my house to yours
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!!!

Shake the snowglobe and see what happens...

We consider Christmas as the encounter, the great encounter, the historical encounter, the decisive encounter, between God and mankind. He who has faith knows this truly; let him rejoice.

- - - Pope Paul VI "Christmas address 23 Dec 65"
Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
Editorial Page, New York Sun, 1897

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus? Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus?Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Eddie Pola, George Wyle 1963

It's the most wonderful time of the year.
With the kids jingle belling,
and everyone telling you,
"Be of good cheer,"
It's the most wonderful time of the year.

There'll be parties for hosting,
marshmallows for toasting and
caroling out in the snow.
there'll be scary ghost stories and
tales of the glories of Christmases
long, long ago.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.
There'll be much mistletoeing
and hearts will be glowing,
when loved ones are near.
It's the most wonderful time of the year.
I played Santa Claus many times, and if you don't believe it, check out the divorce settlements awarded my wives.

- - - Groucho Marx "The Groucho Phile"

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sleigh Ride
Mitchell Parish, Leroy Anderson 1948

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling,
ring ting tingling too
Come on, it's lovely weather
for a sleigh ride together with you,
Outside the snow is falling
and friends are calling "Yoo hoo,"
Come on, it's lovely weather
for a sleigh ride together with you.

Giddy yap, giddy yap, giddy yap,
let's go, Let's look at the show,
We're riding in a wonderland of snow.
Giddy yap, giddy yap, giddy yap,
it's grand, Just holding your hand,
We're gliding along with a song
of a wintry fairy land.

Our cheeks are nice and rosy
and comfy cozy are we
We're snuggled up together
like two birds of a feather would be
Let's take that road before us
and sing a chorus or two
Come on, it's lovely weather
for a sleigh ride together with you.

There's a birthday party
at the home of Farmer Gray
It'll be the perfect ending a perfect day
We'll be singing the songs
we love to sing without a single stop,
At the fireplace while we watch
the chestnuts pop. Pop! pop! pop!

There's a happy feeling
nothing in the world can buy,
When they pass around the chocolate
and the pumpkin pie
It'll nearly be like a picture print
by Currier and Ives
These wonderful things are the things
we remember all through our lives!

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling,
ring ting tingling too
Come on, it's lovely weather
for a sleigh ride together with you,
Outside the snow is falling
and friends are calling "Yoo hoo,"
Come on, it's lovely weather
for a sleigh ride together with you.

Giddy yap, giddy yap, giddy yap,
let's go, Let's look at the show,
We're riding in a wonderland of snow.
Giddy yap, giddy yap, giddy yap,
it's grand, Just holding your hand,
We're gliding along with a song
of a wintry fairy land

Our cheeks are nice and rosy
and comfy cozy are we
We're snuggled up together
like two birds of a feather would be
Let's take that road before us
and sing a chorus or two
Come on, it's lovely weather
for a sleigh ride together with you.
by Kathleene S. Baker

(another heartwarming dog story-ed.)

I sat alone in Bill Miller's BBQ eating lunch and double-checking my shopping list.

As always, Bill's was jam packed and buzzing with bits and pieces of conversation. Dishes were clanging and banging, while Christmas carols played in the background. Jovial waitresses were decked out in Santa hats -- holiday cheer abounded!

Suddenly a rather scrubby, poorly dressed fellow entered and approach the young clerk at the cash register. From what I could gather, he was asking for a handout of some sort. The clerk seemed anxious and unsure of how to handle the situation. While speaking, the man glanced out the front window several times, which caused me to do the same.

Evidently he wasn't alone.

He had two companions outside -- one being a terribly thin dog that appeared to be a medium-sized, mixed breed. The sight of the devoted and underweight canine friend was all it took. My appetite vanished right along with my warm fuzzy feelings of the holiday season.

"Oh, I can't handle this," grumbled a man at the table next to me. He pushed his plate away, got up, and walked to the cash register.

"I want several big broiled chicken breasts for that poor dog out there." His voice was coarse and he had a look of true anguish on his face.

"Can you bag up a couple of to-go meals for the dog's owners too?"

The clerk's nervous expression was instantly replaced with a huge smile.

"Yes, sir! Oh thank you so much."

The chicken was ready before the meals, and the generous stranger high-tailed it out the door.

Being curious, I hustled outside and lingered by my car. Passing by the dog's owner, I had noticed the smell of alcohol.

But the aroma of chicken had the dog's tail wagging to beat the band. In fact, her entire body wagged. Her newfound-friend offered small bites while stroking her lackluster, drab, reddish coat and speaking in a calm, loving voice.

"Her name is Sadie," said the man. "She's a real good dog. We found her roaming the streets about four months ago. She just kind of took to us and hasn't left our side since. My name is Ed. That guy inside is my brother, Charles."

As I studied Sadie more closely it was apparent she had been, or was possibly still, nursing a litter of pups. She was definitely in need of the chicken she was savoring. Her big, beautiful, brown eyes spoke volumes as she devoured each bite with all the manners of a true lady. I wondered how long it had been since she'd had the satisfaction of a full tummy. What a shame, as it was obvious she was a kind, loyal, and gentle soul.

When finished, she gave her new friend a quick kiss on the cheek, then walked over, sat at the feet of her owner, and continued to lick her chops.

A complete stranger had given her a gift beyond description, and I wondered who this man might be.

Then out walked Charles with the to-go meals and both brothers expressed sincere thanks. Ed offered up an added comment.

"God bless you, Mister, and Merry Christmas."

The generous stranger looked both men in the eye. "You know this loyal companion of yours would feed you first, any day of the week. Even if she had a drinking problem -- she'd meet your needs before buying another bottle. In fact, she would lay down her life for you." The brothers hung their heads in shame.

"Sir, we love Sadie. She's all we have," stammered Charles. "I promise you right now, we'll do the best we can for her. But I want you to know she always has fresh water from the faucet at the gas station over yonder. And we're awfully careful when we find food in dumpsters. Nothing has ever made any of us sick."

Ed interrupted nervously. "We took her pups to the Animal Shelter hoping they'd find good homes. They said Sadie was older and wasn't likely to be adopted. We couldn't stand to think they might put her down, so we kept her. We're a family."

The stranger spoke again with his deep, gruff voice. "I'll make a deal with you. When you can't feed Sadie she will have a running tab at this cafe, but one of the employees will always watch to be sure she is fed every single bite. The food is for her -- I hope you understand what I'm saying. I've known the owner of this place for years. All you need to do is ask for the boss, and tell him Sadie needs chicken breasts -- he'll take care of it."

Tears welled up in the eyes of both men. Ed knelt down and wrapped his arms around the dog's neck.

"Did you hear that Sadie? You'll never have to fall asleep with your stomach growling again."

Both men began to offer thanks once more, but the gentleman turned away as tears began to trickle down his face. He crouched down and spoke directly to Sadie.

"If your owners take care of you, I'll see to it that they get an occasional meal too. I'll be getting reports on your condition from the folks that work here. They'll be watching for you, sweet girl."

I climbed into my car and dried my eyes as I watched Sadie's benefactor walk back inside.

Through the plate glass window I could see him speaking with the owner who was nodding his head in approval, while shaking hands with Sadie's Christmas Angel. -

- Kathleene S. Baker
Santa Claus wears a Red Suit, He must be a communist. And a beard and long hair, Must be a pacifist. What's in that pipe that he's smoking?

- - - Arlo Guthrie

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Merry Christmas! Around the World

Afrikaner [Afrikaans]
"Geseënde Kersfees"

"Enkwan laberhana ledat abaqqawot" OR "Melkam amat ba`al yehunellachihu"

"Milad Majid" OR "Milad Saeed"

"Feliz Navidad"

"Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand"

"Vesele Vanoce"

Brazilian Portuguese
"Feliz Natal"

"Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat"

"Tchestita Koleda" OR "Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo"

"Soursdey Noel"

Chinese [Mandarin]
"Sheng Dankuai Le"

Chinese [Cantonese]
"Sing Daan Faai Lok"

"Nadelik Lowen"

"Sretan Bozic"

"Velike Vanoce"

"Glædelig Jul"

"Vrolijk Kerstfeest"

English [American]
"Merry Christmas"

English [Australian]
"'Ave a bonza Chrissy, Mate"

English [UK]
"Happy Christmas"

"Gojan Kristnaskon"

"Roomsaid Joulu Puhi"

"Christmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad"

"Gleðilig Jól"

"Maligayang Pasko"

"Hauskaa Joulua"

"Joyeux Noël"

"Noflike Krystdagen en in protte Lok en Seine yn it Nije Jier"

"Nollaig Shona Dhuit"

"Froehliche Weihnachten"

"Kala Christouyenna"

"Mele Kalikimaka"

"Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova"

"Shub Badadin"

"Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket"

"Gledileg Jol"

"Tamil Nadu - Christmas Vaazthukkal "

"Selamat Hari Natal"

"Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah"

"Nollaig Shona Duit"

"Buon Natale"

"Meri Kurisumasu"

"QISmaS Quch Daghajjaj"

"Sung Tan Jul Chuk Ha"

"Prieci'gus Ziemsve'tkus un Laimi'gu Jauno Gadu"

"Linksmu Kaledu"

"Selamat Hari Natal dan Tahun Baru"

"Il-Milied it-tajjeb"

"Meri Kirihimete"

"Merry Kashmis"

New Guinea Pidgin
"Meri Christmas"

New Zealand
"Happy Christmas"

"Gledelig Jul"

Pennsylvania German
"En frehlicher Grischtdaag"

"Felices Fiestas" OR "Feliz Navidad"

"Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia"

"Feliz Natal"

"Hacahi Ke Eide"

"Sarbatori Fericite"

"S Rozhdestvom Kristovym"

"Hristos se rodi"

"Sretan Bozic" OR "Vesele vianoce"

"Manuea le Karisimasi"

Scots Gaelic
"Nollaig chridheil huibh"

"Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok"

"Srecen Bozic"

"Feliz Navidad"

"Heri ya Krismasi"

"God Jul"

Tagalog [Philippines]
"Maligayang Pasko"

"Ia ora'na no te noere"

"Santhasa Krismas"

"Suksan Christmas"

"Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun"

"Z Rizdvom Krystovym" OR "Veselogo Rizdva""

Urdu [Pakistan]
"Shadae Christmas"

"Yangi Yiligiz Mubarak Bolsun"

"Chuc Mung Giang Sinh"

"Nadolig Llawen"
I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no white man would be coming into my neighborhood after dark.

- - - Dick Gregory

Monday, December 19, 2005

Grandma got run over by a reindeer.
Walking home from our house Christmas eve.
You can say there's no such thing as Santa,
but as for me and grandpa we believe.

She'd been drinking too much eggnog,
and we begged her not to go.
But she forgot her medication, and she
staggered out the door into the snow.

When we found her Christmas morning,
at the scene of the attack,
she had hoof-prints on her forehead,
and incriminating Claus marks on her back.

Now we're all so proud of grandpa,
He's been taking this so well.
See him in there watching football,
drinking root beer and
playing cards with Cousin Mel.

It's not Christmas without Grandma,
All the family's dressed in black
and we just can't help but wonder:
Should we open up her gifts,
or send them back?
Send them back!!

Now the goose is on the table
and the pudding made of fig
and the blue and silver candles
that would just have matched
the hair on grandma's wig.

I've warned all my
friends and neighbors
better watch out for yourselves,
they should never give a license
to a man who drives a sleigh
and plays with elves.
And Still They Come

How is a cat on the beach like Christmas?
He's got Sandy Paws.

What did the guest sing at Eskimo's Christmas party? .
..Freeze a jolly good fellow.

What do you call a polar bear wearing ear muffs?
Anything you want. He can't hear you!

What do reindeer have that no other animals on earth have?
Baby reindeer.

What do you call a chicken at the North Pole?
The Tablecloth

The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church,it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve. They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc. and on Dec 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished.

On Dec 19 a terrible tempest - a driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days. On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high. The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home.

On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church. By this time it had started to snow.

An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it.The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area. Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet. "Pastor," she asked, "where did you get that tablecloth?"

The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria. The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten the Tablecloth. The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. She was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or her home again. The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made the pastor keep it for the church.

The pastor insisted on driving her home, that was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return. One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn't leaving. The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike? He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety, and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years in between.

The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier. He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas Programming for Monday December 19th

7:00p......Comfort & Joy.................................................Lifetime
8:00p......American Chopper........................................Discovery
8:00p......Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas.......................Disney
8:00p......A Diva's Christmas Carol.......................................BET
8:00p......Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.........................Family
8:00p......Going My Way....................................................TCM
8:00p......Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer..................Toon
8:30p......Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas............Toon
9:00p......Wintertime Treats Unwrapped...............................Food
9:00p......American Chopper........................................Discovery
9:00p......Once Upon a Christmas...................................Hallmark
9:00p......His and Her Christmas......................................Lifetime
10:00p.....Denis Leary's Merry F..... Christmas Special.....Comedy
10:00p.....American Chopper........................................Discovery
10:00p.....Sing We Now of Christmas: A Festival of Carols.....PBS

As always, check your local listings for other programming and times.
The Best Prayer I Have Heard In A Long Time............

Heavenly Father, Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.

From email. Thanks, Linda!
The Dog Who Ate Christmas

Our dog recently ate 7 ounces of Baker's chocolate and a half-ounce of gourmet ground coffee and swallowed a marble, to boot. None of these things is part of recommended canine diet. Chocolate is toxic to dogs - a 1-ounce square of Baker's chocolate can kill a 10-pound dog, and it's a wonder 7 ounces didn't do in our 15-pound dachshund. Coffee holds the same dangers.

The whys and wherefores of this accident are irrelevant. Everyone feels badly enough already. The upshot of the whole thing is that the vet bills totaled more than $1,200. Coming on the heels of a rough year and a recent layoff, our little dog effectively ate Christmas.

On the way home from the vet with our pooch, groggy and sore after surgery to remove the offending blue marble, we joked gently about all the things that $1,200 could buy. "Dexter ate a 24-inch flat screen LCD TV," my husband said, laughing.

"He ate a lot of video games," my son chimed in.

"He ate a used car," one of my daughters added.

"A very old and very used one," her father started to correct her. But then we remembered we'd sold our old car for $300 and agreed that Dexter had eaten the equivalent of four old minivans.

Once home, everyone fawned over our sick little dog without reproach, glad he was home and on the mend, the $1,200 and abandoned Christmas gift ideas irrelevant.

Because, truth be told, we're still in debt to Dexter for all he's done for us in the last couple of years.

We adopted him as something of immersion therapy for our then-10-year-old son, who was suffering from an increasingly unreasonable and debilitating fear of dogs. Like many phobias, cynaphobia, the medical term for fear of dogs, doesn't require any negative experiences to exist. Our son's fears had grown to such proportions he couldn't walk down the street or ride his bike without heart-racing anxiety on just seeing a dog.

When we adopted Dexter from a breed rescue group, he was a year and a half old, weighed 13 pounds and stood a foot high at the shoulders. Our daughters were delighted. Our son wouldn't come out of his room for three days. He crawled across the tops of chairs to get to the table to eat and then crawled back across them to return to his room.

On the fourth day, he sat on a stool and observed the dog, who looked back questioningly with those irresistible dark brown eyes of his. At the end of a week, our son was carrying the dog around the house. After a few weeks, he was more comfortable with other dogs. Now, two years later, he still doesn't care for large dogs, but he's not fearful and he roams the neighborhood with a confidence that's carried over to other areas of his life. He's playing piano, riding horses, doing well in his studies and generally a happy-go-lucky kid with a dog.

And that's just what Dexter did for our son.

Each person in the family has a special and unique relationship with the dog. He plays gently and obligingly with our son. With my rambunctious, outgoing daughter, he races and wrestles. He leans against my quiet daughter like a cat, savoring her strokes. And while originally suspicious of men, Dexter adores my husband. They play wild games of chase and spend warm devoted moments snoozing.

I had never owned a dog before and was concerned about how long I could be away from home; picking up after the dog in addition to the rest of the family, who at least could flush; annual shots; tags and whatever other dog ownership issues were bound to occur.

But I found that walks took on new meaning with a little dog trotting at my side. An occasionally bizarre meaning, as we sometimes stopped every few feet so Dexter could check what the girls called his "pee mail" at every post and trunk. But I walk more briskly and more often now.

And coming home has never been so rewarding! No one else in the family greets me so ecstatically and with such genuine joy. Whether I've been gone 15 minutes or a day, Dexter is enormously and unapologetically glad to see me. He's a cuddler, shamelessly squeezing between the desk and my lap while I work, cruising from lap to lap while we watch TV at night. He won't crawl into his bed until the last family member is in his or hers, and he lies curled up beside us until morning, when he starts his equal opportunity doting all over again.

He has taught us patience, charity and the value of forgiveness. He never holds grudges, whether his tail is accidentally stepped upon, or he's ordered out of the kitchen for being underfoot. He certainly didn't like the vet's office during the Chocolate Incident. But when we came to take him home, he clearly didn't associate us with his aches and pains. Through the haze of drugs after his surgery, he wagged his tail vigorously when he saw us.

Dogs aren't for the shallow and self-absorbed. They're childlike butwithout the growing cognizance and independence of children. We are always their heroes; they're always our friends. Even with three children and a quarter-century marriage, I didn't fully understand unconditional love until Dexter came into our lives. The obligation to live up to such devotion and loyalty can be a daunting task and a humbling experience.

Yes, our dog ate Christmas. But the gifts he's given us are priceless and more enduring than anything we could ever put under the tree and more than we could ever repay.

Theresa Willingham is an occasional columnist for the North of Tampa regional edition of the Times. - © Copyright 2002-2004, St. Petersburg Times

Okay, this wasn't really a Christmas story like we've all come to expect. But, isn't Christmas about love and giving from the heart? I think that's what this story is about. The love of a family for their dog and the love of a dog for his family. As Linus once said, "that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year.

- - - Victor Borge
Mel Torme (c) 1946

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.

Everybody knows a turkey
and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight.

They know that Santa's on his way
He's loaded lots of toys
and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother's child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer
really know how to fly.

And so I'm offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it's been said
many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you.