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Author: Kevin Haislip
Category: Literature
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Long before I became Santa, and in what now feels like another life altogether, I had a friend and a colleague at the newspaper I worked at who hated Christmas!  For my friend, Doug, the only thing he liked was the increased advertising commissions and the Christmas bonus he received.  He absolutely detested everything else about Christmas.  Thought it was all silliness and lies.
It was my favorite time of year!  I loved the reason for celebrating Christmas!  The home and hearth would be beautifully decorated, a Nativity would be prominently placed in the living room, an Advent calendar would be hung on the wall and the smell of a real pine tree brightly adorned and lit up with presents knee deep under it.  I loved all the excitement, the twinkling lights and the smells.  I would come home to a house full of excited children and my wife preparing a feast for us all to sit down and enjoy.  For snacks, she made ginger and sugar cookies right out of the oven just about all day long.
Bowls and bowls of popcorn would be popped and the children would sit down and string it to hang on the Christmas tree.  More of it was eaten than was ever hung up, but then, things are always more fun on a full stomach.
For Doug, it all changed one very cold early November evening.  I was just returning from an assignment and saw he was still at work, so I stopped by his cubical and we started talking.  Doug had just come back to the office from a meeting with Bill Anderson who owned a chain of appliance stores throughout the city.  Bill was a very wealthy man.  I also knew Bill pretty well and had great respect for him.
Doug continued his story.  A few days earlier, he had finished a meeting with a client and was heading for his parked car across the fountain plaza downtown.  As he walked, a van parked alongside the fountain caught his attention where there were about 25 homeless people gathered around the back of it.  As he passed the van, he saw three or four people at the back ladling out soup into bowls and handing it to those in line.
One of the men helping to pass out the soup was someone Doug knew.  It was Bill and he was dressed like he had just stepped out of the board room.  He had a long, camel hair Pea coat on over his suit.  Doug stopped and watched as the line dwindled down to a couple of people.  Then Bill began going around and talking to a number of the homeless as they ate.  Doug stayed in the dark shadows and watched.
Bill was talking to one of the men who was a skuzzy looking young man, dressed in very light summer shirt and shorts.  They talked for a few minutes, then Bill turned and began to walk back to the van.  Very suddenly, Bill stopped and went back to the young man.  The two of them talked for a couple more minutes before Bill took off his coat and helped the younger man to put it on.  When he was finished, Bill headed back to the van.  Doug was stunned at what he was seeing.  That coat had to have cost more than a thousand dollars.
Doug had never seen anything like it before!  Here was this wealthy businessman who had worked hard through the years building his business giving this homeless guy his very expensive coat!  The scene played over and over again in Doug's mind for a couple of days till he got up the nerve to call Bill and ask for an appointment.  He kind of expected Bill to tell him to mind his own business.
Bill welcomed Doug into his office and after dispensing with small talk, Doug told him what he had seen a couple of nights earlier.  He only had one question for Bill, "Why would you do something like that?"
Doug told me how Bill became very quiet as he told the story of what he had seen.  After Doug was finished, Bill leaned forward and began to speak:  Bill had been going down to the fountain to help feed the homeless for about a year and a half with others from his church.  That evening, he had just finished a board meeting and had to hustle to get down there in time to help.  He didn't normally go down in his suit and good coat. 
Bill told how he had been attending a Bible study before on Wednesday evenings and one evening the crew invited him to tag along with them to minister to the homeless.  From that first evening, Bill found himself very humbled.  As he prayed about what he had seen, he knew he was being directed by the Lord to continue ministering to the homeless.  So he had been going out just about every Wednesday evening since and relationships with several of the men were actually growing pretty deep. 
Doug continued telling his story to me.  He knew that I too was very involved in this work because I had told him about it before. 
The young man Bill had given his coat to was Ron and he was only 22 years old.  He had run away from his parents home shortly before graduating high school and was living on the streets.  When Bill had seen Ron, Bill rummaged around in the van to see if there was a blanket for him (the team usually took out woolen pile blankets to give out).  Unfortunately all the blankets had been given out before Bill could put his hands on one for him.
Bill further explained to Doug that he found himself trying to avoid Ron because he knew what the Lord was leading him to do.  His coat was new and was tailored to fit, so it was quite expensive.  But it was no use, and finally Bill went over to talk to him and gave Ron his coat.  Ron was indeed dressed in summer attire and it was very cold out that November evening.
As hard as it was for Doug to understand what Bill had done, what Bill said next was the most puzzling of all.
Bill finished by telling Doug that what he had seen that evening, what Ron had received was only a small measure of what God had been working into Bill's life.  From the very first night he had gone out, the Lord was cultivating into Bill's life the very heart of God for all mankind.  And in that time, the one thing he had seen was how often the poor are very quick to embrace the love of God into their lives.  He had come to understand that living wasn't about creating an empire, but that life, real life came by knowing Jesus and learning to love others, even sometimes at great personal expense.  Bill saw that God was using this time to change him, make him more compassionate and loving toward others.  Particularly those that in the past caused him roll up his car windows at intersections or look the other way before passing one of them on the street, the outcasts of our society.
In the weeks that followed, Doug found himself profoundly impacted by what he had seen that evening and what he had been told about it.  Doug quit with the cynical and sardonic comments and actually seemed to begin to enjoy the Christmas season.  He had come to understand just what it was that made Christmas so important and why people rejoiced as they did. 
Doug learned how God's gift of His Son Jesus has impacted so many lives down through the ages, people like St Nicholas, and caused them to be compassionate and to give selflessly.
I moved to a different city a few years later and have lost track of Doug (and Bill).  But every Christmas since, I remember Doug and how he was changed by witnessing the selfless giving of a beautiful coat to someone else who desperately needed it.  And I find myself rejoicing even more, because one more person has seen why Christ is so important to Christmas!

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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Literature
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Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, Louisa May Alcott (1832 –1888) was an American novelist and poet who authored over 30 books and short-story collections. She is best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868). Alcott’s career as an author began with poetry and short stories that appeared in popular magazines, often under the nom de plume, A.M. Barnard.
A Song For A Christmas Tree
by Louisa May Alcott
   Cold and wintry is the sky,
   Bitter winds go whistling by,
   Orchard boughs are bare and dry,
Yet here stands a faithful tree.
   Household fairies kind and dear,
   With loving magic none need fear,
   Bade it rise and blossom here,
Little friends, for you and me.
   Come and gather as they fall,
   Shining gifts for great and small;
   Santa Claus remembers all
When he comes with goodies piled.
   Corn and candy, apples red,
   Sugar horses, gingerbread,
   Babies who are never fed,
Are handing here for every child.
   Shake the boughs and down they come,
   Better fruit than peach or plum,
   'T is our little harvest home;
For though frosts the flowers kill,
   Though birds depart and squirrels sleep,
   Though snows may gather cold and deep,
   Little folks their sunshine keep,
And mother-love makes summer still.
   Gathered in a smiling ring,
   Lightly dance and gayly sing,
   Still at heart remembering
The sweet story all should know,
   Of the little Child whose birth
   Has made this day throughout the earth
   A festival for childish mirth,
Since the first Christmas long ago.
 
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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Literature
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Known as the Island Poet, Celia Laighton Thaxter (1835-1894) was one of the most published American authors of the 19th Century. Thaxter lived much of her life on White Island off the coast of New Hampshire.Thaxter is best remembered for her non-fiction books “An Island Garden” and “Among the Isles of Shoals”. She also published a volume of poems, many of which are favorites with children, including the Christmas themed poem entitled, “Piccola”. The poem is about a poor French girl on one Christmas morning.
In 1914, Francis Jenkins Olcott (1872-1963) published a book of stories for young children entitled, “Good Stories for Great Holidays”. In the book, Olcott wrote a Christmas story based on Celia Laighton Thaxter's poem entitled, "Little Piccola".
 
Piccola
By Cellia Lalghton Thaxter
As fell to this little maid of France.
'T is seldom Fortune such favor grants
What happened to Piccola, children dear?
Poor, sweet Piccola! Did you hear
Only to live till summer again.
Striving with poverty's patient pain
Could hardly drive the wolf from the door,
'T was Christmas-time, and her parents poor
St. Nicholas nothing would bring to her!
Their little darling no joy might stir,
When dawned the morning of Christmas-day;
No gifts for Piccola! Sad were they
And so she slept till the dawn was gray.
Every child upon Christmas-day,
That something beautiful must befall
But Piccola never doubted at all
'T was plain St. Nicholas had been there!
Such sounds of gladness filled all the air,
She stole to her shoe as the morning broke;
And full of faith, when at last she woke,
And mother and father must peep inside.
See what the good saint brought! she cried,
Never was seen such a joyful child.
In rushed Piccola sweet, half wild:
Had crept into Piccola's tiny shoe!
A sparrow, that in at the window flew,
There was a little shivering bird!
Now such a story who ever heard?
And danced with rapture, she was so charmed.
While the starving sparrow she fed and warmed,
She cried, as happy as any queen,
How good poor Piccola must have been!
Children this story I tell to you,
Of Piccola sweet and her bird, is true.
In the far-off land of France, they say,
Still do they live to this very day.
 
Little Piccola
by Frances Jenkins Olcott
In the sunny land of France there lived many years ago a sweet little maid named Piccola.
Her father had died when she was a baby, and her mother was very poor and had to work hard all day in the fields for a few sous.
Little Piccola had no dolls and toys, and she was often hungry and cold, but she was never sad nor lonely.
What if there were no children for her to play with! What if she did not have fine clothes and beautiful toys! In summer there were always the birds in the forest, and the flowers in the fields and meadows,—the birds sang so sweetly, and the flowers were so bright and pretty!
In the winter when the ground was covered with snow, Piccola helped her mother, and knit long stockings of blue wool.
The snow-birds had to be fed with crumbs, if she could find any, and then, there was Christmas Day. But one year her mother was ill and could not earn any money. Piccola worked hard all the day long, and sold the stockings which she knit, even when her own little bare feet were blue with the cold.
As Christmas Day drew near she said to her mother, "I wonder what the good Saint Nicholas will bring me this year. I cannot hang my stocking in the fireplace, but I shall put my wooden shoe on the hearth for him. He will not forget me, I am sure."
"Do not think of it this year, my dear child," replied her mother. "We must be glad if we have bread enough to eat."
But Piccola could not believe that the good saint would forget her. On Christmas Eve she put her little wooden patten on the hearth before the fire, and went to sleep to dream of Saint Nicholas. As the poor mother looked at the little shoe, she thought how unhappy her dear child would be to find it empty in the morning, and wished that she had something, even if it were only a tiny cake, for a Christmas gift.
There was nothing in the house but a few sous, and these must be saved to buy bread.
When the morning dawned Piccola awoke and ran to her shoe. Saint Nicholas had come in the night. He had not forgotten the little child who had thought of him with such faith.
See what he had brought her. It lay in the wooden patten, looking up at her with its two bright eyes, and chirping contentedly as she stroked its soft feathers.
A little swallow, cold and hungry, had flown into the chimney and down to the room, and had crept into the shoe for warmth. Piccola danced for joy, and clasped the shivering swallow to her breast.
She ran to her mother's bedside. "Look, look!" she cried. "A Christmas gift, a gift from the good Saint Nicholas!" And she danced again in her little bare feet.
Then she fed and warmed the bird, and cared for it tenderly all winter long; teaching it to take crumbs from her hand and her lips, and to sit on her shoulder while she was working.
In the spring she opened the window for it to fly away, but it lived in the woods near by all summer, and came often in the early morning to sing its sweetest songs at her door.
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Author: Kevin Haislip
Category: Literature
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It Happened One Christmas Eve
 by Santa Kevin Haislip
You ever had one of those times when you just had to laugh at yourself? Even Santa does, occasionally!
It was early Christmas Eve this past year and I was out making last minute visits to families before they turned in for the night.  It would be several hours before I returned to their homes to make my secret stops. For now, I was just dropping by for a short visit to the home of a family that requested I come by at 6:30, around dinner time, to see their 3 daughters. 
It was pretty cold and dark out that evening. Six inches of newly fallen snow covered the ground, but the lane where they lived was all lit up with Christmas displays. The muffled laughter from children could be heard up the street from one of the houses that looked like they were having a big Christmas party.
As I looked for their house, I quickly realized that many if not most of the houses did not have addresses on them that were visible.  I say this so that you know how important this is. You don't want Santa taking your presents to someone else's house, do you?
But here I was, looking for the right address so I could make my visit to these three girls. I had called ahead just a few minutes earlier and told Mom I was in the neighborhood and would be coming in directly.  She informed me she had left the front door unlocked and for me to come on in. My GPS guided me to the house address, I collected my bag, tossed it over my shoulder and walked to the front door.
As promised, the door was unlocked. As I stepped through, I was warmly greeted by a spectacular Christmas display: a beautifully decorated tree and mantle and smells of gingerbread and mince filled the house.  Lights and candles shown brightly and Christmas music played softly in the background. I let out a loud chuckle of "Ho Ho Ho" and walked on through to the back of the house where the family all seemed to be. The children's eyes popped wide open with glee and they jumped up from their play and ran over to me, hugging me as tight as their little arms could. Dad was sitting comfortably over by the window reading from a large book, but when I came in, he sat up with a most puzzled expression. Mom was also sitting on the couch, and quickly got up and came over to greet me. She was also clearly very surprised by my visit.
Meanwhile the children could not be more delighted. All three of them talking at once as the volume increased to they could be heard over the others. I bent down to talk with them eye to eye, and tried as I might to answer all their questions: Did I bring their presents right now? Can we open them right now Mom?  Are you still going to come back later with more presents? Do you like cookies? Where are your reindeer? and so on. This was such an unexpected surprise, they could not have been more delighted!
As I talked with the children, something seemed a little off. The expressions of the parents remained quizzical and a bit guarded as they watched. Another thing that was odd was Mom, who had called me and asked me to come by, said she had three daughters. Yet in front of me were two young boys and a slightly older girl. But for all that seemed a little odd to me, I wanted to make sure these children had a visit they would not forget. So I continued talking with them for a few more minutes, then turned to Mom and asked about her other 2 daughters. 
She answered that she and her husband had two sons and a daughter. 
"Well," I said letting out a sigh and a big grin, "What a magical night!  I have had such a wonderful time coming by to visit you. I don't think I will forget this evening for many many years, I've had such a fun time seeing you."
"But you know, Christmas Eve is a very busy night for Santa," I told them as I raised my brows and nodded my head. "As much as I would love to stay here with you, I have many more children and families I must visit before I begin my mid-night rounds."
With that, I picked up by bag and stood up. I chuckled a bit and turned to the three children. "Now you know you must go to bed early tonight and fall fast asleep. I cannot come by later if any of you are awake and looking out for me!" Mom mouthed a silent 'thank you' but Dad still looked very puzzled. 
And with a little bit louder chuckle, I turned and headed for the door with all three children close behind asking even more questions. I hugged them and told them I loved them. Then I was out the door and down the walk to find the correct address. I was already over 20 minutes late to visit the three girls.
As I was about to turn the corner at the end of their drive, the oldest boy shouted out, "Where is your sleigh Santa?"  With that, I heard the first words of Dad, "Come back in here son!" Then I heard the door shut and the lock bolted.   
I've often wondered what Mom and Dad talked about that night. Was this a gift from someone? Was it the Pedersons, or the Johnsons? Who? Should we have called the police? Was it a wrong address? 
I would have loved to be a fly on their wall that night!
I was entirely right about one thing: I would not forget what happened this Christmas Eve. I will be laughing about this for a very long time.
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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Literature
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Edward Estlin (E. E.) Cummings (1894 – 1962) was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is best known for his typographically creative poetry which are seemingly placed at random, slicing up individual words as well as sentences, but Cummings was also a painter, essayist, author, and playwright. He wrote approximately 2,900 poems; two autobiographical novels; four plays and several essays.
Little Tree
by E. E. Cummings
little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
 
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see          i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
 
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid
 
look          the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
 
put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy
 
then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud
 
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"
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Author: Santa John Gable
Category: Literature
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One night in December, my child came to me
“My friends say there’s no Santa, dad. How can it be?
Please tell me the truth, so I may understand.”
He sat in my lap, held tight to my hand.
I looked in his eyes, and thought for a while,
Then told him these words, with a difficult smile,
“A long time ago, a man walked this earth.
They say he was special, from the day of his birth.
Born in a manger, for you and for me,
One day he would die, to set the world free.
His name was Jesus, the Son of God
Well you know the story?” He smiled with a nod.
“Well many years later, another man came,
He, too, kind and caring, St. Nick was his name.
He was born into fortune, and his money he spent
To give to the needy, wherever he went.
He loved this man Jesus, and so he tried
To be a good Christian ‘til the day that he died.”
My child seemed confused, so I skipped all the history
And tried to get right to the point of this mystery.
“Each Christmas we celebrate Jesus’ birthday,
And giving a gift is just one special way
To remember the gift that was born on that night
Midst angels and shepherds and bright starlight.
We also remember St. Nick once more,
Because of the way he gave help to the poor.
So Jesus and St. Nick still live in our heart,
And the world only knows them if we do our part.
We all can be Santa, wherever we go,
And we all can share Jesus, with all that we know.”
He gave me a hug, and ran off to play
And I knew that more questions would be coming some day.
But for now I could rest, enjoying the season,
Content my child knew that Jesus is the reason.
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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Christmas History
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The German Nussknacker (Nutcracker) is a timeless symbol of the Christmas season. Originating near the Erzebirge regions of Germany, decorative Nutcrackers in the form soldiers, knights, and kings have existed since the late 17th century.
A close cousin to the Nutcracker is the Räuchermänner. Commonly known as “Smokers” or “Smoking Men”, Räuchermänner are similar to Nutcrackers in that they are both colorful, carved wooden figures and both originate from Erzegebirge. However, instead of cracking nuts, Räuchermänner are used to burn incense known as Räucherkerzchen. Literally meaning "little smoking candle", a Räucherkerzchen is a small cone of incense burned at Christmas time.
The emergence of Räucherkerzen goes back to the use of frankincense in Catholic liturgy. The Räucherkerzchen are made from the resin of the frankincense tree, mixed with charcoal, potato flour, sandalwood and beech paste. The substances are ground and mixed into a moist dough, then shaped into a cone and dried. Räucherkerzchen come in a wide variety of fragrances ranging from traditional Christmas scents like, frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, and balsam to the more exotic like sandalwood, honey, and others.
Unlike Nutcrackers, which tend to represent political, military, or religious figures, Räuchermänner traditionally resemble common folk such as: shepherds, farmers, bakers, carpenters, chimney sweeps, and other tradespeople. Over the years, these figures have evolved into a wide variety of styles. Today Räuchermänner can be found in all sorts of variations, especially Christmas themes such as Santa Claus, Elves, and Snowmen.
 
The Räuchermänner is made up of two pieces that fit together to create one body. The upper part of the body is hollow so that an incense cone can be placed on top of the lower half of the body. When the incense is lit, smoke then billows out of a hole carved in the mouth to resemble a man smoking a pipe.
Its nostalgic charm has made the Räuchermänner a Christmas tradition in Germany for hundreds of years. Unlike their Nutcracker cousins, who are often depicted as bearish and grim faced, Räuchermänner seem friendlier; almost jovial. But perhaps what has made the Räuchermänner so popular is that these little wooden figures represent the work of the common man.
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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Literature
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English-born Canadian writer, Stephen Butler Leacock (1869 – 1944) is best known for his humorous fiction. At the height of his career between 1915 through 1925, Leacock was the most popular English-speaking writer in the world. The Errors of Santa Claus is one of several short stories included in Leacock’s book, Frenzied Fiction (1918).
The Errors of Santa Claus
by Stephen Butler Leacock
It was Christmas Eve.
The Browns, who lived in the adjoining house, had been dining with the Joneses.
Brown and Jones were sitting over wine and walnuts at the table. The others had gone upstairs.
"What are you giving to your boy for Christmas?" asked Brown.
"A train," said Jones, "new kind of thing -- automatic."
"Let's have a look at it," said Brown.
Jones fetched a parcel from the sideboard and began unwrapping it.
"Ingenious thing, isn't it?" he said. "Goes on its own rails. Queer how kids love to play with trains, isn't it?"
"Yes," assented Brown. "How are the rails fixed?"
"Wait, I'll show you," said Jones. "Just help me to shove these dinner things aside and roll back the cloth. There! See! You lay the rails like that and fasten them at the ends, so -- "
"Oh, yes, I catch on, makes a grade, doesn't it? just the thing to amuse a child, isn't it? I got Willy a toy aeroplane."
"I know, they're great. I got Edwin one on his birthday. But I thought I'd get him a train this time. I told him Santa Claus was going to bring him something altogether new this time. Edwin, of course, believes in Santa Claus absolutely. Say, look at this locomotive, would you? It has spring coiled up inside the fire box."
"Wind her up," said Brown with great interest. "Let's her go."
"All right," said Jones. "Just pile up two or three plates something to lean the end of the rails on. There, notice way it buzzes before it starts. Isn't that a great thing for kid, eh?"
"Yes," said Brown. "And say, see this little string to pull the whistle! By Gad, it toots, eh? just like real?"
"Now then, Brown," Jones went on, "you hitch on those cars and I'll start her. I'll be engineer, eh!"
Half an hour later Brown and Jones were still playing trains on the dining-room table.
But their wives upstairs in the drawing-room hardly noticed their absence. They were too much interested.
"Oh, I think it's perfectly sweet," said Mrs. Brown. "Just the loveliest doll I've seen in years. I must get one like it for Ulvina. Won't Clarisse be perfectly enchanted?"
"Yes," answered Mrs. Jones, "and then she'll have all the fun of arranging the dresses. Children love that so much. Look, there are three little dresses with the doll, aren't they cute? All cut out and ready to stitch together."
"Oh, how perfectly lovely!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown. "I think the mauve one would suit the doll best, don't you, with such golden hair? Only don't you think it would make it much nicer to turn back the collar, so, and to put a little band — so?"
"What a good idea!" said Mrs. Jones. "Do let's try it. Just wait, I'll get a needle in a minute. I'll tell Clarisse that Santa Claus sewed it himself. The child believes in Santa Claus absolutely."
And half an hour later Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Brown were so busy stitching dolls' clothes that they could not hear the roaring of the little train up and down the dining table, and had no idea what the four children were doing.
Nor did the children miss their mothers.
"Dandy, aren't they?" Edwin Jones was saying to little Willie Brown, as they sat in Edwin's bedroom. "A hundred in a box, with cork tips, and see, an amber mouthpiece that fits into a little case at the side. Good present for Dad, eh?
"Fine!" said Willie appreciatively. "I'm giving Father cigars."
"I know, I thought of cigars too. Men always like cigars and cigarettes. You can't go wrong on them. Say, would you like to try one or two of these cigarettes? We can take them from the bottom. You'll like them, they're Russian — away ahead of Egyptian."
"Thanks," answered Willie. "I'd like one immensely. I only started smoking last spring — on my twelfth birthday. I think a feller's a fool to begin smoking cigarettes too soon, don't you? It stunts him. I waited till I was twelve."
"Me too," said Edwin, as they lighted their cigarettes. "In fact, I wouldn't buy them now if it weren't for Dad. I simply had to give him something from Santa Claus. He believes in Santa Claus absolutely, you know."
And, while this was going on, Clarisse was showing little Ulvina the absolutely lovely little bridge set that she got for her mother.
"Aren't these markers perfectly charming?" said Ulvina. "And don't you love this little Dutch design — or is it Flemish, darling?"
"Dutch," said Clarisse. "Isn't it quaint? And aren't these the dearest little things, for putting the money in when you play. I needn't have got them with it — they'd have sold the rest separately — but I think it's too utterly slow playing without money, don't you?"
"Oh, abominable," shuddered Ulvina. "But your mamma never plays for money, does she?"
"Mamma! Oh, gracious, no. Mamma's far too slow for that. But I shall tell her that Santa Claus insisted on putting in the little money boxes."
"I suppose she believes in Santa Claus, just as my mamma does."
"Oh, absolutely," said Clarisse, and added, "What if we play a little game! With a double dummy, the French way, or Norwegian Skat, if you like. That only needs two."
"All right," agreed Ulvina, and in a few minutes they were deep in a game of cards with a little pile of pocket money beside them.
About half an hour later, all the members of the two families were again in the drawing-room. But of course nobody said anything about the presents. In any case they were all too busy looking at the beautiful big Bible, with maps in it, that the Joneses had brought to give to Grandfather. They all agreed that, with the help of it, Grandfather could hunt up any place in Palestine in a moment, day or night.
But upstairs, away upstairs in a sitting-room of his own Grandfather Jones was looking with an affectionate eye at the presents that stood beside him. There was a beautiful whisky decanter, with silver filigree outside (and whiskey inside) for Jones, and for the little boy a big nickel-plated Jew's harp.
Later on, far in the night, the person, or the influence, or whatever it is called Santa Claus, took all the presents and placed them in the people's stockings.
And, being blind as he always has been, he gave the wrong things to the wrong people — in fact, he gave them just as indicated above.
But the next day, in the course of Christmas morning, the situation straightened itself out, just as it always does.
Indeed, by ten o'clock, Brown and Jones were playing the with train, and Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Jones were making dolls' clothes, and the boys were smoking cigarettes, and Clarisse and Ulvina were playing cards for their pocket-money.
And upstairs — away up — Grandfather was drinking whisky and playing the Jew's harp.
And so Christmas, just as it always does, turned out right after all.
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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Christmas History
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Born in 1908, James (Jim) D. Rielly was a lifelong resident of Bristol Rhode Island whose love for his country and his community was immediately evident when you met him. In many ways, he was Bristol’s unofficial Ambassador. To paraphrase Yeats: There were no strangers to Jim Rielly; only friends he had not yet met.
Jim Rielly was well known throughout New England for his kindness, generosity, and countless charitable acts. He was featured in the New York Times on multiple occasions and in hundreds of other newspapers throughout the United States. In 1982 he appeared on the television news program, PM Magazine hosted by Sheila Martines and Matt Laurer.
In recognition of his efforts, Jim Rielly was the recipient of numerous awards and commendations. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus and an honorary member of the Bristol Rotary Club, which presented him the Paul Harris Fellowship Award. He was a life member of the Bristol Elk Lodge No 1860 and the Cup Defenders Association. He also received awards from the Bristol Jaycees, the Rhode Island House of Representatives, the Leonardo DaVinci Lodge, Sons of Italy, and the Seabees of Davisville.
The Coast Guard Cutter Spar honored Jim Rielly for the loving and compassionate time he shared with crew members and their families. He also received awards from the Naval Air Station at Quonset Point, the US Naval Construction Battalion Center, the USS Hammerberg and the USS Essex.
In 1989, the Bristol Town Council presented Jim Rielly with the Bristol Citizen of the Year Award.
Over the course of his lifetime, Jim Rielly received numerous letters of recognition from celebrities and dignitaries from all over the world including: Eleanor Roosevelt, Senators Theodore Francis Green, Claiborne Pell, and John Chafee, Presidents Dwight D Eisenhower and Richard M Nixon, and even his Holiness, Pope John Paul II.
For 10 years Jim Rielly portrayed the character Charlie Weaver, appearing in Bristol’s Fourth of July Parades and at various places throughout Rhode Island. He once received a letter from the real Charlie Weaver, Cliff Arquette, who wrote “Keep up the good work but don’t take any checks”.
In 1976, the year of our nation's Bicentennial, the town of Bristol appointed Jim Rielly as official Town Crier. His duties were to call to order the Patriotic Exercises and officially begin the Military and Civic Parade. As Town Crier he participated in all Bristol Fourth of July Parades from 1975 to 1989. He also participated in the official capacity of Town Crier in numerous other community and civic events.
But Jim Rielly’s most notable role was that as Rhode Island's own "Santa Claus." His first appearance as Santa Claus was in the beginning of the Great Depression. In 1928 at the age of 19, Jim Rielly appeared as Santa Claus for a family living in an abandoned chicken coup. For more than 60 years, he would visit various orphanages, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, churches, charitable organizations, military bases and the State House.
As Santa Claus, he traveled by helicopter, plane, Coast Guard vessel and sleigh to bring joy, laughter and cheer to literally hundreds of thousands of people. Accepting no payment for his appearances, his only fee requirement was that we share the true meaning of Christmas by loving one another. Close to his heart were those occasions when he spent time at the homes with mentally and physically handicapped children.
In 1970, the town of Bristol named a street in his honor, Rielly Lane, and in 1975 the town dedicated the James D. Rielly bench at Rockwell Park. In 1979, the United States Senate entered his name into the Congressional Record for his kindness to people as “James D. Rielly, A Truly Remarkable Santa Claus from Rhode Island.” And on December 22, 2010, James D. Rielly was honored posthumously as one of the inaugural inductees into the prestigious International Santa Claus Hall of Fame in Santa Claus, Indiana.
Today, at the entrance of Bristol’s Town Hall, hangs an oil painting of Jim Rielly; welcoming visitors to his beloved town as Bristol’s unofficial Ambassador.
James D. Rielly died on November 26, 1991 at the age of 83.
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Author: Michael Rielly
Category: Literature
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Christmas Day
by G. Weatherly
 
I.
'Tis Christmas-tide, when joy-bells ring,
A merry welcome to the morn!
'Tis Christmas-tide, when children sing
Glad carols of the Saviour born!
'Tis Christmas-tide, and one sweet strain
Seems every heart and voice to fill—
The old, old story told again
Of "peace on earth, to men good will.'
II.
"We wander down the village street,
And past the hedge-rows white with snow,
And many an old acquaintance greet
With loving welcome as we go;
For full of rest is every heart,
The very air is wondrous still:
Christ's birth sweet promises doth impart
Of "peace on earth, to men good will."
III.
We linger by the old church tower,
And hear the glad bells' merry peal;
They seem endowed with wondrous power
To speak the thoughts which we but feel.
They tell of right for every wrong,
Of glad release from every ill;
They sing the herald angels' song
Of "peace on earth, to men good will."
IV.
And now within the church we stand,
And hear the joyous anthem ring
From high-arched roof with cadence grand—
A carol of the Saviour King;
And children's voices greet our ear,
Soft as the tones of babbling rill,
Telling in accents sweet and clear,
Of "peace on earth, to men good will."
V.
Anon we leave the church, and meet
Old friends around the Christmas fire,
And hearts to hearts responsive beat
With all the love the hours inspire;
All angry thoughts must pass away,
Resentment we must strive to kill,
Since on the first glad Christmas Day
Came "peace on earth, to men good will."
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