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Showing content with the highest reputation since 12/03/2009 in Articles

  1. 18 points
    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.
  2. 18 points
    You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen; Comet and Cupid and Donder and Blitzen. But do you recall how the most famous reindeer of all came to be? Surprisingly, many are unaware of the fact that the character of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer actually began as a story book from Montgomery Ward. While working for Montgomery Ward, copywriter Robert L. May created Rudolph in 1939 as an assignment for the company. May penned the story of Rudolph in the style of the poem by Clement Clarke Moore, A Visit From St. Nicholas (T’was The Night Before Christmas). Over 2.4 million copies of Rudolph's story were distributed by Montgomery Ward in its first year. Sadly, because May created the story of Rudolph as an employee, he did not own the license. However in 1946, in one of the most generous decisions ever made by the head of a large company, Montgomery Ward Chairman Stewell Avery, gave all rights back to Robert May. A year later the mass-market release of the book made the Montgomery Ward copywriter a rich man. Learn more about the Creation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Here is the original poem by Robert L. May: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer By Robert L. May ‘Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the hills The reindeer were playing, enjoying their spills. While every so often they’d stop to call names At one little deer not allowed in their games. “Ha ha! Look at Rudolph! His nose is a sight! It’s red as a beet! Twice as big! Twice as bright! While Rudolph just cried. What else could he do? He knew that the things they were saying were true! Where most reindeer’s noses are brownish and tiny, Poo Rudolph’s was red, very large, and quite shiny. In daylight it sparkled (The picture shows that!) At nighttime it glowed, like the eyes of a cat. Although he was lonesome, he always was good- Obeying his parents, as good reindeer should! That’s why, on this day, Rudolph almost felt playful. He hoped that from Santa, soon driving his sleighful Of presents and candy and dollies and toys For good little animals, good girls and boys, He’d just get as much (and this is what pleased him) As the happier, handsomer reindeer who teased him. So as night, and a fog, hid the world like a hood, He went to bed hopeful; he knew he’d been good! While way up North, on this same foggy night, Old Santa was packing his sleight for its flight. “This fog,” he called out, “will be hard to get through!” He shook his round head. And his tummy shook, too! “Without any stars or a moon as our compass, This extra-dark night is quite likely to swamp us. To keep from a smash-up, we’ll have to fly slow. To see where we’re going, we’ll have to fly low. We’ll steer by the street lamps and houses tonight, In order to finish before it gets light. Just think how the boys’ and girls’ hopes would be shaken If we didn’t reach ‘em before they awaken!” “Come, Dasher! Come, Dancer! Come, Prancer and Vixen! Come, Comet! Come Cupid, Donder and Blitzen! Be quick with you suppers! Get hitched in a hurry! You, too, will find fog a delay and a worry!” And Santa was right, as he usually is. The fog was as thick as a soda’s white fizz. He tangled in treetops again and again, And barely missed hitting a huge, speeding plane. Just not-getting-lost needed all Santa’s skill – With street signs and numbers more difficult still. He still made good speed, with much twisting and turning, As long as the streetlamps and house lights were burning. At each house, first checking what people might live there, He’d quickly pick out the right presents to give there. “But lights will be out after midnight”, he said. “For even most parents have then gone to bed.” Because it might wake them, a match was denied him. Oh my, how he wished for just one star to guide him. Through dark streets and houses old Santa did poorly. He now picked the presents more slowly, less surely. He really was worried! For what would he do, If folks started waking before he was through? The night was still foggy, and not at all clear. When Santa arrived at the home of the deer. Onto the roof, with the clouds all around it, He searched for the chimney, and finally found it. The room he came done in was blacker than ink, He went for a chair, but it turned out a sink! The first reindeer bedroom was so very black, He tripped on the rug, and burst open his pack. So dark that he had to move close to the bed, And peek very hard at the sleeping deer’s head, Before he could choose the right kind of toy – A doll for a girl, or a train for a boy. But all this took time, and filled Santa with gloom, While feeling his way toward the next reindeer’s room. The door he’d just opened – when, to his surprise, A soft-glowing red-colored light met his eyes. The lamp wasn’t burning; the light came instead, From something that lay at the head of the bed. And there lay – but wait now-what would you suppose? The glowing, you’ve guessed it, was Rudolph’s red nose! So this room was easy! This one little light, Let Santa pick quickly the gifts that were right. How happy he was, till he went out the door, The rest of the house was as black as before! He went back to Rudolph and started to shake him, Of course very gently, in order to wake him. And Rudolph could hardly believe his own eyes! You just can imagine his joy and surprise At seeing who stood there, a paw’s length away, And told of the darkness and fog and delay, And Santa’s great worry that children might awaken Before his complete Christmas trip had been taken. “And you,” he told Rudolph, “may yet save the day! Your bright shining nose, son, can show us the way. I need you, young fellow, to help me tonight, To lead all my deer on the rest of our flight.” And Rudolph broke out into such a big grin, It almost connected his ears and his chin! He scribbled a note to his folks in a hurry. “I’ve gone to help Santa,” he wrote. “Do not worry.” Said Santa, “Meet me and my sleigh on the lawn. You’d stick in the chimney.” And flash he was gone. So Rudolph pranced out through the door, very gay. And took his proud place at the head of the sleigh. The rest of the night…well, what would you guess? Old Santa’s idea was brilliant success. And “brilliant” was almost no word for the way That Rudolph directed the deer and the sleigh. In spite of the fog, the flew quickly, and low, And made such good use of the wonderful glow That shone out from Rudolph at each intersection That not even once did they lose their direction! At all of the houses and streets with a sign on ‘em. The sleigh flew real low, so Rudolph could shine on ‘em. To tell who lived where, and just what to give whom, They’d stop by each window and peek in the room. Old Santa knew always which children were good, And minded their parents, and ate as they should. So Santa would pick out the gift that was right, With Rudolph close by, making enough light. It all went so fast that before it was day, The very last present was given away. The very last stocking was filled to the top, Just as the sun was preparing to pop! The sun woke up the reindeer in Rudolph’s hometown. They found the short message that he’d written down. Then gathered outside to await his return. And were they surprised and excited to learn The Rudolph, the ugliest deer of the all, Rudolph the Re-Nosed, bashful and small, The funny-faced fellow they always called names, And practically never allowed in their games, Was now to be envied by all, far and near. For no greater honor can come to a deer Than riding with Santa and guiding his sleigh. The Number One job, on the Number One day! The sleigh, and its reindeer, soon came in to view. And Rudolph still led them, as downward they flew. Oh my, was he proud as they came to a landing Right where his handsomer playmates were standing. The same deer who used to do nothing but tease him Would now have done anything, only to please him. They felt even sorrier they had been bad When Santa said, “Rudolph, I never have had A deer quite so brave or so brilliant as you At fighting black fog, and at steering me through. By you last night’s journey was actually bossed. Without you, I’m certain, we’d all have been lost! I hope you’ll continue to keep us from grief, On future dark trips, as Commander-In-Chief!” While Rudolph just blushed, from his head to his toes, Till all of his fur was as red as his nose! The crowd clapped their paws and then started to screech, “Hurray for our Rudolph!” and “We want a speech!” But Rudolph, still bashful, despite being a hero, Was tired, His sleep on the trip totaled zero. So that’s why his speech was quite short, and not bright, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” And that’s why-whenever it’s foggy and gray, It’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed who guides Santa’s sleigh. Be listening, this Christmas, but don’t make a peep, ‘Cause that late at night children should be asleep! The very first sound that you’ll hear on the roof That is, if there’s fog, will be Rudolph’s small hoof. And soon after that, if you’re still as a mouse, You may hear a “swish” as he flies ‘round the house, And shines enough light to give Santa a view Of you and your room. And when they’re all through, You may hear them call, as they drive out of sight, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
  3. 17 points
    The Santa Claus Oath I will seek knowledge to be well versed in the mysteries of bringing Christmas cheer and good will to all the people that I encounter in my journeys and travels. I shall be dedicated to hearing the secret dreams of both children and adults. I understand that the true and only gift I can give, as Santa, is myself. I acknowledge that some of the requests I will hear will be difficult and sad. I know in these difficulties there lies an opportunity to bring a spirit of warmth, understanding and compassion. I know the “real reason for the season” and know that I am blessed to be able to be a part of it. I realize that I belong to a brotherhood and will be supportive, honest, and show fellowship to my peers. I promise to use “my” powers to create happiness, spread love and make fantasies come to life in the true and sincere tradition of the Santa Claus Legend. I pledge myself to these principles as a descendant of Saint Nicholas the gift giver of Myra. All words, contents, images, and descriptions of the Santa Claus Oath including the Santa Claus Oath Crest are copyrighted under an attachment with Arcadia Publishing 2008 by Phillip L. Wenz. ISBN # 978-0-7385-4149-5 and LCCC # 2007925452 - All rights reserved.
  4. 14 points
    Who is Santa Claus? by Edwin Osgood Grover, 1912 Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy; who gives himself by thought or word or deed in every gift that he bestows; who shares his joys with those who are sad; whose hand is never closed against the needy; whose arm is ever outstretched to aid the weak; whose sympathy is quick and genuine in time of trouble; who recognizes a comrade and brother in every man he meets upon life’s common road; who lives his life throughout the entire year in the Christmas spirit.
  5. 12 points
    The following was posted on January 11, 2009 in Santa Rielly's blog, A Right Jolly Old Elf Well, it was bound to happen. Christmas 2008 will be the year I remember as the year I told my daughter that I was Santa Claus – or rather, to be exact, one of Santa Claus’s Ambassadors. I guess I should be thankful I got this far. After all, Meghan is almost 11. My son made it to 12! He only found out it was me after reading a newspaper article that mentioned my name. Back in 2006 she was wavering. I decided to see if I couldn’t get at least another year out of her. So I appeared in Meghan’s bedroom at midnight. I woke her up and handed her an American Girl Doll that she really wanted. I told her she had been doing really well in school lately and I wanted to give her something extra special for working so hard. She really wanted that particular doll and they were sold out everywhere, so handing her the doll made me feel especially like Santa Claus. I sat next to her on the bed for a while and we talked about school and her friends. After a few minutes I said that I had better be getting on my way and told her to go back to sleep. I wished her Merry Christmas and told her that I loved her. Meghan said good night and told me that she loved me too. The whole visit lasted maybe 10 minutes. But those 10 minutes got me another 2 years. Fast forward to Christmas 2008 - a few days before Christmas my daughter was looking at a few pictures. Meghan noticed that Santa Claus’s eyes are the same blue as Dad’s and that Santa Claus has a tiny birthmark on his cheek – also just like Dad. She then decides to interview (more like interrogate) everyone in the family. With a pen and notepad she starts jotting down her “clues” and after a thorough investigation, she comes to the conclusion that I must be Santa Claus. Although she cannot explain how I go from whiskers to clean shaven and back again, Meghan was convinced that I was Santa Claus. But Christmas Eve was the clincher. During the Homily at the Christmas Vigil Mass at our Church, Santa Claus made an appearance. Santa came out and greeted Father and wished all the Parishioners a Very Merry Christmas. He went on to discuss the true meaning of Christmas. Meghan and her brother were Altar Servers for the Mass. They sat only a few feet from where Santa delivered his Christmas Eve message. Later at the end of Mass after Meghan changed back into her street clothes, she and her brother met me at the back of the Church. As parishioners exited, a few of them would wink at me or thank me as they exited the Church. At one point my daughter was standing beside me when one of the Parishioners said to me “nice job”. Meghan immediately gave me a look and said; “I know why she said that!” I was caught. But I had a backup plan. Later in the evening, Meghan put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots and lichen for the reindeer. She also wrote a very sweet note to Santa. In the note she invited Santa take a little break cookies and milk break and to please give the carrots and lichen to the reindeer. In the note she also mentioned that she thought that her Dad looked like him and left a little area for a reply. Her note to Santa was very cute and Santa’s reply was perfect! I’ll have to post that next time. Christmas morning came and Meghan ran down from upstairs. The cookies and milk were half eaten and the carrots and lichen were gone. She read the reply to her note that Santa had left on the coffee table next to empty plate of cookies. From there she went over to her stocking. As she reached for the stocking, she noticed something near the hearth of the fireplace. It was a heavy gold button with “SC” in the center and “North Pole” over the top. Attached to the button was some red thread. She reached down and picked it up. She recognized it immediately. "It must be one of Santa's buttons!; she said, “It must have gotten caught on the fireplace! I'm going to take it to school and show it to my friends that don't believe in Santa!” As you can imagine, at this point, I am thinking that I may have just gotten past another Christmas. But by December 26, the little wheels in her head started turning again. She decides to re-open her “investigation”. After several attempts to get me and her brother to admit that I am Santa Claus, she starts to get upset that we won’t tell her what she knows must be true. I can tell she is getting frustrated. So I decide to tell her the truth – that I am one of Santa’s Ambassadors. I tell Meghan that I have something very important to tell her. But before I tell her I make her promise that she cannot tell any of her friends and especially not her younger cousins and that this is our secret. She agrees. I hand her the letter to me from Santa Claus. I tell her to open it and to be careful because it is very old. As we roll it out her eyes widen. It smells old. It looks old. Clearly this was written a very long time ago. It’s dated December 24, 1974. It’s practically a relic! After she reads the letter, I explain to her how Santa Claus has a few men stand in for him when he can’t be there in person and that it is our job to spread joy and happiness to children. I told her that now that she knows, she could come along with me as one of my Elves. She loves the idea! I asked her what she thought. She told me that it was “cool” that I was Santa Claus. She asked me if I had my own sleigh or if I had to borrow Santa’s. She also asked me if I get to go to the North Pole every once in a while to see Santa. Apparently she thought that, that’s where I was going on all these business trips. That one caught me off guard a bit. When I was a boy, I only knew one Santa Claus – my grandfather. My parents never took me to see Santa at the mall or to a party where Santa was appearing. Every year, Santa would visit me and my brothers a few days before Christmas. We always felt honored that Santa would make a special visit to our house. After all, he always arrived with a police car and fire engine escort. Lights flashing and sirens blaring, Santa was usually accompanied by a policeman and my Dad (also a policeman). Santa sat with us for no more than 15 minutes and he was whisked off to another appointment. To this day, my parents never sat down with me and said, “ya know there is no such thing Santa Claus.” In fact, when I moved out of my parent’s house at 19, there were still gifts under the tree and presents in my stocking from Santa Claus. No one ever told us there was no Santa Claus.
  6. 12 points
    Charles W. Howard Albion, NY June 15, 1896 - May 1, 1966 Charles W. Howard was truly an American Original. Howard's professional Santa career is that of legend. He was born in the house that he would live in his entire life. The small town boy never left Albion, New York, except to venture out to be Santa. Howard first played Santa as a boy in a classroom play. As an adult he found himself asked to help a friend out and play Santa in a store front window in downtown Albion. This experience helped Howard's urge to perfect the role of Santa Claus as much as he could. In his early career Howard caught the train next to his farm in Albion and commuted to Rochester, New York and then Buffalo, New York to be Santa in department stores. It was about this time he started to develop the idea for a "school" for Santas. Howard's first school was in the fall of 1937. Howard also appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from 1948 through 1965. Oddly, he never worked as Santa in the New York City flagship store. From 1948-1964, Howard flew from New York City to Kansas City, Missouri to be the Santa at the Macy's store there. In 1965, his last Christmas season, Howard worked at Nieman Marcus in Dallas, Texas. In the late 1940's, Howard started to convert the three barns behind his house in to what became "Christmas Park." This small amusement park became known all over the Northeastern United States. The park included the classroom and dressing rooms for the Santa Claus School. Before using this facility, Howard taught his school in his living room of his house. (With some exceptions, Howard's three session school held in Santa Claus, Indiana in 1938 and the schools held at the St. George Hotel in NYC after WWII.) Student from all over came to Albion. Stores like J.L. Hudson's in Detroit, Gimbel's in Philadelphia, Foley's in Houston, and Dillard's in Little Rock all sent students and executives to the school. Howard was even asked to go to Australia in 1965 to teach a special school there. Appearances on television, in magazines and newspapers included: What's my Line, To Tell the Truth, The Tonight Show, Life Magazine, and The Saturday Evening Post. He was also hired as a consultant for Miracle on 34th Street. The contributions of Howard's work are embedded in the Santa Claus world today. One of Howard's most memorable quotes sums it up... "To say there is no Santa Claus is the most erroneous statement in the world. Santa Claus is a thought that is passed from generation to generation. After time this thought takes on a human form. Maybe if all children and adults understand the symbolism of this thought we can actually attain Peace on Earth and good will to men everywhere." Charles W. Howard passed away on May 1, 1966 at the age of 69. Source Phillip L. Wenz See also... The International Santa Claus Hall of Fame The Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School The Official Charles W Howard Website Santa Claus Oath Map of Albion, NY
  7. 11 points
    Raymond Joseph "Jim" Yellig Santa Claus, IN February 18, 1894 - July 23, 1984 One of the most beloved and legendary Santas of all time, Raymond Joseph Yellig (better known to his friends as Jim), was known as the Real Santa from Santa Claus, Indiana. Born in the small village of Mariah Hill, Indiana, just a few miles north of Santa Claus, Yellig would become the face of Santa Claus, Indiana, for 54 years. He served in the United States Navy prior to and in World War I. While aboard the U.S.S. New York in 1914, Yellig started the career for which he would become world-famous. While docked in Brooklyn, New York, the crew of the ship decided that they would like to do something nice for the underprivileged children of the area. A Christmas party was planned and since Jim was from the Santa Claus area, he was selected to be the jolly old elf. Yellig was so touched by the children’s happiness that he prayed, “If you get me through this war, Lord, I will forever be Santa Claus.” Yellig stayed in the Navy after World War I for a short time, serving over 17 years. After leaving the service, Yellig married his childhood sweetheart, settled in Chicago briefly, and worked for Commonwealth Edison. He returned to Mariah Hill in 1930 to open a restaurant. During this time Yellig would drive the short distance over to Santa Claus and talk with his old friend, postmaster James Martin. Over the years, Martin had begun answering the letters of children addressed to Santa Claus; he soon enlisted Jim's help. In 1935 Yellig organized the Santa Claus American Legion Post to act as Santa's helpers. He also started to dress the part of Santa Claus and became a fixture in and around the town of Santa Claus. Yellig appeared at Santa's Candy Castle and Santa Claus Town, the nation's first themed attraction, in the late 1930s and continued to answer letters from children who wrote to Santa. As an active Legionnaire, Yellig added to his fame by appearing in American Legion Christmas parades in New York City, Miami, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. In 1946, Yellig became the resident Santa at Santa Claus Land, the world’s first theme park. At Santa Claus Land, Yellig was the main attraction. He was in costume over 300 days a year and his deep voice and hearty "Ho, Ho, Ho," is remembered fondly by all who met him. He wrote his own book in the late 1940s called, "It’s Fun to be A Real Santa Claus." Yellig also appeared on numerous radio and television programs, from "What's My Line" to "Good Morning America," and in many print ads. Yellig spent 38 years at Santa Claus Land. Even into his late 80s, Yellig would drive over to Santa Claus Land from his home in Mariah Hill to spend four to five days a week visiting and greeting children of all ages. Even in the months prior to his passing at the age of 90 on July 23, 1984, Yellig was still Santa at the park and continued to answer letters from children. Without a doubt, no Santa before or since has visited so many children in person as Jim Yellig. To many a generation he is simply Santa Claus. Source Phillip L. Wenz See also... Santa Claus Museum Holiday World Town of Santa Claus, IN Santa Claus Oath Map of Santa Claus, IN
  8. 11 points
    Every year around this time, some variation of this poem is circulated online. The poem is generally credited to “a soldier stationed in Okinawa” or more recently since September 11, 2001, “a Marine stationed in Afghanistan”. However, the poem’s true author is Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt. Originally entitled, “Merry Christmas, My Friend”, Corporal Schmidt wrote the poem in 1986 while serving as Battalion Counter Sniper at the Marine Barracks 8th & I, in Washington, D.C. That day the poem was placed in the Marine Corps Gazette and distributed worldwide. Schmidt’s poem was later published in Leatherneck (Magazine of the Marines) in December 1991. Below is Corporal Schmidt’s original version as printed in Leatherneck in 1991. Merry Christmas, My Friend by Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone, In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone. I had come down the chimney, with presents to give and to see just who in this home did live As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see, no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree. No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand. On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land. With medals and badges, awards of all kind, a sobering thought soon came to my mind. For this house was different, unlike any I’d seen. This was the home of a U.S. Marine. I’d heard stories about them, I had to see more, so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door. And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone, Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home. He seemed so gentle, his face so serene, Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine. Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read? Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed? His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan. I soon understood, this was more than a man. For I realized the families that I saw that night, owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight. Soon around the Nation, the children would play, And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day. They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year, because of Marines like this one lying here. I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone, on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home. Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye. I dropped to my knees and I started to cry. He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice, “Santa, don’t cry, this life is my choice I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more. My life is my God, my country, my Corps.” With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep, I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep. I watched him for hours, so silent and still. I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill. So I took off my jacket, the one made of red, and covered this Marine from his toes to his head. Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold, with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold. And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride, and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside. I didn’t want to leave him so quiet in the night, this guardian of honor so willing to fight. But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure, said “Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all secure.” One look at my watch and I knew he was right, Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.
  9. 11 points
    There are moments we who are storytellers, we who don the Red Suit are touched by. There are moments we never forget. Standing in front of hundreds of children, dozens of children or just around a campfire and tell stories to make kids laugh or making them jump with a sort of scary story is great fun. to have boys and girls say, "that was so cool, Mr. Storyteller" is rewarding enough. But donning the Red Suit, that is different. All storytellers have magic moments. Moments when the audience breathes as one. Moments where time is suspended and not one sound is heard other than the storyteller's voice. There are other moments that are more than magic. Moments when you are humbled. Moments when tears well up in the corners of your eyes, to be wiped away by the white gloves you wear with your Red Suit. Moments like this one in the photo from Storytelling Santa's friend Jenny Daws. A hushed moment as a Mama and Daddy push a wheelchair up and gently lift a frail little angel out and carefully place her in Santa's arms. Santa moves around in his chair so his shoulder supports the head of the little angel, her eyes closed, not moving at all. She is aware something, someone is different and her face shows concern, but Santa whispers to her and she relaxes. He continues to talk with her in whispers the whole time, lost in that place, just Santa and the angel. He forgets the photographer, forgets to look at the camera. He pushes his beard back so it doesn't tickle her face and he whispers and softly sings a Christmas carol. The photographer takes their photo and the parents thank Santa. He thanks them for sharing that moment with him... a beggar in a red suit. There are more kids, some hurting, some barely aware, some smiling and excited. They are all someone's baby, someone's promise. A treasure in a little package. Oh my, they break your heart when the only thing they ask for is "just one more Christmas with my whole family". Or the little girl who asked, "Can you bring my Daddy home from Afghanistan?" "I miss my Grandma in Heaven. Can you tell her I love her?" "Santa, I wish my Mommy and Daddy would stop hollering at each other." They don't always ask for toys, you see. They Believe. They are filled with hope and joy and wonderment. And then, Santa's mind is drawn back a year or two, an evening visit in a community building, sponsored by a local church. Dozens and dozens of little ones have sat on Santa's lap. He recited "The Night Before Christmas" and many of them joined in as he spoke those magical words. Just before Santa is to leave a disheveled mother comes in, hair a mess, clothes not clean, disoriented (someone whispers she smokes crack all the time). She asks if there is still time for her three little children to see Santa. All are under 10. Of course there is time. This night Santa has all the time in the world. The children don't ask for I-pads, cell phones, Transformers, baby dolls or even Legos. They ask for socks, a robe, a new shirt no one has ever worn. Did you hear me? A new shirt no one has ever worn. That is his Christmas wish. And the last of the three, a little girl about 6 or 7 sits on Santa's lap as Church Folks find food, bags of cookies and hot chocolate for the other two. This little sweetheart in clothes that don't fit is so happy to sit on Santa's lap.(and her clothes have not been washed, which angers and saddens at the same time). She just sits there and leans in to his chest for a minute. Santa's lap is a "safe place", you see. She leans against the Red Suit, content and safe. Finally she gets down to business... "Now, what would you like for Christmas?" Santa asks. "I don't know, Santa. (she pauses) Maybe, if it would be alright, a Toy? Just a Toy?" Her ask is a question, a plea, a dream that her crack ridden mother will not, cannot fulfill. Unless someone else finds the way to their door all the extra money will go up in the smoke of a crack pipe. Her eyes plead as she looks into Santa's eyes and asks for a toy, a single toy. Santa wonders how long it has been since she had a toy? What do you say? What would you say? Santa never promises anything, of course. He listens, hugs and gives them candy canes. He has no real magic. He has no toys to hand out. He has only peppermint candy canes. He is just a beggar in a red suit. A myth brought to life for a moment in time. Nobody important. Just a pretend. Oh, that his red toy sack was everlastingly full of toys. If only he could fly with his reindeer to a workshop at the North Pole and bring a toy to every little one, food for hungry bellies of children everywhere. Buy, you see... he depends on me, on you. There weren't any toys in Santa's vehicle that night. From that day till this Santa always has Teddy Bears hidden in his truck, ready for occasions where he knows a little one needs a bear to hug. He, like others, tries, not always successfully, to wear the mantle of Saint Nicholas of Myra (in modern day Turkey), the first Santa. As he leaves Storytelling Santa often lifts families, children that sat on his lap in prayer. For that is the only gift he can truly give.
  10. 11 points
    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.
  11. 11 points
    The Empty Workshop by John Gable What’s in Santa’s workshop? Let’s take a look around. They should be busy making toys, But no elves can be found. One should hear tiny hammers, See bouncing balls and bears, But all the shelves are empty, The tables and the chairs. There’s not a doll or train in sight. No jump ropes or toy cars. No Jack-in-boxes, building blocks, Toy drums or toy guitars. Perhaps we should be worried At this toy making reprieve, But for tonight we’ll worry not For this is Christmas Eve! The toys are packed and ready Up there on Santa’s sleigh. Tonight we rest , and then start work For next year’s Christmas Day!
  12. 9 points
    As a Financial Advisor I also often get questions this time of year about what is deductible. Although I will mention things in broad terms, it is always best to ask your tax advisor about your specific items. Here is a good rule of thumb: If it cannot be used for other purposes and is purchased specifically and exclusively for your Santa business, it is usually deductible. Some examples: Santa suit - yes, can't be worn to work or church or anything "normal" Santa belt - yes Wig and beard - yes Boots - this one is tricky - do you wear them to ride your motorcycle? Do you wear them everyday? With Jeans? Might not be deductible. If they are exclusive to Santa then yes. Bells, toys, stickers or candy to give away - yes Eyewear - another tricky one. Do you use them exclusively for Santa? yes if exclusive, no if you wear them everyday. Santa's chair - yes, if it is decorative and not used for other purposes. Memberships to Santa organizations - yes Books for Santa or your Santa business - yes Here are some tricky ones: Domain name and hosting - yes if exclusive for Santa Internet service - usually you can deduct a portion. Speak with your tax advisor Home phone or cell phone - same as internet service Mileage - a qualified yes. Speak with your tax advisor, keep good records. It can get a little complicated - donated time as a volunteer, for example can count as a donation. Get advice. KEEP RECORDS Hair care products, bleach, etc - complicated. If you bleach year round it may not be deductible. Storage containers - yes, if used only for Santa stuff. Software, computer equipment, cameras, electronics - mostly no, but qualified. You must prove the equipment is dedicated and cannot be used in every day life. Talk to your tax advisor. Most of all, with everything, keep good records! I often recommend that clients buy a 3-ring binder and fill it with paper. Tape receipts to the pages and make notes beside the receipt as to what was purchased and the use. I also recommend that business purchases be made separate from personal purchases. Keep the receipts separate; it is easier that way. Keep your mileage in a small notebook in your car - or even better, if possible do a MapQuest directions printout for your mileage and place in the same 3-ring binder.
  13. 9 points
    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.
  14. 9 points
    The first Santa Claus Convention, held in 1939 in New York City, New York, was a 2 day affair that brought more than a dozen Santas to the Hotel St. George. It was held by the Benevolent Order of Santa Claus, which was founded two years earlier in 1937, to promote a positive image of Santa with guidelines such as clean costumes, personal hygiene, and knowing the reindeer names. The convention was to organize Santas and present to department stores an ever endearing code of conduct and the proper appearance of the profession. The slogan of the convention was “Santa Claus is a living cause.” During the conference portion of the convention discussion, a foundation was laid for the code of conduct that included; Santa will never smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, or use any language unbecoming of a saint, be physically and mentally healthy, never break character, incorporate folklore and legend, and use the best available costuming. After the convention, the Benevolent Order of Santa Claus continued for a few more years. In 1942 the Order was dissolved. There would not be another convention until 1950 that was held by the newly organized, Ancient and Mystic Order of Kris Kringles in St. Louis, Missouri. The Ancient and Mystic Order of Kris Kringles was organized in 1949 for the purpose of “Placing Santa Claus on a Higher Plane and to Promote Good Will, Fellowship and the True Christmas Spirit in the Hearts of All People.” Santa Sam Caress, President of AMKK, was very instrumental in laying out a 2 day conference that held seminars taught by Santa Frank Lais of New Orleans, Louisiana and Santa Charles W. Howard of Albion, New York. In the convention’s symposium, 12 important topics were open for discussion. The symposium used “Roberts Rules of Order” and was presided over by Santa Francis A. Kirby of Silver Springs, Maryland. There would be a few more conventions in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. Then not another until 1985…but that is another story.
  15. 8 points
    Nicholas the Wonder Worker A Look At Our Patron Saint A few weeks ago now a group of Santa Clauses met in a little town in the Smoky Mountains. As they met they took a pledge, a pledge that their brothers from all over the globe join them in taking. One of the lines reads as follows: “I pledge myself to these principals as a descendant of St. Nicholas the gift giver of Myra.” -- The Santa Claus Oath, Phillip Wenz They made a pledge to ideals that should befit every Santa Claus, closing that this pledge was made as a descendant of Saint Nicholas of Myra/Bari. These men have dedicated their lives to uphold the character of a man that truly very little is known about, yet his life has touched the world in a special way. Who was he? Why was he special? How does this one figure remain alive after 1700 years after his natural life has ended? Who is Saint Nicholas? What Did Saint Nicholas Look Like? If you would see him you would never think of the jolly, plump Santa that we all know and love. In contrast, Nicholas was a rather tall and slender man. His beard was more likely cut in the fashion of the times, being cropped close to the jawbone. This is much different than the long, flowing beard of our Santa. Saint Nicholas Icons, Author’s Collection A study performed on the remains of Nicholas in the 1950s by Luigi Martino, the University of Bari, described a man who had a bent back, worn shoulders, and a broken nose. The study also revealed that the Saint had lived on mainly a meatless diet. Nicholas would have been dressed in the clerical vestments of the day, carrying a long shepherd’s staff (crosier). Indeed the picture of Saint Nicholas is far different from that of our beloved Santa. However, the two share the common bond that became the seed of the Santa Legacy – a deeply rooted love and generosity to children of all ages. Left: 2004 Facial Reconstruction, by Anand Kapoor. Right: 2014 Updated Facial Reconstruction What was Saint Nicholas’ Early Life Like? Imagine the small Mediterranean village of Patara, in modern Turkey, between the years of 260-280AD. This was the hometown of Nicholas, who was born to Theophanes and Nonna. By accounts Theophanes was a prosperous merchant, and both he and his wife were very active in the Christian community. They had spent much time in prayer asking for a son. Then came Nicholas (which means the people’s victor) as an answer to that prayer. The stories about him begin at this point. One account says that the baby was standing on his own and talking at the instance of his birth. As Nicholas grew into his early teens we see the picture of a devout young man who fasted every Wednesday and Friday – a practice he continued all his life. It was said of Nicholas that he excelled in his knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and in the daily virtues of the Christian life. He especially held to a strict code of chaste thinking, abstinence, and temperance. He was also said to spend long hours in prayer to his Heavenly Father, sometimes for an entire day and night. This raised the attention of his uncle, who some accounts say was the bishop of Patara at the time. His name was Nicholas as well, and he realized that his nephew had a true calling for the service of God. It was at this point that, with the help of his uncle, he entered the monastery of Sion. He excelled in his ministerial studies, and when Nicholas was ordained, the elder Bishop Nicholas prophesied: “I see, brethren, a new sun rising above the earth and manifesting in himself a gracious consolation for the afflicted. Blessed is the flock that will be worthy to have him as its pastor, because this one will shepherd well the souls of those who have gone astray, will nourish them on the pasturage of piety, and will be a merciful helper in misfortune and tribulation.” As time went on and the old bishop decided to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands, he left the care of the congregation to Nicholas. It was said that the future saint took the work very seriously, spending much time in fervent prayer and fasting. His care for the congregation was every bit as strong as that of his uncle. Also around this time came a great tragedy to not only Patara but also to Nicholas. A plague had swept through the town leaving no family untouched. Nicholas was left an orphan. However, Theophanes and Nonna had left a considerable inheritance to their son. Some of the priests admonished Nicholas that he should give it to the Church. But Nicholas had other ideas. He would use it to bless the needy. In his late teens to twenty in age, Nicholas was making his first steps to what he would forever be remembered for – a selfless giver to all. What Are Some Early Stories About Saint Nicholas? One of the earliest stories regarding his generosity actually took place when he was very young. A man in the village was unable to supply dowries for his daughters and was about to sell them out as slaves or prostitutes, as he was unable to give them a future. When Nicholas heard of the need of this very poor father, he came at night when the family was asleep and dropped a bag of gold either through the window or the chimney. Some accounts have this bag of gold actually falling into a stocking. Nevertheless, when the family awoke the next morning they were amazed and happy to find this gift. The father wept and thanked God. When it came time to marry off the man’s second daughter, Nicholas did the same thing. He secretly left another bag of gold in the night, which was received the next morning with great happiness and thanksgiving. Finally, when it came time to marry off the third daughter her father decided to find out who their benefactor was. So, Nicholas came once again in the night and left the bag of gold. This time the father chased Nicholas down and found out the identity of his benefactor. Nicholas made him swear that he would never tell the truth. Do you think that the poor man kept this promise? Nicholas Gives the Dowries, Author’s Collection How Did Nicholas Become a Bishop And What About His Early Miracles? At one point in Nicholas’ early life he went to Alexandria and the Holy Land to study. Upon the return home, the ship that carried Nicholas entered a mighty storm. The ship was tossed, causing a man to fall from the mast to the deck of the ship. He was pronounced dead. Legend has it that Nicholas, in the name of Jesus Christ, calmed the seas and then went to kneel beside the fallen sailor. After a prayer Nicholas told the man to, “Raise in the name of Christ our Lord.” This the man did, and it was this act that caused Nicholas to be revered by seamen unto this day. Upon his return to Myra, Nicholas happened to just walk into the Church and be pronounced the new bishop. Here is how he received this station. While in sleep the night before, one of the priests had a vision from Heaven that the first man to enter the Church the next morning would become the new bishop. To prove this fact the man would be named Nicholas. Having no knowledge of this Nicholas entered for prayer early in the morning. When the priests asked his name, they fell to their knees in thanksgiving. Nicholas was in his early twenties at this time. Bishop Nicholas took his duties very seriously, and brought much good to his flock. It is said that he loved all, especially children and those who were in need or afflicted. He was constant in prayer and led his congregation wholly in the faith. Was Saint Nicholas Ever In Prison? Sadly, Bishop Nicholas lived in a time when the Christian faith was not approved. The Romans did all they could to squelch this new faith and not only caused problems for but also killed many Christians. The Emperor, Diocletian, was the Roman ruler at that time and called for an empire wide persecution of all Christians. Though many died, many others (including Nicholas) were beaten and taken to prison. What happened to him while there we do not know, but one thing is known – Nicholas raised above all the pain that he had to endure and remained forgiving and friendly to his tormentors. Legend has it that while in prison, Bishop Nicholas would make small toys for the children of his guards. This in turn caused some favor with them. Even in the strongest of persecutions, our Nicholas stayed the course for Christ, and with the coming of Emperor Constantine was released after four long years of imprisonment. His back a little more crooked, Nicholas returned to his Church in Myra to much rejoicing from the people. What Were Some of Saint Nicholas’ Biggest Achievements for the Church? By far there are two major acts that Bishop Nicholas performed which must be considered his greatest contribution to the Christian faith besides just his noble character. In fact, both took place not too far away from his home in Myra. You see, during this part of history there was still the influence of idolatry among the people. Too, Christianity was still in its formative years and there were still conflicts to be fought. Not far away in the town of Ephesus there was an altar to the goddess Diana. Nicholas launched a religious crusade to destroy paganism. In so doing Nicholas won many converts to Christ. One account tells of how Nicholas called the false spirits out of the actual shrine and claimed it for Christ. Truly this act of faith should not be forgotten. Another great event took place in 325 AD in the town of Nicea. An ecumenical conclave was held be Emperor Constantine, as the teachings of Arius were to be debated. Was Christ truly divine? That was the question raised by this teaching, which held that Jesus was but a mere man. Upon hearing this, Nicholas went to Arius and struck him in the face. Arius and his supporters appealed to the Emperor that Nicholas be removed from the proceedings. He was jailed. Stripped of his position, many of the bishops and Constantine dreamed that night of Nicholas and were told to release him and restore his position as he was indeed working for the will of God. Legend has it that an angel came down to Nicholas in his cell and delivered a special book to his hands. One account says that it was a book of the Gospels while others contend it was the Book of Life. Nevertheless, Emperor Constantine released Nicholas and restored him to his place in the conclave. It was said of Nicholas by John the Monk, “He was animated like the prophet Elias with zeal from God, putting Arius at the council to shame not only by word but by deed.” In the end, the teachings of Arius were condemned and a new creed was established within Christianity proclaiming the true and full divinity of Christ. Of the 318 leaders that were at this conclave, Nicholas had proven to be the most zealous for the cause. After this Christian triumph he returned to Myra and cared diligently for his flock. Are Their Any More Stories Regarding Saint Nicholas? The stories concerning Nicholas are too numerous to fully write down. Many have become legend. However, there are three that must be remembered which took place during his life. It is said that upon his way to Nicea that Nicholas stopped at an inn for the night. Though the land was in drought and famine, Nicholas was treated to a dinner of roasted meat. This intrigued Nicholas and he went into the kitchen to inquire of the Innkeeper of where this meat had come. As he entered he found that the Innkeeper had actually kidnapped, killed, and dismembered three young children and had placed them in three barrels of brine. It was the thigh of one of these that he had served Nicholas. Nicholas rebuked the Innkeeper and stressed that he should repent before God. He then turned to the barrels and prayed for the children to be made whole through Christ. The three children came out of the water whole and unharmed. The Innkeeper repented and asked for forgiveness. Nicholas forgave him and called for God to do the same. Nicholas Saved the Children, Author’s Collection Nicholas Rescues the Innocent Soldiers, Author’s Collection In another instance, three soldiers had been condemned for a crime that they had not committed. In fact the three had been on the road with Bishop Nicholas at the time. The sentence was death, and when Nicholas heard the news there was little time for a formal pardon from the Emperor. So, off he went to their rescue. He found them on the field of execution with the blade of the headsman raised high above the first soldier’s head. Nicholas ran to the man and stopped the sword between his own hands. Unscathed, he proceeded to tell the officials of his presence with the soldiers at the time of the crime. The three were released. Famine was a reality in the area around Myra. So many stories deal with Bishop Nicholas feeding the hungry. One such legend finds Nicholas doing just that. The people were starving and they called upon the good bishop to help them. Far out on the sea was a ship filled with grain. As the captain slept he began to dream. In his dream he envisioned Nicholas beckoning him to come to Myra where he could sell his grain. This the good captain did and upon the morrow the town was saved from hunger. The captain also received the price he was asking. Some stories tell that when the captain returned to the ship it was miraculously filled with grain once again. When Did Saint Nicholas Die and Where Are His Remains? Nicholas continued doing great works for Christ until he was advanced in years. He had devoted his life to the ministry of Christ, and on December 6, 343, was called home to be with his Lord. His last words came from Psalm 11, “In the Lord I put my trust.” He was laid to rest in great honor within the small cathedral in Myra where he had served so long. He was buried there by much monastic pomp and by a countless crowd of mourners. All grieved for this beloved leader. He remained within his tomb there for nearly seven centuries, until a group of sailors from Bari, Italy, took the remains and carried them back home with them in the 1070s. There are many stories as to why they did this, but it appears that the most plausible was to protect the remains of Nicholas from the raiding Muslims who had just before destroyed many of the Christian sites of the area. He now lays within the Basilica di San Nicola di Bari in Italy. Upon opening the tomb the nostrils of the thieves were met by a very sweet and wonderful fragrance. It was discovered that myrrh, one of the gifts given to Christ at His birth, actually exuded from the remains of Nicholas. This myrrh, called “manna” is said to have many healing properties. Every May there is a festival in Nicholas’ honor. His feast day is honored as well, with the tradition reaching all over the world. Miraculous stories of Nicholas still are carried and his tradition and teachings are well remembered. When Did Nicholas Become a Saint? We really have no date to an official canonization of Saint Nicholas. The official canonization process would not be in effect until the 1000s. But, it is believed that he was called Saint Nicholas as early as the 500s when Justinian I built a church in his honor. Accounts from as far back as the 800s tell of him as Saint Nicholas as well. We definitely have proof that by 1100 he was perhaps the most beloved and powerful of the Saints. More churches and more monasteries were named for Saint Nicholas than for anyone else other than the Holy Family. Knowing this, it was a group of French Nuns that are said to have been the first to begin the practice of giving gifts on December 5, the night before the Saint Nicholas Feast in his name and honor. Each was done in secret, as was the method of the Saint. Statue outside of Saint Nicholas Church In Myra depicts Nicholas “Noel Baba” With children, Author’s Collection From this point on the legend of Saint Nicholas grew and expanded from Turkey to cover the entire world. Vincent A Yzermans wrote, “The evolution of Saint Nicholas to Santa Claus, embodying goodness and love, good cheer and virtue, heartiness and holiness was really not a hard one.” Stories of his generosity and especially his kindness for children, intermixing with various regional influences, have created the modern Santa Claus. As Santa Claus, we have a wonderful line of heritage that truly began in many ways with this man, the Wonder worker of Myra. As we all strive to be the best Clauses that we can be, let us never forget Saint Nicholas, his life, teachings, and example to all who believe in the wonders of childhood. ### Santa John Johnson © 2009 - All rights reserved. Updated: Michel Rielly, 2015 Source: Saint Nicholas: A Closer Look at Christmas by Joe Wheeler & Jim Rosenthal, Nelson Reference and Electronic, 2005 Wonderworker: The True Story of How Saint Nicholas Became Santa Claus by Vincent A. Yzermans, Assisting Christians To Act Publishing 1994 There Really Is A Santa Claus: The History of Saint Nicholas and Christmas Holiday Traditions by William J. Federer, Amerisearch 2003 Santa Claus: A Biography by Gerry Bowler, McClelland and Stewart 2005 Stories Behind The Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins, Zondervan 2003
  16. 8 points
    “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" has been a popular Christmas carol for nearly 150 years. Originally a poem by Henry Longfellow titled “Christmas Bells”, the text was set to music by composer John Baptiste Calkin (1827-1905) in 1872. Born in Portland, Maine on February 27, 1807, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was a 19th century scholar, novelist, and poet, known for works like 'Voices of the Night,' 'Evangeline' and 'The Song of Hiawatha.' On the morning of Christmas Day 1863, Longfellow was inspired to write a poem as he listened to church bells ringing throughout the town. The poem titled “Christmas Bells”, addresses Longfellow's deep despair at the time over the loss of his wife years earlier, his son who was wounded in the American Civil War, and the horrors of war. However, despite his sadness, in the end, Longfellow expresses his belief in God and innate hope that: God is not dead; nor doth he sleep The Wrong shall fail; The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men! Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familiar carols play, And wild and sweet The words repeat Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along The unbroken song Of peace on earth, good-will to men! Till ringing, singing on its way, The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, A chant sublime Of peace on earth, good-will to men! Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The carols drowned Of peace on earth, good-will to men! It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn The households born Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth," I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
  17. 8 points
    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!
  18. 8 points
    Born in Germantown Pennsylvania, Henry Jackson van Dyke (1852-1933) was an American author, clergyman, and English literature professor. He authored numerous books of poetry and devotion. Among his popular writings are two Christmas stories: The Other Wise Man (1896) and The First Christmas Tree (1897). One of his more notable books was,The Spirit of Christmas (1905); a collection of Christmas themed writings that includes short stories, prayers, and the following sermon entitled, Keeping Christmas. Keeping Christmas By Henry van Dyke It is a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and seasons, when men agree to stop work and make merry together, is a wise and wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds a man to set his own little watch, now and then, by the great clock of humanity which runs on sun time.But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas. Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellow-men are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness--are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas. Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open--are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas. Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world--stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death--and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas. And if you keep it for a day, why not always? But you can never keep it alone.
  19. 8 points
    In 1881 Baptist minister, Ruben Saillens (1855-1942) wrote "Le Père Martin" (“Father Martin”) a short story about a cobbler who learns a lesson in faith after the death of his son. The story was later republished in Russian without attribution in 1884 under the title "Diadiu Martyn" ("Uncle Martin"). In 1885, Lev (Leo) Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910) perhaps best known for his novel War and Peace (1869) came across the uncredited short story. Assuming the story was an anonymous English work translated into Russian, Tolstoy adapted and republished the story as "Where Love Is, God Is" (also published as "Where Love Is, There God Is Also" and "Martin the Cobbler"). Years later Ruben Saillens came across Tolstoy's version of the story and recognized it as his work. Saillens wrote to Tolstoy asserting that he was the original author of the story. Tolstoy wrote back apologizing for his "unintentional plagiarism." Unfortunately around that same time, Tolstoy renounced the copyright of all his works written after 1881 and could no longer control the story’s accreditation. And although Tolstoy had continually credited Saillens since then, over the years the story had been retold so often that it has now become a part of Tolstoy anthology. Today, there are multiple adaptations of Ruben Saillens short story, "Le Père Martin". Versions of the story entitled: “Papa Panov’s Special Christmas”, “Papa Panov’s Special Day”, “The Old Shoemaker’s Christmas”, and others are usually found attributed to Tolstoy; yet often lack any attribution to Saillens. Papa Panov's Special Christmas A classic folk tale by Ruben Saillens, adapted by Leo Tolstoy, and edited by Michael Rielly It was Christmas Eve and although it was still afternoon, lights had begun to appear in the shops and houses of the little Russian village, for the short winter day was nearly over. Excited children scurried indoors and only muffled sounds of chatter and laughter escaped from closed shutters. Old Papa Panov the village shoemaker, stepped outside his shop to take one last look around. The sounds of happiness, the bright lights and the faint, but delicious smells of Christmas cooking reminded him of past Christmases when his wife had still been alive and his own children were young. Now they had gone. His usually cheerful face, with the little laughter wrinkles behind the round steel spectacles, now looked sad. He stepped back into his shop, closed the shutters, and set a pot of coffee to heat on the stove. Then with a sigh, he settled into his big armchair. Papa Panov did not often read, but tonight he pulled down the big old family Bible. He turned the pages to The Birth of Jesus and slowly began tracing the lines with one forefinger. He read how Mary and Joseph, tired by their journey to Bethlehem, found no room for them at the inn, so that Mary's little baby was born in a stable. "Oh, dear!" exclaimed Papa Panov. "If only they had come here! I would have given them my bed and I could have covered the baby with my patchwork quilt to keep him warm." He read on about the wise men who had come to see the baby Jesus, bringing him splendid gifts. Papa Panov's face fell. "I have no gift that I could give him," he thought sadly. Then his face brightened. He put down the Bible, got up and stretched his arms to the shelf high up in his little room. He took down a small, dusty box and opened it. Inside was a perfect pair of tiny leather shoes. Papa Panov smiled with satisfaction. Yes, they were as good as he had remembered the best shoes he had ever made. "I should give him those," he decided, as he gently put them away and sat down again. He was feeling tired and the further he read the sleepier he became. The print began to dance before his eyes so that he closed them just for a minute. In no time Papa Panov was fast asleep. He dreamed that someone was in his room and he knew at once, as one does in dreams, who the person was. It was Jesus. "You have been wishing that you could see me, Papa Panov," Jesus said kindly. "Then look for me tomorrow. It will be Christmas Day and I will visit you. But look carefully, for I shall not tell you who I am." When Papa Panov awoke the bells were ringing out and a thin light was filtering through the shutters. "Bless my soul!" said Papa Panov. "It's Christmas Day!" He stood up and stretched. Then his face filled with happiness as he remembered his dream. This would be a very special Christmas after all for Jesus was coming to visit him. How would he look? Would he be a little baby as at that first Christmas? Would he be a grown man, a carpenter, or the great King that he is as God's Son? Papa Panov thought to himself that he must watch carefully the whole day so that he would recognize him however he came. Papa Panov put on a special pot of coffee for his Christmas breakfast, opened the shutters, and looked out of the window. The street was deserted; no one was stirring yet, no one except the road sweeper. The man looked as miserable and dirty as ever and well he might! Whoever wanted to work on Christmas Day? And in the raw cold and bitter freezing mist of such a morning? Papa Panov opened the shop door, letting in a thin stream of cold air. "Come in!" he shouted across the street cheerily. "Come in and have some hot coffee to keep out the cold!" The sweeper looked up, scarcely able to believe his ears. He was only too glad to put down his broom and come into the warm room. His old clothes steamed gently in the heat of the stove and he clasped both red hands round the comforting warm mug as he drank. Papa Panov watched him with satisfaction, but every now and then his eyes strayed to the window. It would never do to miss his special visitor. "Expecting someone?" the sweeper asked at last. So Papa Panov told him about his dream. "Well, I hope he comes," said the sweeper. "You've given me a bit of Christmas cheer I never expected to have. I'd say you deserve to have your dream come true." The sweeper then smiled. When he had gone, Papa Panov put on cabbage soup for his dinner and went to the door again, scanning the street. He saw no one. But he was mistaken. Someone was coming. The girl walked so slowly and quietly. It was a while before Papa Panov noticed her. The girl looked very tired and she was carrying something. As she drew nearer he could see that it was a baby wrapped in a thin shawl. There was such sadness in her face. In the pinched little face of the baby, Papa Panov's heart went out to them. "Won't you come in," he called, stepping outside to meet them. "You both need to warm by the fire and a rest." The young mother let him shepherd her indoors and to the comfort of the armchair. She gave a big sigh of relief. "I'll warm some milk for the baby," Papa Panov said. "I've had children of my own. I can feed her for you." He took the milk from the stove and carefully fed the baby from a spoon, warming her tiny feet by the stove at the same time. "She needs shoes," the cobbler said. But the girl replied, "I cannot afford shoes. I have no husband to bring home money. I'm on my way to the next village to get work." A sudden thought flashed through Papa Panov's mind. He remembered the little shoes he had looked at last night. But he had been keeping those for Jesus. He looked again at the cold little feet and made up his mind. "Try these on her," he said, handing the baby and the shoes to the mother. The beautiful little shoes were a perfect fit. The girl smiled happily and the baby gurgled with pleasure. "You have been so kind to us," the girl said. She then stood up with her baby and said, "May all your Christmas wishes come true!" But Papa Panov was beginning to wonder if his very special Christmas wish would come true. Perhaps he had missed his visitor? He looked anxiously up and down the street. There were plenty of people about but they were all faces that he recognized. There were neighbors going to call on their families. They nodded and smiled and wished him Happy Christmas! There were beggars and Papa Panov hurried inside to fetch them hot soup and a generous hunk of bread. He hurried out again so he wouldn’t miss the “Important Stranger”. All too soon the winter dusk fell. When Papa Panov next went to the door and strained his eyes, he could no longer make out the passers-by. Most were home by now. He walked slowly back into his room, closed the shutters, and sat down wearily in his armchair. "So it had been just a dream after all", he though to himself. "Jesus had not come." Then all at once, he knew that he was no longer alone in the room. This was not dream for he was wide awake. Suddenly, he saw a long stream of people coming towards him. He then recognized the road sweeper, the young mother and her baby, and the beggars he had fed. As they passed by him, each whispered, "Didn't you see me, Papa Panov?" Bewildered, he called out to each of them, "Who are you?" Then another voice answered him. It was the voice from his dream; the voice of Jesus. "I was hungry and you fed me," Jesus said. "I was naked and you clothed me. I was cold and you warmed me. I came to you today in every one of those you helped and welcomed." Then all was quiet and still. Only the sound of the clock ticking could be heard. A great peace and happiness seemed to fill the room, overflowing Papa Panov's heart until he wanted to burst out singing and laughing and dancing with joy. Papa Panov smiled and said, "So he did come after all."
  20. 8 points
    James D. "Jimmy" Rielly Bristol, RI May 1, 1908 – November 26, 1991 If you ever have the opportunity to visit the beautiful coastal town of Bristol Rhode Island, you may see a few references to one of its most notable citizens – James D. “Jimmy” Rielly. On the east side of town there is a street named Rielly Lane. In Rockwell Park, located on Bristol Harbor there is an unassuming park bench with an engraving that reads: Jim Rielly’s Bench. And at the entrance of the Bristol Town Hall, hangs an oil painting of Jim Rielly as Bristol’s Official Town Crier, appearing to welcome each of its visitors. Born in 1908, Jim Rielly was a lifelong Bristolian whose kindness 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 Rhode Island and much of New England for his generosity and countless charitable acts; but most notably, Jim Rielly was known as Rhode Island’s most famous 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 was Santa Claus for a family living in an abandoned chicken coup. From that day forward he would continue for the next 62 years bringing joy to children of all ages. Jim Rielly appeared as Santa Claus wherever he was needed but primarily at charitable organizations, nursing homes, hospitals, orphanages, military bases, and private homes. He took no payment for any of his appearances. Jim Rielly 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 generosity and community involvement, he was the recipient of countless awards and commendations from civic and community leaders. Over the course of his lifetime, Jim Rielly received letters of recognition from celebrities and dignitaries from all over the world including: First Lady 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. On January 31, 1979 he was entered into the United States Senate Congressional Record as "James D. Rielly – A truly remarkable Santa Claus from Rhode Island” and on December 22, 2010, he was one of the inaugural inductees into the prestigious International Santa Claus Hall of Fame. James D. Rielly died on November 26, 1991 at the age of 83. See also... Town of Bristol, RI Map of Bristol, RI Santa Claus Oath Santa Claus, IN International Santa Claus Hall of Fame James D Rielly Foundation
  21. 7 points
    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.
  22. 7 points
    Every New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight, millions around the world traditionally gather together to sing the same song, “Auld Lang Syne”. As revilers mumble though the song’s versus, it often brings many of them to tears – regardless of the fact that most don’t know or even understand the lyrics. Confusion over the song’s lyrics is almost as much of a tradition as the song itself. Of course that rarely stops anyone from joining in. Despite its association with New Years, “Auld Lang Syne” was never intended to be a holiday song. First published in 1787 by Scottish Poet Robert Burns, the song is about remembering friends from the past and not letting them be forgotten. The title, “Auld Lang Syne”, literally translates to “Old Long Since” – meaning “time gone by” or “old time’s sake”. The lyrics "We'll take a cup o' kindness yet" essentially means to raise a glass in a toast to good will, friendship, and kindness towards others. The custom of drinking to one’s health or prosperity at a special gathering dates back hundreds of years. Auld Lang Syne Robert Burns Original Scots Lyrics Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne? CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne, we’lltak' a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup! and surely I’ll be mine! And we’ll tak' a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. We twa hae run about the braes, and pou’d the gowans fine; But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit, sin' auld lang syne. CHORUS We twa hae paidl’d in the burn, frae morning sun till dine; But seas between us braid hae roar’d sin' auld lang syne. CHORUS And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! and gie's a hand o’ thine! And we’ll tak' a right gude-willie waught, for auld lang syne. CHORUS   Auld Lang Syne English Translation Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne? CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne. And surely you’ll buy your pint cup! and surely I’ll buy mine! And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. We two have run about the slopes, and picked the daisies fine; But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne. CHORUS We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine; But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne. CHORUS And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o’ thine! And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne. Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians Although the song was already popular in Canada and the United States by the early 19th Century, Canadian-born musician, Guy Lombardo (1912-1977) is often credited with the popularization of Auld Lang Syne. Lombardo first heard "Auld Lang Syne" growing up in London, Ontario, where it was often sung by Scottish immigrants. When he formed his orchestra, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, the song became one of their standards. But it wasn’t until 1929 that “Auld Lang Syne” became a New Year’s Eve tradition. During a live radio broadcast on New Year’s Eve at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, Guy Lombardo chose the song as a transition between two radio shows. The first half of their New Year’s Eve performance was broadcasted on CBS. The second half of the performance, beginning at midnight, was broadcasted on NBC. At the stroke of midnight, the orchestra played “Auld Lang Syne” as a segue from one show to the next – and a tradition was born. In a 1976 New York Times interview, Lombardo recalls the decision to play Auld Lang Syne at midnight: “We knew we were going to use ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as a theme, because Robert Burns wrote it.” “So we decided to use it on that New Year’s Eve program, too. It seemed appropriate, and we were familiar with ‘Auld Lang Syne’ from Canada, where we grew up. As kids, we lived in a big Scottish settlement — London, Ontario — and they always closed an evening by playing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ before the traditional ‘God Save the King.'” Auld Lang Syne - Guy Lombardo And His Royal Canadians (1947) Christmas Auld Lang Syne In 1960, pop singer Bobby Darin put his own spin on the classic tune. Officially titled, “Christmas Auld Lang Syne”, Darin’s version of the song was released as a single in October 1960. On December 13, 1960 Darin performed "Christmas Auld Lang Syne" on ABC’s American Bandstand. The next week, the song entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 Chart. Christmas Auld Lang Syne Lyrics When mistletoe and tinsel glow Paint a yuletide valentine Back home I go to those I know For a Christmas auld lang syne. And as we gather 'round the tree Our voices all combine In sweet accord to thank the Lord For a Christmas auld lang syne. When sleigh bells ring and choirs sing And the children's faces shine With each new toy we share their joy With a Christmas auld lang syne. We sing His praise this day of days And pray next year this time We'll all be near to share the cheer Of a Christmas auld lang syne. In sweet accord we thank the Lord For a Christmas auld lang syne. Christmas Auld Lang Syne - Bobby Darin (1960) Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie of all time. And even though I have watched this film literally hundreds of times, it is the end scene that always gets me. When Harry Bailey toasts his brother George and the crowd breaks into "Auld Lang Syne", it always brings me to tears. What makes “Auld Lang Syne” so powerful is it has nothing to do with a new year and everything to do the importance of relationships. With its themes of friendship, reconciliation, and nostalgia, “Auld Lang Syne” reminds us that whatever changes life may bring, old friends should never be forgotten.
  23. 6 points
    Michael Rielly

    If

    English poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) is perhaps best known for the children's book The Jungle Book. In addition to The Jungle Book and other novels, Kipling's works include many short stories and poems. "If—" is a poem by English Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, written circa 1895 as a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson. It is a literary example of Victorian-era stoicism. The poem, first published in Rewards and Fairies, ch. ‘Brother Square-Toes, ’ is written in the form of paternal advice to the poet's son, John. If by Rudyard Kipling, 1910 If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
  24. 6 points
    Born in Germantown Pennsylvania, Henry Jackson van Dyke (1852-1933) was an American author, clergyman, and English literature professor. He authored numerous books of poetry and devotion. Among his popular writings are two Christmas stories: The Other Wise Man (1896) and The First Christmas Tree (1897). One of his more notable books was,The Spirit of Christmas (1905); a collection of Christmas themed writings that includes short stories, prayers, and the following sermon entitled, Christmas-Giving And Christmas-Living. Christmas-Giving And Christmas-Living By Henry van Dyke The custom of exchanging presents on a certain day in the year is very much older than Christmas, and means very much less. It has obtained in almost all ages of the world, and among many different nations. It is a fine thing or a foolish thing, as the case may be; an encouragement to friendliness, or a tribute to fashion; an expression of good nature, or a bid for favour; an outgoing of generosity, or a disguise of greed; a cheerful old custom, or a futile old farce, according to the spirit which animates it and the form which it takes. But when this ancient and variously interpreted tradition of a day of gifts was transferred to the Christmas season, it was brought into vital contact with an idea which must transform it, and with an example which must lift it up to a higher plane. The example is the life of Jesus. The idea is unselfish interest in the happiness of others. The great gift of Jesus to the world was himself. He lived with and for men. He kept back nothing. In every particular and personal gift that he made to certain people there was something of himself that made it precious. For example, at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, it was his thought for the feelings of the giver of the feast, and his wish that every guest should find due entertainment, that lent the flavour of a heavenly hospitality to the wine which he provided. When he gave bread and fish to the hungry multitude who had followed him out among the hills by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were refreshed and strengthened by the sense of the personal care of Jesus for their welfare, as much as by the food which he bestowed upon them. It was another illustration of the sweetness of "a dinner of herbs, where love is." The gifts of healing which he conferred upon many different kinds of sufferers were, in every case, evidences that Jesus was willing to give something of himself, his thought, his sympathy, his vital power, to the men and women among whom he lived. Once, when a paralytic was brought to Jesus on a bed, he surprised everybody, and offended many, by giving the poor wretch the pardon of his sins, before he gave new life to his body. That was just because Jesus thought before he gave; because he desired to satisfy the deepest need; because in fact he gave something of himself in every gift. All true Christmas-giving ought to be after this pattern. Not that it must all be solemn and serious. For the most part it deals with little wants, little joys, little tokens of friendly feeling. But the feeling must be more than the token; else the gift does not really belong to Christmas. It takes time and effort and unselfish expenditure of strength to make gifts in this way. But it is the only way that fits the season. The finest Christmas gift is not the one that costs the most money, but the one that carries the most love. But how seldom Christmas comes- only once a year; and how soon it is over-a night and a day! If that is the whole of it, it seems not much more durable than the little toys that one buys of a fakir on the street-corner. They run for an hour, and then the spring breaks, and the legs come off, and nothing remains but a contribution to the dust heap. But surely that need not and ought not to be the whole of Christmas only a single day of generosity, ransomed from the dull servitude of a selfish year,-only a single night of merry-making, celebrated in the slave-quarters of a selfish race! If every gift is the token of a personal thought, a friendly feeling, an unselfish interest in the joy of others, then the thought, the feeling, the interest, may remain after the gift is made. The little present, or the rare and long-wished-for gift (it matters not whether the vessel be of gold, or silver, or iron, or wood, or clay, or just a small bit of birch bark folded into a cup), may carry a message something like this: "I am thinking of you to-day, because it is Christmas, and I wish you happiness. And to-morrow, because it will be the day after Christmas, I shall still wish you happiness; and so on, clear through the year. I may not be able to tell you about it every day, because I may be far away; or because both of us may be very busy; or perhaps because I cannot even aff ord to pay the postage on so many letters, or find the time to write them. But that makes no difference. The thought and the wish will be here just the same. In my work and in the business of life, I mean to try not to be unfair to you or injure you in any way. In my pleasure, if we can be together, I would like to share the fun with you. Whatever joy or success comes to you will make me glad. Without pretense, and in plain words, good-will to you is what I mean, in the Spirit of Christmas.' It is not necessary to put a message like this into high-flown language, to swear absolute devotion and deathless consecration. In love and friendship, small, steady payments on a gold basis are better than immense promissory notes. Nor, indeed, is it always necessary to put the message into words at all, nor even to convey it by a tangible token. To feel it and to act it out-that is the main thing. There are a great many people in the world whom we know more or less, but to whom for various reasons we cannot very well send a Christmas gift. But there is hardly one, in all the circles of our acquaintance, with whom we may not exchange the touch of Christmas life. In the outer circles, cheerful greetings, courtesy, consideration; in the inner circles, sympathetic interest, hearty congratulations, honest encouragement; in the inmost circle, comradeship, helpfulness, tenderness,- " Beautiful friendship tried by sun and wind Durable from the daily dust of life ^ After all, Christmas-living is the best kind of Christmas-giving.
  25. 6 points
    Though my avocation is storyteller, as many of you know, in "real life" I am a Financial Advisor. Recently I had opportunity to talk with some storytellers about the business aspects of what they do. Most of it is easily transferable to all of us as Santas. this is the first of several. I would ask if you comment, try to stick to the topics here. Other topics I will mention and we can discuss later. First all, determine if this is a business or hobby. If this is all you do, that is easy to determine. If like me you do several types of "entertainment", it can be either. In my case, I do not track Santa income and expense separately, but as line items in my overall "business". Therefore, if I have income from Santa or from doing a gig as a storyteller or even as a motivational speaker, it is still income from my business I categorize as "entertainer" on my tax forms. The easiest way to make a good determination is to talk to your tax man. Unless you are pretty good at tax law and changes, obtain the help of someone who actually deals with entertainers. It is really worth it because they know all the things to look for. Several things to remember; if you are going to claim it is a business, you can't claim to lose money every year. It can be helpful to your tax situation, but you do not want the IRS to view it as a planned loss each year. If you do plan to claim it - KEEP EVERYTHING!!! More on this later. Office: Do you have a specific room set aside for your Santa business? I do have an office in my home for my real job. I alsoou use that room for my storytelling business, so there is not an issue for me. If you do claim a portion of your home for your business it must be dedicated. This is NOT a bedroom with a closet for suits and "stuff" and maybe a desk in a corner. It can be a bedroom dedicated to your business... no bed, no dresser, unless it is for storing Santa stuff. Keep it honest. If you have a 2,000 square foot home - traditional space, and you use a room that is 10'x20', then that 200 square feet would be 1/10th of your home. Then it would follow that 1/10th of the mortgage, property taxes, insurance, electric and other utilities. Remember that cable TV really is not a utility you should count. Telephone is different and I'll mention it later. Again, KEEP records to prove your deductions. What usually does not fly is counting space all over your home... a little in the basement, a little in the garage, a little in the bedroom. Count one space as your business space.
  26. 6 points
    On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789, a national day of Thanksgiving. In it, Washington called upon all Americans to express their gratitude for a happy conclusion to the nation's war of independence and the successful ratification of the United States Constitution. Especially this year, as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we should reflect on the full meaning of the day. Let’s strive to be truly thankful in our hearts this Thanksgiving. What better way to enter the holiday season? By the PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES of America, A PROCLAMATION. Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:” Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789. Go. Washington
  27. 6 points
    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.
  28. 6 points
    Most are familiar with the phrase “Bah! Humbug!” made famous by the miserly character Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens: “A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach. “Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!” He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again. “Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure.” “I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.” “Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.” Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug.” Many people mistake Scrooge’s use of the term “humbug” as an expression of his disgust or displeasure towards Christmas. But the word actually has a different meaning and provides a key understanding into Scrooge’s actual feeling towards Christmas. The word “humbug” dates back to the mid-1700s, long before Dickens penned A Christmas Carol in 1843. There are many theories on its exact origin, but they all point back to a meaning of deception. According to the Online Entomology Dictionary Etymonline, “humbug” was often used to describe fraud or hoax. humbug (n.) 1751, student slang, "trick, jest, hoax, imposition, deception," of unknown origin. Also appearing as a verb at the same time, "deceive by false pretext" (trans.). A vogue word of the early 1750s; its origin was a subject of much whimsical speculation even then. "[A]s with other and more recent words of similar introduction, the facts as to its origin appear to have been lost, even before the word became common enough to excite attention" [OED]. Meaning "spirit of deception or imposition; hollowness, sham" is from 1825. Christmas joy made no sense to Scrooge. As far as he was concerned, the poor had no reason to be happy. So when Scrooge exclaims, “Bah! Humbug!” he is pointing out what he believes to be hypocrisy. Scrooge believed that those who speak of the love and charity of the Christmas season are pretentious and insincere in their beliefs, deceiving themselves and others. For Scrooge, Christmas was a true “humbug”; a time for fake joy and celebration with no real substance or purpose. A Christmas Carol is not the only literary use of the term “humbug” by Dickens. The word can be found in The Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, and other novels. In L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), the word is used often. In the book, the Wizard describes himself as just "a humbug." “No, you are all wrong,” said the little man meekly. “I have been making believe.” “Making believe!” cried Dorothy. “Are you not a Great Wizard?” “Hush, my dear,” he said. “Don’t speak so loud, or you will be overheard–and I should be ruined. I’m supposed to be a Great Wizard.” “And aren’t you?” she asked. “Not a bit of it, my dear; I’m just a common man.” “You’re more than that,” said the Scarecrow, in a grieved tone; “you’re a humbug.” “Exactly so!” declared the little man, rubbing his hands together as if it pleased him. “I am a humbug.” Perhaps the best example of “humbuggery” is the celebrated showman and entertainer, Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum. Barnum proudly described himself as the "Prince of Humbugs”. Barnum was a master of humbug, a point he makes in his book Humbugs of the World (1866): "[A]s generally understood, 'humbug' consists in putting on glittering appearances -- outside show -- novel expedients, by which to suddenly arrest public attention, and attract the public eye and ear". Barnum always maintained that his customers were not “suckers” but rather willing participants in his lighthearted pranks and hoaxes. “The people like to be humbugged”, he once said. So the next time you wish someone a "Merry Christmas" and some Scrooge replies with: “Bah! Humbug!” just smile and say: Christmas is no hoax!
  29. 6 points
    Tips on Choosing a Good Domain Name One of the most important things to consider when building your website is the domain name. Here are a few tips that may help. First let's discuss the difference between a domain name and a URL. The following example illustrates the difference between a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and a domain name: Registered Domain Name: clausnet.com URL: http://www.clausnet.com/ A URL can be thought of as the "address" of a web page. The URL is sometimes referred to as a "web address." The URL "points" to a specific location on the website. A Domain consists of two main parts or labels which are separated by dots, such as: "clausnet.com". The rightmost label indicates the top-level domain (TLD). There are a limited number of top level domains. com - commercial business net - generic network gov - government agencies mil - military agencies edu - educational institutions org - non profit organizations Additionally, they are are country specific TLD such as: ca - Canada us - United States uk - United Kingdom au - Australia Each part or label to the left specifies a subdomain of the domain above it. In the case of "clausnet.com", "clausnet" is the subdomain above the top level domain of "com". Typically this is the unique part of the name. This part is normally the business or brand name. And if you are still awake at this point, the "www" label of the domain name indicates the web server that handles Internet request. Your Domain Name Should be Your Website Name Okay, now that we know what a domain name, lets talk about choosing one. Most importantly, be sure that your website (or business) name is the same as your domain name. If you go by "Santa Mike", then that is likely the first thing people with search on or enter in their browser when trying to locate you. When people think of your business, they think of it by name. If your name is also the web address, they will automatically know where to go. (i.e.; santamike.com) Short Domain Names or Long Domain Names A domain names can be up to 67 characters long. So, you don't have to settle for an obscure domain name like vfstnick.com when what you really want to is visitsfromsaintnick.com. However, there is something to be said about a shorter easier to remember and easier to type domain name as well. Longer domain names maybe easier to remember but they are often much more prone to typos. Of course these days it is very hard to get a short and meaningful domain name. I haven't checked recently, but I am pretty sure that "santa.com" and "santaclaus.com" are no longer available. Another advantage to longer domain names is that they have your website's keywords in the domain name itself. This gives the advantage with Google and other search engines. Hyphenated Domain Names I am often asked about hyphens in a domain name. When it comes to hyphens in the domian name there are more disadvantages than advantages. The first is that it is easy to forget the hyphens when typing the name. If eBay used the domain e-bay.com, how many people would end up typing ebay.com? There are thousands of websites set up everyday to profit off of misspelled domain names. Secondly, when people recommend your site to their friends verbally, hyphens in your domain name can potentially lead to errors. How do you think people will refer to your site if it is named "santa-claus-for-hire.com"? They might say, "Hey, check out his website; santa claus for hire dot com." Most people would type into their browsers: "santaclausforhire.com". Only in certain instances do hyphens benefit a website. For example, santa-claus-experts.com instead of santaclausexperts.com... COM, NET, or ORG The most common question on choosing a domain is what TLD to use. There are several schools of though on this. Some say that it is best to have the domain name of your choice, "santaclaus", even if it has a TLD of "dot net" or "dot org" rather than settle for an obscure domain name for the simple reason you can't get your first choice. Thus they would settle for domain names like "santaclaus.org" or "santaclaus.net" -- just so they can have "santa claus" in the domain. Others argue that only the "dot com" extension is acceptable on the grounds that browsers automatically default to the "dot com" extension. Therefore if your site was "santaclaus.net" and someone entered simply "santaclaus" in the browser it would automatically assume "santaclaus.com" My recommendation is to always grab the dot com domain. If the domain name you want is not available, then think about working your name around to fit a "dot com" instead of working domain extensions around to fit your name. However, if you get a domain name with an extension other than " dot com", make sure that you promote your website with the full domain name. For example, if your domain name is "santaclaus.net", make sure that when you advertise your site, call it "santaclaus.net" not "santaclaus". Otherwise people will assume a "dot com" extension. SOURCES Wikipedia
  30. 5 points
    For many, decorating the Christmas Tree with a pickle ornament is a beloved holiday tradition; however the origin of the Christmas Pickle remains somewhat of a mystery. Details vary, but the most common explanation is that the Christmas Pickle or Die Weihnachtsgurke is a centuries old German tradition where the last decoration hung on the Christmas Tree was an ornamental pickle; hidden deep within the branches of the Tannenbaum. And the first person to find the briny bauble on Christmas morning would receive an extra gift from St. Nicholas or be blesses with good fortune the coming year. The Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland website offers several varieties of Pickle ornaments and includes this explanation of the legend: “According to German tradition, the pickle brings good luck. After all the other ornaments were hung on the tree, the pickle ornament was hidden somewhere within the branches. On Christmas morning, the first child to find the gherkin was rewarded with an additional small present left by St. Nicholas." Unfortunately, there are a couple of holes in the story. Firstly, in Germany, Saint Nicholas arrives not on Christmas Day, but rather on the day of his feast, December 6, Saint Nicholas Day (Sankt Nikolaus Tag). Second, in Germany, gifts are usually opened on Christmas Eve (Heiliger Abend), not Christmas Day morning. Of course there is also the fact that most Germans have never heard of the tradition; and those that have, believe it to be an American tradition. So if most Germans have never heard of this tradition, then how did it get started? There are at least two Christmas pickle ornament stories floating in the Internet brine of speculation. The first story takes place during the American Civil War. As the story goes, Bavarian-born soldier, Private John Lower (Hans Lauer) of the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry was captured in Georgia by the Confederate Army and taken prisoner. On Christmas Eve, Private Lower, starving and in poor health, begged the prison guard for just one pickle. The guard took pity on Lower and granted his request. The pickle gave Lower the strength to live on. Once reunited with his family, Lower began a tradition of hanging a pickle on the Christmas tree every Christmas Eve. The second story, recounts a tale of two boys trapped in a pickle barrel. There are several variations of the pickle barrel story; however, they mostly center around two Spanish schoolboys who are kidnapped by an evil innkeeper and placed into a pickle barrel. That evening, Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra (St. Nicholas) arrives and rescues the children. It’s probably no coincidence that this story sounds very similar to the legend of St. Nicholas and the three children in a barrel. As the story goes, a malicious butcher lures three children into his shop where he kills them and places their remains in a barrel of brine to cure, planning to sell them off as ham. Nicholas finds the children and resurrects them through prayer. This legend accounts for St. Nicholas as the patron saint of children and barrel makers and why the saint is often depicted in statues and paintings alongside three children in a barrel. Despite evidence showing that the Christmas Pickle tradition likely did not originate in Germany, there is however a connection to Deutschland. Both Christmas trees and Christmas ornaments originate from Germany. The small mountain village of Lauscha is considered to be the birthplace of the glass-blown Christmas ornament. In 1847, Hans Greiner began producing the first glass ornaments in the shapes of fruits and nuts. Soon after, the glass blowers of Lauscha were manufacturing ornaments in other shapes such as hearts, stars, and angels. By the 1870s, Christmas ornaments were being exported throughout Europe. But it wasn’t until the 1880s that glass ornaments became a regular fixture on Christmas trees in the United States. In 1880, a traveling salesman called on 28-year old Frank W. Woolworth at his store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The salesman wanted to sell German glass ornaments to people for decorating their homes at Christmas. Woolworth was unconvinced of their appeal. He felt that Americans would not waste money on them because they didn't 'do' anything. Reluctantly, Woolworth purchased one case of 144 ornaments, but insisted on sale-or-return terms. Much to his surprise the ornaments sold out in one day, generating a profit of $4.32. The following year Woolworth doubled his order and sold out again. It seemed Americans loved the idea of decorating their Christmas trees with these unique glass ornaments. Regardless of its origins, the tradition of the Christmas Pickle survives and adds a layer of whimsy to the joy and merriment of the holiday season. And for many, no Christmas Tree is complete without it.
  31. 5 points
    Published by William B. Gilley in 1821, “The Children’s Friend. Number III. A New-Year’s Present to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve”, is believed to be the first book published in America to include lithographic illustrations. This book includes a poem about “Santeclaus” along with eight colored illustrations. However, what makes this book significant is the poem and illustrations are thought to be the earliest known visual representation of Santa Claus in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. The poem also marks Santa’s first appearance on Christmas Day rather than December 6, the feast day of St. Nicholas. The Children’s Friend. Number III. A New-Year’s Present to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve by William B. Gilley, 1821 Old Santeclaus with much delight His reindeer drives this frosty night. O’er chimney tops, and tracks of snow, To bring his yearly gifts to you. The steady friend of virtuous youth, The friend of duty, and of truth, Each Christmas eve he joys to come Where love and peace have made their home” Through many houses he has been, And various beds and stockings seen, Some, white as snow, and neatly mended, Others, that seem’d for pigs intended. Where e’er I found good girls or boys, That hated quarrels, strife and noise, Left an apple, or a tart, Or wooden gun, or painted cart; To some I gave a pretty doll, To some a peg-top, or a ball; No crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets, To blow their eyes up, or their pockets. No drums to stun their Mother’s ear, Nor swords to make their sisters fear; But pretty books to store their mind With knowledge of each various kind. But where I found the children naughty, In manners rude, in temper haughty, Thankless to parents, liars, swearers, Boxers, or cheats, or base tale-bearers, I left a long, black, birchen rod, Such as the dread command of God Directs a Parent’s hand to use When virtue’s path his sons refuse
  32. 5 points
    A Cowboy's Christmas Prayer by S. Omar Barker (1895-1985) I ain't much good at prayin', and You may not know me, Lord -- For I ain't much seen in churches, where they preach Thy Holy Word. But you may have observed me out here on the lonely plains, A-lookin' after cattle, feelin' thankful when it rains. Admirin' Thy great handiwork. the miracle of the grass, Aware of Thy kind Spirit, in the way it comes to pass That hired men on horseback and the livestock that we tend Can look up at the stars at night, and know we've got a Friend. So here's ol' Christmas comin' on, remindin' us again Of Him whose coming brought good will into the hearts of men. A cowboy ain't a preacher, Lord, but if You'll hear my prayer, I'll ask as good as we have got for all men everywhere. Don't let no hearts be bitter, Lord. Don't let no child be cold. Make easy the beds for them that's sick and them that's weak and old. Let kindness bless the trail we ride, no matter what we're after, And sorter keep us on Your side, in tears as well as laughter. I've seen ol' cows a-starvin' - and it ain't no happy sight; Please don't leave no one hungry, Lord, on Thy Good Christmas Night -- No man, no child, no woman, and no critter on four feet I'll do my doggone best to help you find 'em chuck to eat. I'm just a sinful cowpoke, Lord -- ain't got no business prayin' But still I hope you'll ketch a word or two, of what I'm sayin': We speak of Merry Christmas, Lord-- I reckon You'll agree -- There ain't no Merry Christmas for nobody that ain't free! So one thing more I ask You, Lord: just help us what You can To save some seeds of freedom for the future Sons of Man! © S. Omar Barker In December, 2013 the S. Omar Barker estate announced this poem is now considered in the public domain.
  33. 5 points
    The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen, December 1845 Illustration by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone Most terribly cold it was; it snowed, and was nearly quite dark, and evening-- the last evening of the year. In this cold and darkness there went along the street a poor little girl, bareheaded, and with naked feet. When she left home she had slippers on, it is true; but what was the good of that? They were very large slippers, which her mother had hitherto worn; so large were they; and the poor little thing lost them as she scuffled away across the street, because of two carriages that rolled by dreadfully fast. One slipper was nowhere to be found; the other had been laid hold of by an urchin, and off he ran with it; he thought it would do capitally for a cradle when he some day or other should have children himself. So the little maiden walked on with her tiny naked feet, that were quite red and blue from cold. She carried a quantity of matches in an old apron, and she held a bundle of them in her hand. Nobody had bought anything of her the whole livelong day; no one had given her a single farthing. She crept along trembling with cold and hunger--a very picture of sorrow, the poor little thing! The flakes of snow covered her long fair hair, which fell in beautiful curls around her neck; but of that, of course, she never once now thought. From all the windows the candles were gleaming, and it smelt so deliciously of roast goose, for you know it was New Year's Eve; yes, of that she thought. In a corner formed by two houses, of which one advanced more than the other, she seated herself down and cowered together. Her little feet she had drawn close up to her, but she grew colder and colder, and to go home she did not venture, for she had not sold any matches and could not bring a farthing of money: from her father she would certainly get blows, and at home it was cold too, for above her she had only the roof, through which the wind whistled, even though the largest cracks were stopped up with straw and rags. Her little hands were almost numbed with cold. Oh! a match might afford her a world of comfort, if she only dared take a single one out of the bundle, draw it against the wall, and warm her fingers by it. She drew one out. "Rischt!" how it blazed, how it burnt! It was a warm, bright flame, like a candle, as she held her hands over it: it was a wonderful light. It seemed really to the little maiden as though she were sitting before a large iron stove, with burnished brass feet and a brass ornament at top. The fire burned with such blessed influence; it warmed so delightfully. The little girl had already stretched out her feet to warm them too; but--the small flame went out, the stove vanished: she had only the remains of the burnt-out match in her hand. She rubbed another against the wall: it burned brightly, and where the light fell on the wall, there the wall became transparent like a veil, so that she could see into the room. On the table was spread a snow-white tablecloth; upon it was a splendid porcelain service, and the roast goose was steaming famously with its stuffing of apple and dried plums. And what was still more capital to behold was, the goose hopped down from the dish, reeled about on the floor with knife and fork in its breast, till it came up to the poor little girl; when--the match went out and nothing but the thick, cold, damp wall was left behind. She lighted another match. Now there she was sitting under the most magnificent Christmas tree: it was still larger, and more decorated than the one which she had seen through the glass door in the rich merchant's house. Thousands of lights were burning on the green branches, and gaily-colored pictures, such as she had seen in the shop-windows, looked down upon her. The little maiden stretched out her hands towards them when--the match went out. The lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher, she saw them now as stars in heaven; one fell down and formed a long trail of fire. "Someone is just dead!" said the little girl; for her old grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now no more, had told her, that when a star falls, a soul ascends to God. She drew another match against the wall: it was again light, and in the lustre there stood the old grandmother, so bright and radiant, so mild, and with such an expression of love. "Grandmother!" cried the little one. "Oh, take me with you! You go away when the match burns out; you vanish like the warm stove, like the delicious roast goose, and like the magnificent Christmas tree!" And she rubbed the whole bundle of matches quickly against the wall, for she wanted to be quite sure of keeping her grandmother near her. And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been so beautiful and so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm, and both flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety--they were with God. But in the corner, at the cold hour of dawn, sat the poor girl, with rosy cheeks and with a smiling mouth, leaning against the wall--frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. Stiff and stark sat the child there with her matches, of which one bundle had been burnt. "She wanted to warm herself," people said. No one had the slightest suspicion of what beautiful things she had seen; no one even dreamed of the splendor in which, with her grandmother she had entered on the joys of a new year.
  34. 4 points
    While doing some research on the history of Santa Claus and Christmas traditions, I came across this poem by Goodloe H. Thomas. The poem was published in the December 19, 1912 issue of the Bristol Phoenix. Kidnaped By Santa Claus by Goodloe H. Thomas My dad sez once they lived a boy 'Us bound that he would see Old Santa Claus—an' had no joy Fer thinkin' how 't'ud be To hide behind a screen an' wait Till Santa come around, Then watch him waitn' to uncrate— Without a word or sound. Well, Christmas Eve, this boy let on 'At he was sound asleep, An' when he knowed the rest had gone To bed, he went a-creep Down stairs—an' gracious!— watcha think! He run against him—smack! Old Santa, yes-sir—'n quick as a wink That boy 'uz in his pack. An' ever since that boy has been Strapped up an' has to go With Santa, fer just that one sin, Through miles of ice an' snow; An' you bet I ain't gonna take No chance like that—not quite! You'll find 'at I won't be awake When Santa comes to-night.
  35. 4 points
    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"
  36. 4 points
    The Littlest Christmas Tree by Amy Peterson The littlest Christmas tree lived in a meadow of green, among a family, of tall evergreens. He learned how to whisper the evergreen song, with the slightest of wind, that came gently along. He watched as the birds made a home out of twigs, and couldn't wait till he, too, was big. For all of the trees offered a home, the maple, the pine, and the oak, who's so strong. "I hate being little," the little tree said, "I can't even turn colors like the maple turns red. I can't help the animals like the mighty old oak. He shelters them all in his wide mighty cloak." The older tree said, "Why, little tree, you don't know? The story of a mighty king from the land with no snow?" Little tree questioned, "A land with no snow?" "Yes!" said old tree, "A very old story, from so long ago". "A star appeared, giving great light over a manger, on long winter's night. A baby was born, a king of all kings, and with him comes love, over all things." "He lived in a country all covered in sand, and laid down his life to save all of man." Little tree thought of the gift given by him, then the big tree said with the happiest grin, "We're not just trees, but a reminder of that day There's a much bigger part, of a role that we play!" "For on Christmas eve, my life I'll lay down, in exchange for a happier, loving ground. And as I stand dying, they'll adorn me in trim. This all will be done, in memory of him." "Among a warm fire, with family and friends, in the sweet songs of Christmas, I'll find my great end. then ever so gently, He'll come down to see and take me to heaven, Jesus and me." "So you see, little tree, we are not like the oak who shelters all things beneath his great cloak. Nor are we like the maple in fall, who's colors leave many standing in awe." "The gift that we give is ourselves, limb for limb, the greatest of honor, in memory of him." The little tree bowed, his head down and cried, and thought of the king who willingly died. For what kind of gift can anyone give? Than to lay down your life when you wanted to live? A swelling of pride came over the tree. Can all of this happen Because of just me? Can I really bring honor? By adorning a home? By reminding mankind that he's never alone? With this thought, little tree began singing with glee. Happy and proud to be a true Christmas tree. You can still hear them singing even the smallest in height, singing of Christmas and that one holy night. © Amy Peterson
  37. 4 points
    Old Santeclaus by Clement Clark Moore, 1821 Old Santeclaus with much delight His reindeer drives this frosty night, O’er chimney-tops, and tracks of snow, To bring his yearly gifts to you. The steady friend of virtuous youth, The friend of duty, and of truth, Each Christmas eve he joys to come Where love and peace have made their home. Through many houses he has been, And various beds and stockings seen; Some, white as snow, and neatly mended, Others, that seemed for pigs intended. Where e’er I found good girls or boys, That hated quarrels, strife and noise, I left an apple, or a tart, Or wooden gun, or painted cart. To some I gave a pretty doll, To some a peg-top, or a ball; No crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets, To blow their eyes up, or their pockets. No drums to stun their Mother’s ear, Nor swords to make their sisters fear; But pretty books to store their mind With knowledge of each various kind. But where I found the children naughty, In manners rude, in temper haughty, Thankless to parents, liars, swearers, Boxers, or cheats, or base tale-bearers, I left a long, black, birchen rod, Such as the dread command of God Directs a Parent’s hand to use When virtue’s path his sons refuse.
  38. 3 points
    The Mistletoe Bough "The Mistletoe Bough," lyrics by Thomas Haynes Bayly, music by Sir Henry Bishop, is a ballad composed around 1830 retelling a traditional tale about a newlywed bride who accidentally locks herself in an old oak trunk while playing hide-and-seek with members of her wedding party, who then spend a long night searching for her in vain. The Mistletoe Bough The mistletoe hung in the castle hall, The holly branch shone on the old oak wall; And the baron's retainers were blithe and gay, And keeping their Christmas holiday. The baron beheld with a father's pride His beautiful child, young Lovell's bride; While she with her bright eyes seemed to be The star of the goodly company. Oh, the mistletoe bough. Oh, the mistletoe bough. "I'm weary of dancing now," she cried; "Here, tarry a moment — I'll hide, I'll hide! And, Lovell, be sure thou'rt first to trace The clew to my secret lurking-place." Away she ran — and her friends began Each tower to search, and each nook to scan; And young Lovell cried, "O, where dost thou hide? I'm lonesome without thee, my own dear bride." Oh, the mistletoe bough. Oh, the mistletoe bough. They sought her that night, and they sought her next day, And they sought her in vain while a week passed away; In the highest, the lowest, the loneliest spot, Young Lovell sought wildly — but found her not. And years flew by, and their grief at last Was told as a sorrowful tale long past; And when Lovell appeared the children cried, "See! the old man weeps for his fairy bride." Oh, the mistletoe bough. Oh, the mistletoe bough. At length an oak chest, that had long lain hid, Was found in the castle — they raised the lid, And a skeleton form lay mouldering there In the bridal wreath of that lady fair! O, sad was her fate! — in sportive jest She hid from her lord in the old oak chest. It closed with a spring! — and, dreadful doom, The bride lay clasped in her living tomb! Oh, the mistletoe bough. Oh, the mistletoe bough. A video of the poem was made in 1904 . . .
  39. 3 points
    Thomas Nast at Maculloch Hall Historical Museum By Black River Santa Where can you find Santa Claus, the GOP Elephant, the Tammany Tiger, Uncle Sam, Ulysses S Grant, and a host of other historical and political icons all under one roof? The Thomas Nast Collection at Macculloch Hall Historical Museum. My wife and I were taken on a festive private tour of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, in Morristown, NJ, this past Christmas season. This gorgeous federal, Georgian style mansion was built by George Perrott Macculloch (1775-1858), the scion of a wealthy Scottish family and a prosperous businessman, who came to New Jersey with his wife, Louisa, in 1810. The historic home has three floors of period rooms meticulously appointed and adorned with a fabulous selection of European and American furniture, decorative art, porcelain (Including an incredible array of White House China), and a famous antique carpet collection from the Middle East and China dating from the sixteenth through the early twentieth centuries. Almost everything at Macculloch Hall, from the primitive kitchen utensils to the opulent chandeliers, were collected by the museum’s founder, W. Parsons Todd (1877-1976), a mining executive, philanthropist, collector, and former two-time Morristown mayor, who established the museum in 1950. Todd was also responsible for assembling the core of the Museum’s most well-known holding – the Thomas Nast Collection, the largest single collection of American political cartoonist Thomas Nast’s original works in the world. Dubbed “the father of American Political Cartoonists,” Nast was one of the country’s most influential and celebrated illustrators. A German immigrant, Nast came to America when he was five years old. Unable to speak English, he struggled in his classes and spent most of his time drawing with the waxy stubs of reject crayons that were given to him by a neighbor who manufactured crayons and candles. Largely uneducated and with limited artistic training, Nast was nonetheless determined to find a job doing the only thing he thought he was good at – drawing. At 15, he landed a job at Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News, but it was his work at Harper’s Illustrated during the Civil War that made him a household name. Nast and his crusading pencil brought readers stirring, heart-felt, and patriotic sketches so persuasive, that Lincoln referred to Nast as his best recruiting sergeant. Nast also turned his wrath on political corruption in New York, taking on William “Boss” Tweed and his Tammany Hall cronies. It was his feud with Tweed that led Nast to leave New York with his family and settle in Morristown, NJ, in his own stately manor directly across the street from Macculloch Hall, dubbed “Villa Fontana.” Capable of bringing down hard-nosed kingpins or turning public opinion against a political candidate with his venomous caricatures, Nast could also tug at the heartstrings of Harper’s readers with his melodramatic engravings of “Columbia” or tear-jerking visions of Emancipation, and none were more endearing than his “annual gift to the readers of Harper’s Weekly,” published each year at Christmas time. During his tenure at Harper’s Nast produced 76, signed published Christmas engravings including his famous images of Santa Claus. Inspired by Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” more commonly known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Nast’s early engravings stayed true to Moore’s description and thrilled readers with their first look at Santa, his sleigh, and his “eight tiny reindeer.” Over the years, Nast introduced modern twists to Moore’s conception that have endured as part of the Santa Claus story, such as placing St. Nick’s home at the North Pole; giving him a workshop and elves; having children mail letters to Santa; and the dreaded “naughty or nice” list. Since 1870, many popular American illustrators such as Norman Rockwell, have sketched out their own visions of Santa Claus but they have all been based on Nast’s original depiction. Yuletide is a tough time for Santas to find the time to visit Macculloch Hall, but for anyone dedicated to the Santa Claus tradition, it’s definitely a pilgrimage worth taking any time of year. The museum is open year-round and Morristown offers a myriad of entertainment options and great dining, including museums, music, Revolutionary War sites like the Jockey Hollow encampment and Washington’s Headquarters, as well as great parks and recreation. If you’re interested, you can find more information at maccullochall.org and morristourism.org.
  40. 3 points
    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.
  41. 3 points
    As traditional Christmas carols go, the song Good King Wenceslas is unusual in a number of ways. The song has been used throughout popular culture in countless Christmas related films and television programs. Yet the lyrics make no reference to Christmas. In fact, the song has no connection to Christmas whatsoever. The story told in the carol actually takes place the day after Christmas on December 26, the Feast of St. Stephen. Written in 1853 by the Rev. John Mason Neale (1818-1866), the lyrics to Good King Wenceslas were inspired by the life history of Wenceslaus I (907–935). Wenceslas (also known as “Václav the Good”) was the Duke of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) from 921 until his assassination in 935. Following his death, Wenceslaus was canonized as a saint due to his martyr's death, as well as several purported miracles that occurred after his death. Revered for his kindness to the poor, Wenceslaus is the patron saint of the Czech people and the Czech Republic. Good King Wenceslas tells the story of a King and his page on a journey as they brave the harsh winter weather. One night on the Feast Day of St. Stephen, they observe a poor man collecting wood. Wenceslaus asks his page to find out where the poor man lives and to gather meat, drink, and firewood so that they can bring it to the poor man's home. During the journey, the page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather. Wenceslaus tells his page to follow in his footsteps. Miraculously, as the servant steps into the king’s footprints, he feels the warmth of the king’s generosity emanating in the snow and is able to go on. Although there is no mention of Christmas in this traditional Christmas carol, its message of kindness, generosity, and giving to those less fortunate than ourselves, is what makes it so fitting. May we always strive to emulate the Good King's example; not only on Christmas, but every day. Good King Wenceslas By Rev. John Mason Neale, 1853 Good King Wenceslas looked out On the feast of Stephen When the snow lay round about Deep and crisp and even Brightly shone the moon that night Though the frost was cruel When a poor man came in sight Gath'ring winter fuel "Hither, page, and stand by me If thou know'st it, telling Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?" "Sire, he lives a good league hence Underneath the mountain Right against the forest fence By Saint Agnes' fountain." "Bring me flesh and bring me wine Bring me pine logs hither Thou and I will see him dine When we bear him thither." Page and monarch forth they went Forth they went together Through the rude wind's wild lament And the bitter weather "Sire, the night is darker now And the wind blows stronger Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer." "Mark my footsteps, my good page Tread thou in them boldly Thou shalt find the winter's rage Freeze thy blood less coldly." In his master's steps he trod Where the snow lay dinted Heat was in the very sod Which the Saint had printed Therefore, Christian men, be sure Wealth or rank possessing Ye who now will bless the poor Shall yourselves find blessing.
  42. 3 points
    The Three Kings by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1858 Three Kings came riding from far away, Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar; Three Wise Men out of the East were they, And they travelled by night and they slept by day, For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star. The star was so beautiful, large and clear, That all the other stars of the sky Became a white mist in the atmosphere, And by this they knew that the coming was near Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy. Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows, Three caskets of gold with golden keys; Their robes were of crimson silk with rows Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows, Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees. And so the Three Kings rode into the West, Through the dusk of the night, over hill and dell, And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast, And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest, With the people they met at some wayside well. “Of the child that is born,” said Baltasar, “Good people, I pray you, tell us the news; For we in the East have seen his star, And have ridden fast, and have ridden far, To find and worship the King of the Jews.” And the people answered, “You ask in vain; We know of no King but Herod the Great!” They thought the Wise Men were men insane, As they spurred their horses across the plain, Like riders in haste, who cannot wait. And when they came to Jerusalem, Herod the Great, who had heard this thing, Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them; And said, “Go down unto Bethlehem, And bring me tidings of this new king.” So they rode away; and the star stood still, The only one in the grey of morn; Yes, it stopped—it stood still of its own free will, Right over Bethlehem on the hill, The city of David, where Christ was born. And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard, Through the silent street, till their horses turned And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard; But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred, And only a light in the stable burned. And cradled there in the scented hay, In the air made sweet by the breath of kine, The little child in the manger lay, The child, that would be king one day Of a kingdom not human, but divine. His mother Mary of Nazareth Sat watching beside his place of rest, Watching the even flow of his breath, For the joy of life and the terror of death Were mingled together in her breast. They laid their offerings at his feet: The gold was their tribute to a King, The frankincense, with its odor sweet, Was for the Priest, the Paraclete, The myrrh for the body’s burying. And the mother wondered and bowed her head, And sat as still as a statue of stone, Her heart was troubled yet comforted, Remembering what the Angel had said Of an endless reign and of David’s throne. Then the Kings rode out of the city gate, With a clatter of hoofs in proud array; But they went not back to Herod the Great, For they knew his malice and feared his hate, And returned to their homes by another way.
  43. 3 points
    Christmas Trees by Robert Frost, 1916 A Christmas circular letter The city had withdrawn into itself And left at last the country to the country; When between whirls of snow not come to lie And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove A stranger to our yard, who looked the city, Yet did in country fashion in that there He sat and waited till he drew us out, A-buttoning coats, to ask him who he was. He proved to be the city come again To look for something it had left behind And could not do without and keep its Christmas. He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees; My woods—the young fir balsams like a place Where houses all are churches and have spires. I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas trees. I doubt if I was tempted for a moment To sell them off their feet to go in cars And leave the slope behind the house all bare, Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon. I’d hate to have them know it if I was. Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees, except As others hold theirs or refuse for them, Beyond the time of profitable growth— The trial by market everything must come to. I dallied so much with the thought of selling. Then whether from mistaken courtesy And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said, “There aren’t enough to be worth while.” “I could soon tell how many they would cut, You let me look them over.” “You could look. But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.” Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close That lop each other of boughs, but not a few Quite solitary and having equal boughs All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to, Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one, With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.” I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so. We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over, And came down on the north. He said, “A thousand.” “A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?” He felt some need of softening that to me: “A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.” Then I was certain I had never meant To let him have them. Never show surprise! But thirty dollars seemed so small beside The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents (For that was all they figured out apiece)— Three cents so small beside the dollar friends I should be writing to within the hour Would pay in cities for good trees like those, Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools Could hang enough on to pick off enough. A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had! Worth three cents more to give away than sell, As may be shown by a simple calculation. Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter. I can’t help wishing I could send you one, In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.
  44. 3 points
    In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of The Sun. A response from the New York newspaper was printed as an unsigned editorial on September 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps. "DEAR EDITOR: 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 115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical 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 eternal 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 they 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 may 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, fancy, 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 he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood. Virginia O'Hanlon , subject of "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus", reads her famous letter to a group of children. O'Hanlon passed away in 1971. This video was shot sometime before then while she was residing in a nursing home in Valatie, New York. Video: WTEN-TV, Albany, New York
  45. 2 points
    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."
  46. 2 points
    Authored by American humorist, John Kendrick Bangs in 1912, A Little Book of Christmas is a collection Christmas short stories and poems. A Toast to Santa Claus, is one of three heart-warming poems included in the book. A Toast to Santa Claus by John Kendrick Bangs Whene'er I find a man who don't Believe in Santa Claus, And spite of all remonstrance won't Yield up to logic's laws, And see in things that lie about The proof by no means dim, I straightway cut that fellow out, And don't believe in him. The good old Saint is everywhere Along life's busy way. We find him in the very air We breathe day after day— Where courtesy and kindliness And love are joined together, To give to sorrow and distress A touch of sunny weather. We find him in the maiden's eyes Beneath the mistletoe, A-sparkling as the star-lit skies All golden in their glow. We find him in the pressure of The hand of sympathy, And where there's any thought of love He's mighty sure to be. So here's to good old Kindliheart! The best bet of them all, Who never fails to do his part In life's high festival; The worthy bearer of the crown With which we top the Saint. A bumper to his health, and down With them that say he ain't!
  47. 2 points
    On Christmas Eve by Stella Mead From the book The Land of Never-Grow-Old, 1935 When the night goes gray and the stars are gold, When the bells for Christmas ring. When the children close by the Yuletide log Their Christmas carols sing; In is sleigh he jumps, to the deer he calls, Away to earth he flies, Through the crystal stars of the Milky Way And down the silver skies. He is Santa Claus in a crimson gown, with a beard so white and long; We will sound his praise to the chimney-tops In a rousing Christmas song.
  48. 1 point
    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.
  49. 1 point
    There are a number of ways to improve your website's rankings in the search engines. Search engines companies like Google, Yahoo, and Bing use a variety of ways to determine the order in which a website is listed on the resulting pages. The order is often referred to as "Search Engine Result Pages" or SERPs. I worked for two Search companies in the past and I can tell you that every search engine uses a different algorithm and methodology to display these results. Concentrating too much on any one particular method (Google's, Yahoo's, etc.), may possibly result in ranking high on one and low on the other. The term for improving your positioning in these search results is called "Search Engine Optimization" or SEO. It is very difficult to rank 1 or 2 on all the major search sites at the same time. This takes constant tweaking and manipulation of your site and a really good understanding of how the search engines crawl and collect information. Experts in SEO can make over $100K a year! But there are a few things you can do to help move your site up a bit. Search Engine Submissions The search engines regularly add and update websites to their index each time the crawl the web. But you can submit your website's URL to the search engines directly. Here are the links for Google and Yahoo! Ignore outfits that offer to submit your website to hundreds of search engines. These are usually spam sites and could actually hurt your ranking. Keyword Phrases Rather than focusing on single words, consider adding multiple words that make up keyword phrases. If you were searching the Web for your own Santa Claus services or Christmas products, think of what phrase would you enter into Google or Yahoo? Would you look for “Santa Claus” or would you look for “Home Visits From Santa Claus”? Also, stick to one subject per page and one keyword phrase per page. Multiple keywords or broad keyword phrases can often “muddy” the meaning of the page – hence lowering it’s ranking. Try a different perspective. Ask others to read your page(s) and suggest what they think the “meaning” of the page is. Then focus your keyword phrases around those points. Links A major factor in page ranking are relevant hyperlinks. Search engines look at incoming and outgoing links on your website to determine its ranking. You can greatly improve your page rank by linking to and from other relevant websites. The words in the links are also used to help determine the content of your page. Try to include your keywords phrases into the text that is linking to your website. Instead of saying “click here ”, you should say, “Read more about the History of Christmas”. Also think about the text that surrounds the area of the link itself. One note of caution though… Be selective about your links. Look for websites that have similar subjects to yours with good rankings and good traffic (like ClausNet). Artificially inflating the number of links may do more harm than good. A mistake people often make is submitting their website to “link farms” where a group of websites are created for the sole purpose of adding web links. Link farms can do major damage to your page ranking and can even get you banned on the major search engines like Google and yahoo. Page Density You will often hear – content is king! One of the major things the search engines look for when it collects and indexes your site is the density of the “key words” on each page. In other words, how often are the keywords used in the content itself? Be sure to write your content in clear, concise, and natural phrasing. Don’t try to trick the search engine by using the keywords over and over again. Another mistake people make is making the text “invisible”. Trust me. The search engines are much smarter than that. There are a few tools out there to check your keyword density. I think the Google Toolbar has a few of these tools built in. Graphics Websites that use Flash graphics are cool and all, but search engines tend to skip right over it. If your home page or menus are in Flash, they might as well be invisible. If you want to use the cool Flash menus, consider adding a plain text link version of the menus to the page. Be sure your images use the <alt> tag. Not only does it make your website more visually appealing, it also gives you another chance to place your keywords. Page Titles Give your pages titles! How often do you see a search result with a link called “untitled”!? Yikes! Search engines display the search results as links using the pages’ title. It is simple enough to give each page a title. Use the <title> tag to give your pages a descriptive name. If possible, use the page’s keyword phrase in the title. For example, “Contact Santa Rielly”. There is a host of online resources and printed material available where you can learn more about HTML tags. See below for more information. Site Design Well organized and logically laid out websites tend to rank higher. They are also the websites that tend to become more popular. Popular websites have more traffic and websites with more traffic will rank even higher with the search engines. Design your websites with organization and intuitive navigation in mind and much of the search engine optimization will design itself. Learn more about search engine optimization - SEO Search Engine Guide - Small Business Guide to Search Engine Marketing Webmaster World W3Schools - Online Web Tutorials Search Engine Optimization For Dummies on Amazon.com
  50. 1 point
    During Christmas in the 1870s, when he wasn't sending horse-led sleighs piled high with food and toys to his less fortunate neighbors, the inimitable Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) could usually be found at the family home with his wife and young children, often pretending to be Santa Claus. On Christmas morning of 1875, Twain's 3-year-old daughter, Susie, awoke to find the following charming letter on her bed. (Source: Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children.) Palace of St. Nicholas In the Moon Christmas Morning My Dear Susie Clemens: I have received and read all the letters which you and your little sister have written me by the hand of your mother and your nurses; I have also read those which you little people have written me with your own hands--for although you did not use any characters that are in grown peoples' alphabet, you used the characters that all children in all lands on earth and in the twinkling stars use; and as all my subjects in the moon are children and use no character but that, you will easily understand that I can read your and your baby sister's jagged and fantastic marks without any trouble at all. But I had trouble with those letters which you dictated through your mother and the nurses, for I am a foreigner and cannot read English writing well. You will find that I made no mistakes about the things which you and the baby ordered in your own letters--I went down your chimney at midnight when you were asleep and delivered them all myself--and kissed both of you, too, because you are good children, well trained, nice mannered, and about the most obedient little people I ever saw. But in the letter which you dictated there were some words which I could not make out for certain, and one or two small orders which I could not fill because we ran out of stock. Our last lot of kitchen furniture for dolls has just gone to a very poor little child in the North Star away up, in the cold country above the Big Dipper. Your mama can show you that star and you will say: "Little Snow Flake," (for that is the child's name) "I'm glad you got that furniture, for you need it more than I." That is, you must write that, with your own hand, and Snow Flake will write you an answer. If you only spoke it she wouldn't hear you. Make your letter light and thin, for the distance is great and the postage very heavy. There was a word or two in your mama's letter which I couldn't be certain of. I took it to be "a trunk full of doll's clothes." Is that it? I will call at your kitchen door about nine o'clock this morning to inquire. But I must not see anybody and I must not speak to anybody but you. When the kitchen doorbell rings, George must be blindfolded and sent to open the door. Then he must go back to the dining room or the china closet and take the cook with him. You must tell George he must walk on tiptoe and not speak--otherwise he will die someday. Then you must go up to the nursery and stand on a chair or the nurse's bed and put your car to the speaking tube that leads down to the kitchen and when I whistle through it you must speak in the tube and say, "Welcome, Santa Claus!" Then I will ask whether it was a trunk you ordered or not. If you say it was, I shall ask you what color you want the trunk to be. Your mama will help you to name a nice color and then you must tell me every single thing in detail which you want the trunk to contain. Then when I say "Good-by and a merry Christmas to my little Susie Clemens," you must say "Good-by, good old Santa Claus, I thank you very much and please tell that little Snow Flake I will look at her star tonight and she must look down here--I will be right in the west bay window; and every fine night I will look at her star and say, 'I know somebody up there and like her, too.' " Then you must go down into the library and make George close all the doors that open into the main hall, and everybody must keep still for a little while. I will go to the moon and get those things and in a few minutes I will come down the chimney that belongs to the fireplace that is in the hall--if it is a trunk you want--because I couldn't get such a thing as a trunk down the nursery chimney, you know. People may talk if they want, until they hear my footsteps in the hall. Then you tell them to keep quiet a little while till I go back up the chimney. Maybe you will not hear my footsteps at all--so you may go now and then and peep through the dining-room doors, and by and by you will see that thing which you want, right under the piano in the drawing room-for I shall put it there. If I should leave any snow in the hall, you must tell George to sweep it into the fireplace, for I haven't time to do such things. George must not use a broom, but a rag--else he will die someday. You must watch George and not let him run into danger. If my boot should leave a stain on the marble, George must not holystone it away. Leave it there always in memory of my visit; and whenever you look at it or show it to anybody you must let it remind you to be a good little girl. Whenever you are naughty and somebody points to that mark which your good old Santa Claus's boot made on the marble, what will you say, little sweetheart? Good-by for a few minutes, till I come down to the world and ring the kitchen doorbell. Your loving Santa Claus Whom people sometimes call "The Man in the Moon"
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