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  1. Michael Rielly

    Auld Lang Syne

    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.
  2. Last year, my daughter and grandson called to invite me to join them for a local Christmas parade in their town. This town really knows how to celebrate Christmas! Even though I am a real bearded Santa, I still went and we had a great time watching all the wonderful floats go by, decorated with lights and tinsel and all manner of design. But when Santa and his sleigh came by, Santa just sat there, nary a wave, barely a smile. Then recently, I was paging through a talent agency website looking at various Santas represented by that agency. I’ve got to say, there are a quite a few of us I would not hire if I was looking for someone to appear at my party. I’ve been a Santa now for 10 years and every year have worked hard to improve my appearance and talents. I was a commercial photographer for 37 years before I retired. In that job, I not only had to learn to use a camera and design a photograph, but since I also worked with models (often amateurs), I had to learn how to direct them to get the best shot. When I photographed someone in a shot that demanded a mood of ‘excitement’, I studied what other artists and photographers had done to show that. I directed and worked with the models to get gestures and moods and expressions like happiness, joy, sadness, depression, anger and so on from them. I was prepared for what looks I needed to inspire when I walked into my studio or on set. And over time, it became second nature to me to coax various expressions from my models to even get images that were not planned but still became great shots. I use those skills I learned as a photographer and director. As Santas, we too need to do this. We need to look at what photographers and models have done with expression to get such wonderful shots. And I don’t mean just Santas photos either. The best sources I have had through the years was Lucille Ball and Dick Van Dyke. These two actors had rubber faces and knew how to engage their audiences. They could instantly transform their faces and gestures from that of someone who was being sneaky to one of laughter to embarrassment. I encourage you to create a file of fabulous faces and practice them in the mirror yourself! Think through the kind of engagements you have had with children and what great expression would have made the visit for them AND the picture even greater! Of particular note, practice and learn facial expressions such as joy, surprise, a great laugh, empathy, and even sadness and compassion. Learn them and use them regularly even in the off season. It isn’t just about facial expression either. Learn to use your hands and gestures to further enhance your look! Again, watch what the great pros have done. Perhaps most important is pay close attention to your visitor and learn to give a great Santa expression that meets the situation. I’ve learned to do that even when I am in the same chair for 5 to 8 hours visiting with hundreds of children. I even tell my photographers to be ready to shoot because the interactions come fast. I want those parents to leave with a picture of Santa and their child that they will really cherish and say, “That was the best Santa we ever had!” Now I realize that facial expressions and gestures are not really the ultimate goal. The real goal is to fully engage with the child or visitor if even for just a minute. Several years ago, I had an 11 year old girl come to visit me. She was a delight in every way: beautiful and bubbly and every bit engaging. She wore an absolutely beautiful Christmas dress of red velvet and white fur. We talked for a couple minutes. I complimented her on her beauty and dress and she told me how she was doing and what she wanted for Christmas. Mom took several pictures with her camera of us just talking and my reactions to what her daughter was telling me (surprise, joy and happiness and laughter…). A few days later, Mom came back by the set to get my email so she could send me some of her pictures (she loved them!). As I gave it to her, she was telling me more about her daughter and I learned her daughter was dying of leukemia. I didn’t have to put on a expression at that point. It was truly there. A couple of days before Christmas, Mom and Dad brought their daughter to visit with me again. I recognized her immediately. We had a delightful time together that time as well. But I believe what brought her back was her first visit with Santa. I had made the first visit such a delightful time and Mom had taken so many fun pictures that this time, they wanted the whole family photographed with Santa. This past year, I have been mentoring a man who decided to become a Santa. He is a great fellow and our friendship has deepened significantly. He has a truly great chuckle and very white hair and long beard. He has spent a small fortune having a custom suit, belt, buckle, boots and such made. All well and good. The man who becomes Santa is all about giving of himself to bless those who come to him. My friend will make a great Santa! All things considered, it isn’t the suit, it’s the man!
  3. Michael Rielly

    Kidnaped By Santa Claus

    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.
  4. Kevin Haislip

    The Gift That Changed A Life!

    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!
  5. Kevin Haislip

    The Gift That Changed A Life!

    The Gift That Changed a Life! 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!
  6. Michael Rielly

    The Story of Little Piccola

    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.
  7. Storytelling Santa

    Moments to Remember

    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.
  8. Kevin Haislip

    It Happened One Christmas Eve

    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.
  9. Michael Rielly

    Little Tree

    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"
  10. Michael Rielly

    Keeping Christmas

    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.
  11. Michael Rielly

    The Errors of Santa Claus

    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.
  12. Michael Rielly

    Christmas Day

    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."
  13. Michael Rielly

    Papa Panov's Special Christmas

    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."
  14. Father Yule John

    Father Yule’s Story

    Father Yule’s Story started many years ago in the wild hills and mountains of Scotland. Father Yule was a normal family guy. He was known to work hard to feed his loving family, wife and children. They were a happy family. Though they had little money, as were the times. They would sit each night around the fire, sang songs and laughed at all the funny stories told by Father Yule. Then, as the children began to fall asleep, he and his wife would carry each one to their warm beds and tuck them in for the night. They would all sleep brilliantly and dream happy thoughts. He lived in a time when the Vikings would raid the countryside looking for food, women and children. Father Yule kept moving his family further into the hill and then the mountains to hide them from the Vikings. He would have to go on longer and longer hunts to find food for his family. While Father yule was away for days, he would make gifts for all of them as he sat by his fire dreaming of the time they would all be together again. Finally his hunt was over and he headed home to his family, he was looking forward to the hugs, seeing their eyes full of joy for the food and the gifts he had made them. He got back to the camp that he had left them at in the mountains and no one was their. It look like they had to leave the camp in a hurry. He went searching all the other camps that they had stayed at in the hills and mountain. He found them at none. Father Yule cried and cried. He had made toys and gifts for them and now there was no one to give them to. He searched and searched for his family for days and weeks. He never could find them. He started to just wander with no aim in his life any more. He would see other children like his own, but who were poorer than his family was. He would see that they barely had enough food to eat. In fact, the children only had one pair of warm stockings and cloths. They had no gifts and toys. No one would sit at the fires and tell funny stories to them. That day Father Yule went hunting. He got many breast to eat and picked berries and some vegetables. He stopped by the baker in the village and asked for some old bread. He gathered the food up in sacks that he carried his family’s gifts in. Yes, he still carried those gifts that he made for his family… in hopes that he would one day find them. He went to each of the the poor family’s house just as everyone went to bed. He would tiptoe through the house, laid the meal out onto the table, and placed the gifts, those very gifts he made for is loving family, into the children’s stockings that were hung over the fire to dry. The families woke the next morning and found the brilliant gifts left for them. They didn’t know where it had come from, never mind, they were so happy to have the gifts and the wonderful feast. Father Yule would stand back and watch the families have a good feast and enjoy the gifts. He never stopped searching for his family. Father Yule’s story was now one of joy, love and caring. All year Father Yule traveled from place to place staying with families, sitting at their fires telling funny stories helping the parent tuck in the kids at night. He worked very hard to visit each and every home and bring gifts to the good children living there. He wishes them good caring hearts, filled with hope and love. He wishes them all good parents and the ability to learn about good things. His still out there searching for his own loving family. He knows that he’s apart of a bigger family that has found love in their hearts for him… His broken heart heals a little bit each time a new family find the love to share with the community around them. Father Yule’s story could have become a sad tale, but for one thing… sharing his love!
  15. Here's a short story I wrote about a great-grandma and the doll she wants for Christmas... I still want a doll… Santa Claus This is the story of a Christmas wish… Most of us have gotten our Christmas wishes or something very close to it. But times were different at the turn of the 1900s. When you hear people say that they were poor as a kid, they were truly poor. There are people even today who are poor, but today there are programs and groups to help people. Back then there was no such help. In the poorest of poor towns, local Santas would visit every year. Coal from him would have been a welcome gift, warmth in the cold weather. Times were tough and the people even tougher. People would get presents from the local Santa helpers…oranges, maybe some candy. If you were lucky, new socks. But for one little girl, she never got that special gift she longed for…a doll. There was never enough money for such a gift. That little girl grew up and had a family of her own. She married a hard working man and they had children that got Christmas presents, food, and warmth. She worked hard all her life taking care of everyone else… She sat there one Christmas watching her great grandchildren get their gifts and noticed that one of the girls got a beautiful curly haired, fancy dressed porcelain doll. She smiled and then whispered to herself “I would still love a doll.” She moved closer and closer towards where her great-granddaughter sat on the floor playing with the doll and asked if she could hold it. The little girl looked at her great-grandma and pulled the doll closer to herself and ran off into another part of the house to play. The woman sat there with a tear in her eye. They had hired a Santa to be at the family Christmas gathering. He sat there watching her. He seemed to feel her sadness from across the room. He got up and sat by her. He looked at her and knew that she had lived a hard life and helped to raise many children. That grand legacy was all over the house. But like our modern lives…we tend to have a blind eye to all the old and worn parts that surround us. It just happens. He looked at her and said these words, “Sorry I didn’t get you that gift all those years ago. Times were different and little ones’ wishes can get lost.” She looked at that Santa and smiled. “We all did the best we could, even you, Santa. I have lived a good life. Yes, it was hard and I worked hard. But so did so many others. We worked hard to give our children a better life, better futures, and better dreams. But you know…I still want a doll.” Being Santa, people would give him gifts of old toys to restore and fix. Earlier that day he had been to another Christmas party and they gave him an old fancy dressed porcelain doll that needed some tender loving care. He took payment in many different ways. Car repair, old toys, and of course money. He knew that doll needed a good home and so he went out to his car and wrapped that doll up for her in Christmas paper. He took it back into the house and walked up to that wonderful older lady. Santa had finally given her the doll she always wanted. She opened that wrapped gift so slowly. She was so surprised, so excited, and so happy. She finally got it all unwrapped and kissed that doll, held it like a tiny little child would. Through her wonderful tears and laughter, she told him her doll’s name… Amy. That old fancy dressed porcelain doll took a long time to get into the arms of that little girl. It’s never too late to make a little child’s Christmas wish come true
  16. I remember hiding away near my parents room as a wee little lad and seeing them put wrapped Christmas presents into their closet. I went back there a few days later to see the present and maybe get a peek at my gift. They weren't there... I then started to look under their bed-- nothing! I searched the whole house and found nothing. It slowly dawned on me that there must be a magical link or portal to Santa's closet. Parents must have a system of buying and then sending the gifts off to Santa through a transporter in their closets. Then on Christmas Eve Santa brings them all back to us. Santa's closet would be the greatest place to get a cool present from. For years I tried to figure out how the closet magic worked. I would step inside my parents' closet and try to be transported to Santa's. It never worked. I read all kind of books on magical transportation... the path to Santa's closet wasn't revealed. I kept waiting for the day that I would get the magic password or magic door or magic ring or magic something that would make it possible for my gifts to be transported to Santa's closet. Nothing... Then one day I had a child and Christmas time came... I, like all the years before, went to my closet and put my child's gift up on a shelf behind some other boxes and there before my eyes I saw two hands come out of thin air and take my child's gift right before my very eyes. I grabbed ahold of the gift and got pulled along with it. I found myself in a huge closet full of gifts and Santa's suits. I just stood there looking at all the brilliant things and then noticed the Jolly Old Elf standing there with my child's gift. He was smiling at me. "Ho, ho, ho. Good to see you, John. Your child's first Christmas, that's so magical!" said Santa. "Welcome to my closet." I just stood there looking at him and all the gifts and was spellbound. I finally got my voice to work and thanked Santa for all the wonderful gifts. "You wonderful parents get the gifts. I just store them here until that special day and then deliver them back to you," said Santa. "Is the magic of the closet working now because I have a child?" I asked. "The magic happens when you love the person you're giving a gift to with all your heart. The magic has always been with you... all you needed was someone to love and care for and wanted to share your love of the Holidays with. You carry the Christmas spirit with you all year long. Live the magic and pass it along to your child." "Will I ever get another chance to see this closet again?" "There will come a time when I will ask you to join my band of Yule guards... they help me keep the Holidays alive and full of love. Your day will come, but first you need to help your children and all the children you see that Christmas is a year-long celebration. We must feel its wonder and love every moment of our lives." "Thank you for letting me finally see your closet," I said. "You are most welcome and I hope it was as magical for you as you wished it to be. Time for you to go back and enjoy the Holidays with your family. I will get back to you when the time is right and you are ready to share your brilliant gifts with all the children where you live," said Santa. "I look forward to that day," I said. I stepped back out of the closet and was in my room once again. I looked back at the closet and all the stuff I had in there and knew one day I would be a part of the Holiday season as one of Santa's Yule Guards. I will live up to the great spirit of Christmas. Now my time has come... Merry Christmas to all from Father Yule John "They say that charity starts at home… since I go to every home around the world, it must start with me!"
  17. Michael Rielly

    Bah! Humbug!

    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!
  18. Michael Rielly

    The Children’s Friend

    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
  19. Michael Rielly

    Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

    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!”
  20. Michael Rielly

    What Christmas is as We Grow Older

    What Christmas is as We Grow Older by Charles Dickens, 1851 Time was, with most of us, when Christmas Day encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and every one around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete. Time came, perhaps, all so soon, when our thoughts over-leaped that narrow boundary; when there was some one (very dear, we thought then, very beautiful, and absolutely perfect) wanting to the fulness of our happiness; when we were wanting too (or we thought so, which did just as well) at the Christmas hearth by which that some one sat; and when we intertwined with every wreath and garland of our life that some one’s name. That was the time for the bright visionary Christmases which have long arisen from us to show faintly, after summer rain, in the palest edges of the rainbow! That was the time for the beatified enjoyment of the things that were to be, and never were, and yet the things that were so real in our resolute hope that it would be hard to say, now, what realities achieved since, have been stronger! What! Did that Christmas never really come when we and the priceless pearl who was our young choice were received, after the happiest of totally impossible marriages, by the two united families previously at daggers—drawn on our account? When brothers and sisters-in-law who had always been rather cool to us before our relationship was effected, perfectly doted on us, and when fathers and mothers overwhelmed us with unlimited incomes? Was that Christmas dinner never really eaten, after which we arose, and generously and eloquently rendered honour to our late rival, present in the company, then and there exchanging friendship and forgiveness, and founding an attachment, not to be surpassed in Greek or Roman story, which subsisted until death? Has that same rival long ceased to care for that same priceless pearl, and married for money, and become usurious? Above all, do we really know, now, that we should probably have been miserable if we had won and worn the pearl, and that we are better without her? That Christmas when we had recently achieved so much fame; when we had been carried in triumph somewhere, for doing something great and good; when we had won an honoured and ennobled name, and arrived and were received at home in a shower of tears of joy; is it possible that THAT Christmas has not come yet? And is our life here, at the best, so constituted that, pausing as we advance at such a noticeable mile-stone in the track as this great birthday, we look back on the things that never were, as naturally and full as gravely as on the things that have been and are gone, or have been and still are? If it be so, and so it seems to be, must we come to the conclusion that life is little better than a dream, and little worth the loves and strivings that we crowd into it? No! Far be such miscalled philosophy from us, dear Reader, on Christmas Day! Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance! It is in the last virtues especially, that we are, or should be, strengthened by the unaccomplished visions of our youth; for, who shall say that they are not our teachers to deal gently even with the impalpable nothings of the earth! Therefore, as we grow older, let us be more thankful that the circle of our Christmas associations and of the lessons that they bring, expands! Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth. Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us. Welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts; and for the earnestness that made you real, thanks to Heaven! Do we build no Christmas castles in the clouds now? Let our thoughts, fluttering like butterflies among these flowers of children, bear witness! Before this boy, there stretches out a Future, brighter than we ever looked on in our old romantic time, but bright with honour and with truth. Around this little head on which the sunny curls lie heaped, the graces sport, as prettily, as airily, as when there was no scythe within the reach of Time to shear away the curls of our first-love. Upon another girl’s face near it—placider but smiling bright—a quiet and contented little face, we see Home fairly written. Shining from the word, as rays shine from a star, we see how, when our graves are old, other hopes than ours are young, other hearts than ours are moved; how other ways are smoothed; how other happiness blooms, ripens, and decays—no, not decays, for other homes and other bands of children, not yet in being nor for ages yet to be, arise, and bloom and ripen to the end of all! Welcome, everything! Welcome, alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, to your shelter underneath the holly, to your places round the Christmas fire, where what is sits open- hearted! In yonder shadow, do we see obtruding furtively upon the blaze, an enemy’s face? By Christmas Day we do forgive him! If the injury he has done us may admit of such companionship, let him come here and take his place. If otherwise, unhappily, let him go hence, assured that we will never injure nor accuse him. On this day we shut out Nothing! “Pause,” says a low voice. “Nothing? Think!” “On Christmas Day, we will shut out from our fireside, Nothing.” “Not the shadow of a vast City where the withered leaves are lying deep?” the voice replies. “Not the shadow that darkens the whole globe? Not the shadow of the City of the Dead?” Not even that. Of all days in the year, we will turn our faces towards that City upon Christmas Day, and from its silent hosts bring those we loved, among us. City of the Dead, in the blessed name wherein we are gathered together at this time, and in the Presence that is here among us according to the promise, we will receive, and not dismiss, thy people who are dear to us! Yes. We can look upon these children angels that alight, so solemnly, so beautifully among the living children by the fire, and can bear to think how they departed from us. Entertaining angels unawares, as the Patriarchs did, the playful children are unconscious of their guests; but we can see them—can see a radiant arm around one favourite neck, as if there were a tempting of that child away. Among the celestial figures there is one, a poor misshapen boy on earth, of a glorious beauty now, of whom his dying mother said it grieved her much to leave him here, alone, for so many years as it was likely would elapse before he came to her—being such a little child. But he went quickly, and was laid upon her breast, and in her hand she leads him. There was a gallant boy, who fell, far away, upon a burning sand beneath a burning sun, and said, “Tell them at home, with my last love, how much I could have wished to kiss them once, but that I died contented and had done my duty!” Or there was another, over whom they read the words, “Therefore we commit his body to the deep,” and so consigned him to the lonely ocean and sailed on. Or there was another, who lay down to his rest in the dark shadow of great forests, and, on earth, awoke no more. O shall they not, from sand and sea and forest, be brought home at such a time! There was a dear girl—almost a woman—never to be one—who made a mourning Christmas in a house of joy, and went her trackless way to the silent City. Do we recollect her, worn out, faintly whispering what could not be heard, and falling into that last sleep for weariness? O look upon her now! O look upon her beauty, her serenity, her changeless youth, her happiness! The daughter of Jairus was recalled to life, to die; but she, more blest, has heard the same voice, saying unto her, “Arise for ever!” We had a friend who was our friend from early days, with whom we often pictured the changes that were to come upon our lives, and merrily imagined how we would speak, and walk, and think, and talk, when we came to be old. His destined habitation in the City of the Dead received him in his prime. Shall he be shut out from our Christmas remembrance? Would his love have so excluded us? Lost friend, lost child, lost parent, sister, brother, husband, wife, we will not so discard you! You shall hold your cherished places in our Christmas hearts, and by our Christmas fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, we will shut out Nothing! The winter sun goes down over town and village; on the sea it makes a rosy path, as if the Sacred tread were fresh upon the water. A few more moments, and it sinks, and night comes on, and lights begin to sparkle in the prospect. On the hill-side beyond the shapelessly-diffused town, and in the quiet keeping of the trees that gird the village-steeple, remembrances are cut in stone, planted in common flowers, growing in grass, entwined with lowly brambles around many a mound of earth. In town and village, there are doors and windows closed against the weather, there are flaming logs heaped high, there are joyful faces, there is healthy music of voices. Be all ungentleness and harm excluded from the temples of the Household Gods, but be those remembrances admitted with tender encouragement! They are of the time and all its comforting and peaceful reassurances; and of the history that re-united even upon earth the living and the dead; and of the broad beneficence and goodness that too many men have tried to tear to narrow shreds.
  21. A story that still brings tears to my eyes happened during my Mall Santa days. A young mom approached one morning with her young son in tow. He was about 4 or so and seemed to be crying. I thought it was nerves and spoke softly to him. He climbed up on the lap and after a few usual Santa questions I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. Here is where the story gets interesting.(you might want to get the tissue). He said he would like a tracker trailer truck with his dad and got off my lap. I told him Santa doesn't make promises and in turn he said I was his last hope. I looked over at his now crying mom and also saw my picture taker crying also. His mom came up and told me that his dad drove truck and had been killed in an accident. The little guy had been told by his dad a few days before that Santa had "Magic of Christmas " and could do special things. I asked if I could do a Santa call at their home on Christmas Eve and she said sure. I then, on my break, went to the toy store and told the manager my plan but needed his help. He agreed. With many stops already we worked in their home and I arrived around 7:30 P.M. There were about 15 to 20 folks there to see the "visit". He came out bouncing as he saw the big present I had with me. He sat and opened it faster than I can eat a sugar cookie but then threw the large truck aside. He said daddy's not there and started to cry. Thinking quickly I said get your coat and stated we were going outside for a few minutes. All the room emptied to the steps of the trailer. I asked him if his room window was on this side and he pointed to it . We walked over to it and I pointed upward to the clear sky filled with stars. I said see that big one right up there over your window and he nodded his head yes. I told him I couldn't bring his dad with me because his Dad now worked for God in Heaven keeping that star bright BUT when he wanted to talk to his dad all he had to do was look up and out his window and he could talk to him. I could hear the tears and sniffling from the porch and it was very difficult to keep my composure as I saw my wife crying in our car. She had moved closer to hear what was going on. We then went back inside to his room and he found the star. I told him when the star twinkled his dad had heard him. I stepped back slowly as he began to talk out the window and went to our car. As soon as I got in, I lost it but had to recover since we were on our way to another stop. I will always remember him saying "Santa you are my last hope".
  22. Michael Rielly

    The Little Match Girl

    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.
  23. Michael Rielly

    On Christmas Eve

    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.
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