More Stories of Christmas ...
This was my grandmother's first Christmas without Grandfather, and we had promised him before he passed away that we would make this her best Christmas ever.
When my mom, dad, three sisters and I arrived at her little house in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, we found she had waited up all night for us to arrive from Texas. After we exchanged hugs, Donna, Karen, Kristi and I ran into the house. It did seem a little empty without Grandfather, and we knew it was up to us to make this Christmas special for her.
Grandfather had always said that the Christmas tree was the most important decoration of all. So we immediately set to work assembling the beautiful artificial tree that was stored in Grandfather's closet. Although artificial, it was the most genuine-looking Douglas fir I had ever seen. Tucked away in the closet with the tree was a spectacular array of ornaments, many of which had been my father's when he was a little boy. As we unwrapped each one, Grandmother had a story to go along with it.
My mother strung the tree with bright white lights and a red button garland; my sisters and I carefully placed the ornaments on the tree; and finally, Father was given the honor of lighting the tree.
We stepped back to admire our handiwork. To us, it looked magnificent, as beautiful as the tree in Rockefeller Center. But something was missing.
"Where's your star?" I asked.
The star was my grandmother's favorite part of the tree.
"Why, it must be here somewhere," she said, starting to sort through the boxes again.
"Your grandfather always packed everything so carefully when he took the tree down."
As we emptied box after box and found no star, my grandmother's eyes filled with tears. This was no ordinary ornament, but an elaborate golden star covered with colored jewels and blue lights that blinked on and off.
Moreover, Grandfather had given it to Grandmother some fifty years ago, on their first Christmas together. Now, on her first Christmas without him, the star was gone, too.
"Don't worry, Grandmother," I reassured her. "We'll find it for you."
My sisters and I formed a search party.
"Let's start in the closet where the ornaments were," Donna said.
"Maybe the box just fell down."
That sounded logical, so we climbed on a chair and began to search that tall closet of Grandfather's. We found Father's old yearbooks and photographs of relatives, Christmas cards from years gone by, and party dresses and jewelry boxes, but no star.
We searched under beds and over shelves, inside and outside, until we had exhausted every possibility. We could see Grandmother was disappointed, although she tried not to show it.
"We could buy a new star," Kristi offered.
"I'll make you one from construction paper," Karen chimed in.
"No," Grandmother said. "This year, we won't have a star."
By now, it was dark outside, and time for bed, as Santa would soon be here. We lay in bed, snowflakes falling quietly outside.
The next morning, my sisters and I woke up early, as was our habit on Christmas Day--first, to see what Santa had left under the tree, and second, to look for the Christmas star in the sky. After a traditional breakfast of apple pancakes, the family sat down together to open presents.
Santa had brought me the Easy-Bake Oven I wanted, and Donna a Chatty-Cathy doll. Karen was thrilled to get the doll buggy she had asked for, and Kristi to get the china tea set. Father was in charge of passing out the presents, so that everyone would have something to open at the same time.
"The last gift is to Grandmother from Grandfather," he said, in a puzzled voice. "From who?" There was surprise in my grandmother's voice.
"I found that gift in Grandfather's closet when we got the tree down," Mother explained. "It was already wrapped so I put it under the tree. I thought it was one of yours."
"Hurry and open it," Karen urged excitedly. My grandmother shakily opened the box. Her face lit up with joy when she unfolded the tissue paper and pulled out a glorious golden star. There was a note attached. Her voice trembled as she read it aloud:
"Don't be angry with me, dear. I broke your star while putting away the decorations, and I couldn't bear to tell you. Thought it was time for a new one. I hope it brings you as much joy as the first one. "
Merry Christmas. Love, Bryant
So Grandmother's tree had a star after all, a star that expressed my grandparents' everlasting love for one another. It brought my grandfather home for Christmas in each of our hearts and made it our best Christmas ever.
HOW TO SAY "MERRY CHRISTMAS" IN OVER 33 LANGUAGES!
Afrikander - Een Plesierige Kerfees
Arabic - I'D MIILAD SAID OUA SANA SAIDA
Argentine - Felices Pasquas Y felices ano Nuevo
Armenian - Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand
Azeri - Tezze Iliniz Yahsi Olsun
Basque - Zorionstsu Eguberri. Zoriontsu Urte Berri On
Bohemian - Vesele Vanoce
Brazilian - Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo
Breton - Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat
Bulgarian - Tchestita Koleda; Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo
Chinese - (Mandarin) Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan (Catonese) Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun
Cornish - Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth
Cree - Mitho Makosi Kesikansi
Croatian - Sretan Bozic
Czech - Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok
Danish - Gladelig Jul
Dutch - Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!
English - Merry Christmas
Esperanto - Gajan Kristnaskon
Estonian - Roomsaid Joulu Puhi
Farsi - Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad Finnish - Hyvaa joulua
French - Joyeux Noel
Frisian - Noflike Krystdagen en in protte Lok en Seine yn it Nije Jier!
German - Froehliche Weihnachten
Greek - Kala Christouyenna!
Hawaiian - Mele Kalikimaka
Hebrew - Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova
Hindi - Shub Naya Baras
Hungarian - Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket Icelandic - Gledileg Jol
Indonesian - Selamat Hari Natal
Iraqi - Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Irish - Nollaig Shona Dhuit
Italian - Buone Feste Natalizie
Japanese - Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
Korean - Sung Tan Chuk Ha
Latvian - Priecigus Ziemas Svetkus un Laimigu Jauno Gadu
Lettish - Priecigus Ziemassvetkus
Lithuanian - Linksmu Kaledu
Manx - Nollick ghennal as blein vie noa
Maori - Meri Kirihimete
Marathi - Shub Naya Varsh
Navajo - Merry Keshmish
Norwegian - God Jul Og Godt Nytt Aar
Pennsylvania German - En frehlicher Grischtdaag un en hallich Nei Yaahr!
Polish - Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia Portuguese - Boas Festas
Rapa-Nui - Mata-Ki-Te-Rangi. Te-Pito-O-Te-Henua
Rumanian - Sarbatori vesele
Russian - Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom
Serbian - Hristos se rodi
Slovakian - Sretan Bozic or Vesele vianoce Samoan - La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou
Scottish - Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur
Serb-Croatian - Sretam Bozic. Vesela Nova Godina
Singhalese - Subha nath thalak Vewa. Subha Aluth Awrudhak Vewa
Slovak - Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok
Slovene - Vesele Bozicne. Screcno Novo Leto Spanish - Feliz Navidad
Swedish - God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt Ar Tagalog - Maligayamg Pasko. Masaganang Bagong Taon
Tamil - Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal
Thai - Sawadee Pee Mai
Turkish - Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun Ukrainian - Srozhdestvom Kristovym
Urdu - Naya Saal Mubarak Ho
Vietnamese - Chung Mung Giang Sinh
Welsh - Nadolig Llawen
Yugoslavian - Cestitamo Bozi
Christmas Message Has Special Meaning
One English Christmas carol well-known worldwide today is, however, more than a repetitious tune with pretty phrases and strange gifts. "The Twelve Days of Christmas," is a song with different levels of meaning.
From 1558 to 1829, the Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. During this period, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," was written in England as a catechism song for young Catholics. The hidden meanings of the song's gifts were intended to help the children remember lessons of their faith. Instead of referring to an earthly suitor, the "true love" mentioned in the song refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents is symbolic of every baptized person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings. The meaning of the other symbols are:
Two turtle doves -- the Old and New Testaments;
Three French hens -- Faith, Hope, and Charity;
Four calling birds -- the four Gospels;
Five golden rings -- the first five books of the Old Testament, which give the history of man's fall from grace;
Six geese a-laying -- the six days of creation;
Seven swans a-swimming -- seven gifts of the Holy Spirit;
Eight maids a-milking -- the eight Beatitudes;
Nine ladies dancing -- nine fruits of the Holy Spirit;
Ten lords a-leaping -- the Ten Commandments;
Eleven pipers piping -- the eleven faithful disciples;
Twelve drummers drumming -- the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed
(The above was excerpted from A Handbook of Catholic Sacramentals, written by Ann Ball and published by Our Sunday Visitor.)
The Christmas Gift
It's just a small white envelope stuck among the branches of Our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas - oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it-overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma - the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else. Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth.
I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black.
These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.
Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them." Mike loved kids-all kids-and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came.
That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years.
For each Christmas, I followed the tradition-one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas.
It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.
As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.
The story doesn't end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.
Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope.
Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.
May we all remember the Christmas spirit this year and always.
Saint Nicholas of Myra
(died Dec. 6, 343)
Nicholas secretly threw money into a home to keep two girls from being sold to a brothel. Using his inheritance to help the poor, he boldly followed in Christ's footsteps, once even grabbing an executioner's sword to save the life of a political prisoner. His fearless Christian stand caused many to hate him.
On February 23 in the year 303, the Emperor Diocletian began one of the longest, most brutal persecutions of Christians. Bibles were burned, Christians' homes were confiscated and their furniture was thrown in the street. So many Christian men and women were murdered that executioners were exhausted and took turns at their work.
During these years of persecution, Nicholas was imprisoned and branded with hot irons. He was pinched with metal pliers. After his skin healed he would be tortured again for refusing to deny that Jesus is God.
After the persecution ended, a popular preacher taught that Jesus was not God. This preacher wrote a blasphemous song about Jesus that many began singing in the street. This anti-Christian doctrine was dividing the organized church.
At a conference of Christian leaders, many of whom had survived the torture, the evil preacher began singing the evil song. Nicholas walked up to the man and hit him in the mouth! Perhaps he felt as Jesus did in the temple with the moneychangers.
Nicholas was not allowed to preach after that, but spent his last years of life founding orphanages and protecting poor children. Many years after his death, Nicholas was called St. Nicholas. The details of his fearless Christian witness were gradually buried under centuries of storytelling, changing him to "Santa Claus."
Covered by God's love, Nicholas suffered abuse as he chose to follow Christ. His life was a gift to others and to God, as ours should be.
A Candy Maker's Witness
A candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry and death of Jesus Christ.
He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White to symbolize the Virgin Birth a the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the Church, and firmness of the promises of God.
The candy maker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. It could also represent the staff of the "Good Shepherd" with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.
Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candy maker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes to show stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we may have the promise of eternal life.
Unfortunately, the candy became known as a Candy Cane -- a meaningless decoration seen at Christmas time. but the meaning is still there for those who "have eyes to see and ears to hear". I pray that this symbol will again be used to witness To The Wonder of Jesus and His Great Love that came down at Christmas and remains the ultimate and dominant force in the universe today.
My First Christmas In Heaven
This poem was written by a 13 year old boy who died of a brain tumor that he had battled four years. He died on December 14, 1997. He gave this to his mom before he died. His name was Ben.
I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below
With tiny lights, like Heaven's stars, reflecting on the snow
The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away the tear
For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear
But the sounds of music can't compare with the Christmas choir up here.
I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring,
For it is beyond description, to hear the angels sing.
I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart
But I am not so far away, We really aren't apart.
So be happy for me, dear ones, You know I hold you dear.
And be glad I'm spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I sent you each a special gift, from my heavenly home above.
I sent you each a memory of my undying love.
After all, love is a gift more precious than pure gold.
It was always most important in the stories Jesus told.
Please love and keep each other, as my Father said to do.
For I can't count the blessing or love he has for each of you.
So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear Remember, I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.