Posts Tagged ‘Santa Claus’

Book Review: The Red Suit Diaries

May 25, 2017

The Red Suit Diaries by Ed ButchartRedSuitDiaries

A Real-Life Santa on Hopes, Dreams, and Childlike Faith

This book is a biographical sketch of Ed Butchart’s journey to becoming Santa Claus for the children and children-at-heart of the Atlanta area.  He begins with the first time he donned the red suit.  He was a senior in high school at the time.

After high school he went to college to study journalism then joined the Marine Corp.  When his time in as a Marine was over he became a salesman for a medical diagnostics company.

He was also active in his church where he befriended a wheelchair-bound man who had cerebral palsy.  This friendship eventually led Ed to stop being a very successful salesman and start a non-profit business repairing wheelchairs and other medical equipment for folks in need named Friends of Disabled Adults, Inc. (FODA).

The next time he donned the red suit was for a special event hosted by his church.  This launched him into becoming a professional Santa Claus.  Ed’s faith became a big part of his philosophy, of what he endeavored to portray as Santa Claus.  He was determined that each child who came to see him would experience the love of God Who sent His son Jesus born on that first Christmas day to die for the sins of the world and to know that just as God loves him or her Santa loves him or her, too.

The book is full of Santa Ed’s encounters with children.  One of my favorite stories was of a family who visited Santa.  There were five poorly dressed children.  At the request of the oldest child Santa Ed started with the younger children.  After listening to their Christmas lists, the oldest girl sat on Santa’s lap.  Her only request was for a Christmas tree for the younger children to enjoy.  Ed, seeing the family did not have extra money for Christmas, encouraged the young lady to keep hope in Christmas and her dreams alive for herself and her siblings.  He told the man who videotaped for sale each child’s interview with Santa to give the family for free their children’s interview tape.  As the family walked away the videographer followed them and gave them a $100 bill, telling them it was from Santa, so they could get a Christmas tree and make their Christmas merry.  The family’s return thanking Santa for “his” gift is priceless.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I believe you will enjoy it also.  It made me want to put on the red suit and share the love of Jesus, the One whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day, with children in my area.  Perhaps someday, if God wills it, I will do so.

History of Christmas Traditions

February 25, 2017

My friends at Tree Classics shared this History of Christmas Traditions with me so I thought I would share it with you.  Thank you, Tree Classics!  I bet there is something here that you did not know.  Now I wonder what Michelangelo used to sculpt his snowman.

treeclassics-infographic-final-v2

For more Christmas tradition history visit Tree Classics’ blog.

Please share some of your Christmas traditions in the comments below.

Christmas blessings!

Christmas in Brazil

July 28, 2016

brazil_treeThose who would love to spend Christmas on Christmas Island might enjoy spending Christmas in Brazil.  Temperatures range from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  A Brazilian Christmas, a blend of Portuguese, African, and Indian customs, is a holy time of remembering the birth of Christ celebrated with close friends and family. 

Papai Noel:  Although pictured as doing so Santa Claus, or Papai Noel as Brazilians know him, does not travel by sleigh and reindeer.  Instead he travels by helicopter.  In early December thousands of children fill Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro waiting for the arrival of Papai Noel.  The helicopter lands; Papai Noel steps out, and the children flood the field.  He greets the children shaking their hands and giving them small toys, such as balloons, water pistols, whistles, and more, as gifts.  After the gift-giving Papai Noel steps to a microphone on stage and leads everyone in a sing-a-long.  Local singers and musicians accompany the throng as they sing Christmas carols and other popular songs.

Children in Brazil do not hang stockings for Papai Noel to fill on Christmas Eve.  Instead, in northern Brazil, children put their shoes by the tree, by their bed, or near a window to be filled with all sorts of small toys and goodies by Papai Noel when he arrives later that night after the children are asleep.

Papai Noel personally visits the children in the southern regions of Brazil earlier in the evening on Christmas Eve.  He takes time to talk to each child before giving presents to the child.  Often Papai Noel is a relative, a friend of the family, or a co-worker.

Presepios:  With the vast majority of Brazilians being a religious people it is not surprising that every church and nearly every home puts up a presepio or nativity scene.

Many churches display life-sized versions of the presepio including life-sized animals.  Among those animals is sure to appear a rooster to remind parishioners of the Missa do Galo (Mass of the Rooster).  Some church presepios are so elaborate that non-church-goers go to church to see them.

Home presepios may be set up in early December; others are not set up until Christmas Eve day.  Some are small fitting on a coffee table; others fill a whole room.  Some are simple; others are abundant.  Whether large or small, many include pieces that have been handed down for generations.

Most home presepios include the Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the three magi, angels, a star, cows, chickens, sheep, and a rooster.  One of the peculiarities of these home presepios is the figures may not be the same scale.  It is not uncommon for Jesus to be larger than some of the other figures.  Another peculiarity comes in the personal touches.  One may see Brazilian animals, Brazilian fruits, airplanes, trains, and other “impossible” figures included in family presepios.

Christmas cards:  Usually people try to send their Christmas cards so the recipients get them before Christmas; but in Brazil, people think nothing of sending their cards after Christmas.  Many cards arrive at their destinations between December 25 and January 6.

Most cards have the traditional wintery scenes showing lots of snow, Santa Claus and his reindeer, Christmas trees covered in snow, and children wrapped in heavy, warm winter clothing.  However, more cards are appearing showing traditional Brazilian weather and scenes of sandy beaches, palm trees, Christmas trees, and, more importantly, no snow.


Look for more about Christmas in Brazil at CustomsOfChristmas.com.

Christmas in Ireland

May 25, 2016

irish-christmas-cakeChristmas in Ireland, with all its religious overtones, is a time for family.  The religious nature of an Irish Christmas begins with Advent.  Starting four Sundays before Christmas Advent is a time to ponder the birth of Christ and get ready for the celebration of His birth.  It is a time for confession of sins and for expressing sorrow for wrongdoing.  One must be holy when expecting a holy Visitor.

Much must be done to prepare for Christmas.  Houses must have a thorough cleaning.  The grounds and all out-buildings get a good tidying also.  Christmas cards are sent to neighbors, friends, and family members.  Most of these cards have religious themes but Santa Claus, reindeer, and snowy landscapes may also be seen.

Christmas trees did not become a regular part of Christmas decorating until the 1960s.  Some people put their trees up the first week of December while others wait until Christmas Eve.  Electric lights, tinsel and a variety of purchased and homemade ornaments adorn each tree.

Even churches get in the spirit of the season by decorating the pillars and the altar with garlands of holly leaves.  A nativity scene is also part of every church’s display usually found near the altar, in the back of the church, or outside in front of the church.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve day final preparations are made for the Christmas celebration.  As expected, unmarried children, no matter their age or how far away they live, arrive at their parents’ house.  Most, if not all, Christmas shopping is done; but many shops stay open later than normal for those last-minute shoppers.  The house fills with glorious odors as food preparation begins in earnest.  The family goes through the house giving it a final tidying before the celebration begins.  Some of the more religious families fast on Christmas Eve until dinner when a simple meal of fish and potatoes is served.

Many families wait until Christmas Eve to put up their Christmas tree.  Candles are placed in the windows.  For many the Christmas season is about to begin, with the lighting of the candles.  Traditionally the main candle is lit by either the youngest child in the family or a daughter named Mary.  Some children hang their stockings before the family goes to Midnight Mass; others wait until after mass.  After returning from mass the children go to bed.  After the children fall asleep the parents place the children’s gifts under the tree or around the room often arranged in piles on chairs with the child’s name on the chair.

Christmas morning children awaken and rush to see what Santa Claus has left for them.  Most gifts are practical, but as Irish affluence increases the gifts become less practical.  Some who did not go to Midnight Mass, and some who did, attend “First Light” Mass at either 6:00 AM or 8:00 AM.  After mass the men and boys enjoy games of hurling (a game similar to field hockey), Gaelic football (a game like soccer), shooting competitions, and hunting rabbits with greyhounds.

The women prepare the Christmas feast and deliver gift baskets to less fortunate neighbors filled with the ingredients for a “proper” Christmas dinner.  The Christmas table is covered with a linen or lace tablecloth and set with the best china, polished silver, and cut-glass stemware.  The traditional Christmas dinner may consists of roast goose or turkey (often served with ham) stuffed potatoes heavily seasoned with black pepper, mashed or roasted potatoes with gravy, and one or two vegetable dishes.  Desserts may include Christmas cake, Christmas puddings such as bread pudding or plum pudding, mincemeat pies or tarts, sherry trifle, soda scones, fairy cake, and cookies.

After the Christmas feast families stay home relaxing, talking, singing and playing musical instruments, and telling stories.  Irish history was once passed from one generation to the next via stories told at family gatherings like Christmas.  Therefore, it is not surprising that some of these stories are of family ancestry, the famine, Irish heroes and villains, the countryside, as well as the Nativity.

Nollaig Shona Duit  (Merry Christmas!)

For more information about the Irish Christmas season visit CustomsOfChristmas.com.

Celebrating Advent

November 25, 2014

On November 30 our family will begin our celebration of Advent.  Advent for us is not just a countdown to Christmas.  It is a time for us to prepare for the celebration of and to remember the birthday of Jesus. Bartholomew's Passage

This year we are using a book written by Arnold Ytreeide called Bartholomew’s Passage.  It is about a young Jewish boy and his adventures just prior to the birth of Jesus.  This book is one of three interrelated books for Advent written by Mr. Ytreeide: Bartholomew’s Passage, Jotham’s Journey, and Tabitha’s Travels.  Every night we read a portion of the story until, on Christmas morning, the story ends with the main character of the story arriving at the manger where the baby Jesus lays.

This is an excellent way for the entire family to get into the Advent season.  Even our youngest child sits quietly to find out what will happen to Bartholomew tonight.

If you haven’t yet begun celebrating the Advent season or if you are looking for something new for Advent, why don’t you look for one of these books.  You won’t regret it.

 


 

The Cinnamon Bear Advent CalendarCountdown to Christmas with CustomsOfChristmas.com’s Cinnamon Bear Advent Calendar.  Taken from The Cinnamon Bear radio program the advent calendar follows the adventures of Paddy O’Cinnamon as he helps Jimmy and Judy find the silver star, stolen by Crazy Quilt Dragon, that belongs on top of their Christmas tree.  The 26-segment story, each segment 12 – 15 minutes long, begins on Saturday, November 29, and continues through Christmas Eve.  Join us and the Cinnamon Bear this Christmas season as we count down to Christmas.

 

 

 


 

Buckeyes

1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 pound milk chocolate

In a large mixing bowl, stir together powdered sugar, peanut butter, and butter until well combined.  Shape into about 30 1-inch balls.  Place balls on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Let stand for about 25 minutes or until dry.  Place water in the bottom of a double boiler to within ½ inch of upper pan.  Make sure the upper pan does not touch the water.  While balls are cooling and the water is heating, finely chop the chocolate so it will melt quickly.  Bring the water to a boil.  Remove from heat and place about ¼ of the chocolate in the top of the double boiler.  Stir until melted.  Add about ½ cup more, stir, and repeat until all chocolate is melted.  Stir until chocolate has reached 120 degrees; reheat if necessary to reach this temperature.  After the chocolate has reached 120 degrees, refill bottom of double boiler with cool water to within ½ inch of upper pan.  Stir frequently until chocolate cools to 83 degrees.  This should take about 30 minutes.  Using a toothpick, dip balls in chocolate, working quickly and stirring chocolate frequently to keep it evenly heated.  Place balls on cookie sheet.  (Chocolate will stay close to 83 degrees for about 30 minutes.  If temperature falls below 80 degrees, chocolate must be remelted.)  Store tightly covered in a cool, dry place.

Christmas Customs From Denmark

September 25, 2014

Cut and Paste Day: Usually in mid-December family and friends gather for “Cut and Paste Day,” a day to make new handmade ornaments.  Hearts, woven heart baskets, Danish flags, paper cones (to be filled with candies and nuts), three-dimensional stars, nisse (made with yarn) pine cone ornaments, little drums, and wooden figures are among the favorite handmade ornaments made on “Cut and Paste Day.”  Most, if not all of these ornaments, will be red and/or white in color just like the Danish flag.

Advent Calendars and Candles:

Like children everywhere Danish children get excited with the anticipation of the Christmas celebration. So, when December 1 rolls around, out comes the advent candle and one or more advent calendars.  Advent candles have marks on them one for each day of December leading up to Christmas.  At some point each day, a family member lights the candle.  The candle is allowed to burn to the next mark but no further until the candle is allowed to burn down to the final mark Christmas morning.

Advent calendars may be homemade or store-bought, simple or elaborate. Some may have only windows to open revealing a verse or saying about Christmas.  Others may include cookies, toys, small gifts, candles, candy, or gum for the child fortunate enough to expose the day’s goodies.  A couple Danish television stations produce a special advent calendar in the form of a Christmas show that is divided into twenty-four episodes.  These shows are like The Cinnamon Bear, Jonathon Thomas And His Christmas On The Moon, and Jump-Jump And The Ice Queen radio shows produced in the United States during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Christmas Seals: The purchasing of Christmas seals to raise money to treat children with tuberculosis began in Denmark.  In 1903, Danish Postal clerk Einar Holboell looked at all the Christmas cards and mail going through the post office and thought what if people could purchase a Christmas “stamp” to place on their packages.  He designed the first Christmas seal, had them printed, and sold them raising much money for the fight against tuberculosis thus beginning the beloved custom of purchasing Christmas seals.  Norway and Sweden were the first countries to adopt this custom followed by the United States in 1907.

Collectible Christmas plates: In 1895, the porcelain company Bing and Grondahl decided to make a special Christmas plate.  It was to be colored blue and white, involving one of the more complicated processes in plate-making.  On Christmas Eve the company made that plate a true collectible by destroying the mold.  Every Christmas since then Bing and Grondahl has created limited edition Christmas plates breaking the molds for the plates on Christmas Eve.  In 1908 Denmark’s oldest porcelain maker, Royal Copenhagen, started making its own Christmas plates following the same processes used by Bing and Grondahl.  And like Bing and Grondahl, Royal Copenhagen breaks their molds on Christmas Eve.  These plates have become the most sought after plates by plate collectors worldwide.

Learn more about Denmark’s Customs of Christmas here.

Here’s a Christmas cookie from Denmark.

Brune Kager (Brown Christmas cookies)

1 cup butter or lard
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 tsp cardamom
1 tbsp grated orange peel
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
½ tsp salt
½ tsp allspice
4 ½ cups flour
¼ cup finely chopped almonds

At a low heat, melt the butter (lard), sugar, and syrup. Add the other ingredients and mix well.  Form the dough into rolls as if making refrigerator cookies.  Store the rolled dough in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.  Aging greatly improves the flavor.  Cut the rolls into very thin cookies and decorate each with half of a blanched almond.  Bake at 375 degrees F until the cookies are crisp (approximately 5 to 7 minutes).  After cookies have cooled, store in a covered jar or tin.

3 of my favorite Christmas songs

June 25, 2014

So far this has been a year of sharing favorites. I promise I’ll get back to doing some customs of Christmas from around the world soon. I have France’s Christmas customs nearly ready. So this month I’m sharing three of my favorite Christmas songs.

My all-time favorite is ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. Nowhere else do you get the entire Clement C. Moore poem set to music. The poem was set to music by Ken Darby who did a lot of work providing music for radio shows of the 1940s and 1950s. This song was first presented on the Fibber McGee and Molly show and was a perennial hit for several years as Molly, using the voice of Teeny, sang the song with Ken Darby and the Sportsmen Quartet on the show before Christmas. Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians did a second version of the song that began in the middle of the poem. I prefer the version with the whole poem.

This next song, Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano, I’ll admit I didn’t like when I first heard it, but over the years I’ve come to look forward to listening to it at Christmastime. In the words of Jon Arbuckle’s mom in The Garfield Christmas Special, “It’s just not Christmas” without it. It’s a lively song that gets me into the Christmas mood whenever I listen to it.

My last song for this post is Silent Night as performed by Mannheim Steamroller. As the Christmas season gets more and more busy and hectic it is nice to hear a Christmas song that is relaxing that quiets the spirit. Sometimes while the song is playing I imagine that I’m walking through a snowy field on a clear star-filled night. Toward the end of the song, in my imagination, I look up and see a shooting star streaking across the sky. Or was it Santa?

Merry half-way-to-Christmas!

A Memorial Day “Merry Christmas” to our soldiers whereever you happen to be!

May 25, 2014

This weekend in the United States is Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day is the day we remember those who fought and died protecting us and the freedoms we enjoy today. I think we should also remember the men and women who are currently serving in our armed forces. Many times these holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, are hard on our service people because they are away from home and may be feeling a little forgotten by those at home.

This website, www.history.army.mil/html/reference/holidays/index.html, shows pictures taken of our soldiers celebrating Christmas. These pictures span the time between World War I to the present. The Spirit of Christmas truly does show up at all times in all situations.

This year while you prepare your own Christmas celebrations please remember the soldiers away from home perhaps fighting to keep you free and send them a Christmas package. Here are a couple websites that can help you do so.

www.operationwearehere.com/AdoptMilitaryFamily.html
www.militaryfamily.org/feature-articles/holiday-financial-help-for.html

Classic Christmas Commercials, part 2

March 25, 2014

Christmas is for the young and the young at heart. At least that is what they say. I think that is why we enjoy and remember certain Christmas commercials over others. Breakfast cereal commercials with a Christmas theme are among the most loved. Kids enjoy them especially when the commercial is for one of their favorite cereals. Adults love these commercials because they are reminded times when they were children sitting down to their favorite morning repast.

Everything has to be just right for Fred Flintstone’s Christmas celebration, sometimes at the expense of Fred’s closest friends. That is when the Christmas spirit arrives and Fred’s attitude is changed. The Christmas spirit plus a favorite breakfast cereal – what more could you want.

Ebenezer Scrooge is a Christmas icon. His story of how he changed from bad to good is known and loved by millions. So what could make a better breakfast cereal commercial than letting the Christmas spirit come on Scrooge via his morning meal.

I am including this Christmas commercial for Corn Flakes because I love it. It is so cute. How could anyone not like it? Three kids are giving Santa a special treat when he visits their house. Then they hide so they can see him. Unfortunately they fall asleep, all except the youngest. Well, why am I telling it to you? Watch it for yourself.

Hope this brought you many happy, Christmasy memories.

Christmas Classics to Start Enjoying Now

November 26, 2013

This month I have a special treat for you. Kevin Fischer, freelance writer and contributor for Examiner.com, is sharing his love for movies, Christmas movies in particular. If you are like me you probably have dozens of Christmas movies that you own or watch on TV every year. If you have never watched these classics before, or not in a long time, do it now.

Christmas Classics to Start Enjoying Now

The holiday season is now upon us! Time to pull out all your favorite decorations, make plans for Christmas, start shopping, and of course, start indulging in your favorite holiday classics. You don’t have to wait until it is closer to Christmas to start watching all your favorite movies though. Once Thanksgiving time rolls around, it’s time to pull out some classics movies and enjoy them while you can.
Here are five movies to begin this holiday movie season.

The Polar Express (2004)

A classic Christmas story turned movie, The Polar Express is one of the best movies to start the season off with. The story takes key pieces from the book and turns them into fun scenes throughout the movie. From the very beginning when the massive steam engine pulls up in front of the boy to the end at the North Pole, you can tell the movie and Christmas are about more than presents. Lessons like fun, cheer, humility, leadership and confidence are strewn throughout. This is a great Christmas movie the whole family will love.

Elf (2003)

Although this movie is only 10 years old, it has become a staple on many Christmas movie lists. Elf is the story of an orphaned baby raised by elves at the North Pole, only to grow up and not fit in, literally. Elf is full of laugh-out-loud moments the whole family will enjoy, including buddy, the main character, building a winter wonderland in a toy store. Put this movie on if you’re in the mood for some good laughs.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)

It’s a classic Christmas movie the whole family can enjoy. While the 1966 version is more of a short than a full-length feature film, it’s a great piece to watch this holiday season. The short is narrated and follows the beloved Dr. Seuss book of the same title throughout, with amazing imagery along the way. The movie is definitely ideal for those who aren’t in the mood for a long movie, or for those with young children more interested in shorter cartoons. But really, the whole family will love this movie.

White Christmas (1954)

The dancing, the singing, the happy ending. White Christmas is one of those must-watch movies of the season, and it’s not too early to pull it out, either. The movie follows the paths of showmen and showgirls as they work together to help give an honored general the recognition and success he deserves. Your children will love the singing, and you will too! White Christmas is arguably the best “trimming the tree” movie to watch with the family and where a classic Christmas carol finds its home.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947 & 1994)

Both versions of this holiday classic are sure to be enjoyed by your whole family. The movie starts at Thanksgiving during an event like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. A jolly man named Kris Kringle steps in to replace the intoxicated parade Santa. He’s so lovely, he becomes a regular member of the department store Christmas area. Slowly but surely throughout the movie shows that seeing doesn’t necessarily mean believing. Your family will love this holiday classic.

Kevin Fischer is a freelance writer and contributor for Examiner.com. With a passion for TV, technology, sports, movies and music, Kevin is best considered as entertainment-enthusiast. In addition to keeping up with his favorite programs, teams, gadgets, and celebrities, Kevin enjoys going to concerts and exploring his musical talents. Check out his Examiner page or Tweet him @KevinTFischer

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