Archive for December, 2010

December 24th, 2010

Track Santa’s Progress to Your House on Christmas Eve

Track Santa Claus to your house on Christmas EveAs you know, Santa has an enormous list of children who are expecting him to deliver Christmas goodies on Christmas Eve.

In order to track Santa’s progress around the world, NORAD has organized a global tracking system to help you determine when you can expect Santa to arrive in your neighborhood.

Remember to put out milk and cookies for Santa and even some reindeer food before saying your prayers and nodding off to sleep.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!

Track Santa to your house here!

December 23rd, 2010

How to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree

How to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree by Operation Santa ClausChristmas comes once a year and it seems that the best time is the time leading up to the big day. When the day is over, it is time to pull down the decorations and get ready for the New Year. The last thing taken down is normally the Christmas tree.

If you have an artificial tree, then tree cleanup is no big deal. Hopefully you kept the box and can fold the branches back up so that it fits into the box again. Unfortunately, the tree never fits the same and you end up duct taping the box just to keep it from popping open. If you couldn’t keep the original box there are plastic totes that will work. Just be sure to get one big enough for your tree.

For live trees, there is more of a cleanup to manage. After all of the ornaments are taken down and packed away, you have to move that heavy object out of the house. Most cities have realized the dilemma that families face with disposing of their Christmas trees. Some offer curb side tree pickup, but sometimes it can take a while for them to get around to your house if there is a large number of live Christmas trees in your area.

There are also other options for Christmas tree disposal. First, you can place the tree in a bag for pickup by the environmental waste truck that picks up yard clippings and raked leaves. Before you just toss it out the door, you have to get it ready to be picked up.

Trim some of the branches so that the tree is easier to fit in the Christmas tree bag. These tree bags are usually sold wherever you buy live Christmas trees. Wear heavy duty gloves so you won’t stick yourself with the drying pine needles. It may take two or three people to move the tree off of its stand because of the weight. We don’t want any after Christmas accidents happening here so don’t try to do it yourself.

Another idea is to use the tree yourself. Instead of throwing it out, run the tree through a wood chipper and use the pieces for mulch in the yard. You’ll probably have to trim most of the branches off so the tree will fit in the chipper. The city may be obliging and chip your tree for you at no cost as long as you drag it to the curb. Check with your particular area to determine how to have the tree chipped.

You can also use your Christmas tree for firewood. If you have a fireplace of your own, you can use the wood for yourself as a fire starter if you have a smaller tree or logs if the tree is larger. Have a gas log fireplace? No problem, offer chopped wood to your neighbors. Make sure all of the pine needles are removed first.

If you live in a coastal area, consider contacting your local authorities to see if they need Christmas trees to use in coastal erosion control programs.

Disposing of your Christmas tree doesn’t have to be a chore. Get a few friends to help you and that three can be at curbside or chipped up in no time.

Operation Letters to Santa Program 2010 dates and locations

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December 20th, 2010

‘Operation Santa’: Postal Service, Good Samaritans Team Up To Fulfill Christmas Wishes

Source: The Huffington Post

Each winter, the New York City Post Office dedicates a team of workers to opening the millions of letters that pour in for Santa.

Local volunteers also pitch in, offering to buy gifts for needy kids who pen the letters — like one 8-year-old boy whose unemployed father can’t provide him winter clothes.

Together, this team of people make holiday wishes a reality.

NBC Nightly News went behind the scenes at Operation Santa in New York City.

WATCH:

Operation Letters to Santa Program 2010 dates and locations

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December 19th, 2010

Sad Santa Letters Tell of Economic Woes, USPS Says

New York’s Operation Santa Chief Says More Letters This Year Asking for Coats, Food 

Source: ABC News
Dec. 16, 2010

With just nine days to go until Santa shimmies down those chimneys, letters to the big, jolly guy are coming in fast and furious.

But this year, mixed in with the letters asking for toys and video games are an increasing number of requests for warm coats, food and help paying the electric bill to keep the heat on.

“The common theme this year seems to be a single mom with young kids, the parent has left — they don’t know who the father is, or the father left — and they can’t pay the bills,” said Pete Fontana, head of the United States Postal Service Operation Santa in New York.

Want to help a family in need this Christmas? Hundreds of “World News” viewers already have taken action. For more on how you can help, read to the end of this story or CLICK HERE.

It’s Fontana’s post office in midtown Manhattan — right across the street from Penn Station — where most of the letters to Santa arrive each year from around the world. He’s expecting about 2 million letters this year.

Post offices in two dozen other locations across the country also accept letters. Most are addressed simply to “Santa Claus, North Pole.”

Though many considered last year to be the toughest financially since the economic downturn began, Fontana said, it appears that more people are struggling this year, judging both from the letters and the decreased number of volunteers who sign up to fulfill some of the writers’ wishes.

“We had one little girl write in and say all she wants is a winter coat for her mom. Nothing for herself,” he said. “We had another letter for grandparents and they wanted to put a turkey with the trimmings for the holiday dinner … but they couldn’t even get their medicine.”

Other letters are similarly heartbreaking.

Dear Santa letter from needy childEight-year-old Skayla told Santa that her mother doesn’t have a job and her father lives in the Dominican Republic, leaving it up to her grandmother to buy everything. She asked for clothes and shoes for herself, her 7-year-old sister and their infant brother, even including their sizes.

“Thanks Santa,” she wrote,” I LOVE YOU.”

Ruth, a single mother of three, made a similar request for clothes and shoes “and a bit of toys (IF YOU CAN.)”

“I’m trying to get help as soon as possible,” she wrote. “I’m desperate for help. I don’t work and I barely have money.”

But for Shadybeth, a little girl living with her ill grandmother, a Merry Christmas would mean a permanent place to live.

“Maybe that’s why you don’t remember me Santa. We still living in another shelter,” she wrote. “My grandmother is very sick and we need our place so she could rest.”

She ended her letter with a postscript: “Santa Please try to help this time. God Bless you.”

Kati, a 13-year-old living in the projects in the Bronx in New York City asked Santa this year for an iPod touch or jewelry.

“Santa, I have been a good girl, I do the right thing even if stuff happen,” she wrote. “I love my family and I’m very grateful.”

Sad Letters Mix With the Fun, Whimsical Requests

Fontana said his post office has gotten about 700 volunteers this year. Individual volunteers can take up to 10 letters to fulfill. Large companies and corporations have no limit.

Typically, he would have gotten double that number of volunteers by now.

“I think people are being very careful how they spend their money now,” he said.

Still, it’s not all bad news. The children have penned some creative letters.

“Children will give you a whole list. I had one give me three pages of an Excel file,” he said, noting that the child even included the item numbers from the Toys ‘R Us catalog for easier shopping. “Fifty items on each page.”

“Then you have those that will go through the catalog and cut and paste the items into the letter,” he said. Recently, he got a letter from a 17-year-old in Japan reminding “Santa” that he didn’t come when the letter-writer was 12. “I was sad,” the teen wrote. “So please try and visit my home this year. I will wait.” And all those volunteers — those that can afford to — are more than willing to go big. On Friday, a woman picked up a letter from a child that only wanted a piano for Christmas, Fontana said, and she was determined to deliver. “I said, ‘Just one problem, a piano is not mail-able,’” he said. “So we wound up with a Yamaha keyboard.”

‘World News’ Viewers Reach Out

After sharing this story on our broadcast and website, “World News with Diane Sawyer” received an overwhelming flood of e-mails with offers to help. Hundreds of people wrote, asking where they could send gifts to Santa letter authors. “I was so touched to see the story about how different the letters to Santa are this year,” wrote Linda from Middletown, Conn. “I just had my first child last December, and I feel so blessed that I can provide for her without a single thought. … But so many parents are not as lucky.” Nicole from southern Louisiana wrote with several ideas for things to send. “I would like to send a JC Penney gift card or a Wal-Mart gift card,” she wrote, adding that she thought of purchasing a food voucher for a Christmas meal from a local grocer. Dustin wrote us, “I’m 19 years old from Oxford, Ohio. … I want to help as much as I can.” “We would like to help out the little girl who asked for a coat for her mom,” wrote Arti. “This little girl isn’t even asking for herself, and we want to help her.”

Erika, a 25-year-old living in New York, saw our story and wrote, “It takes a moment like this to put the ‘big’ problems into perspective. … Thank you for reminding us all what the holidays are really about — giving, not getting.” And Dana, who’s been out of work for two years, said he and his wife, Phyllis, were touched by the letters. “Christmas will be somewhat light for us this year, yet we are still blessed and would like to share what we do have,” he wrote.  

How You Can Help

ABC News has responded to each of these letter writers with information on how to help. If you want to help make a Christmas wish come true, the best way is by contacting a local post office participating in Operation Santa. Click here for a list of participating post offices from USPS.com.

If there isn’t a post office in your area taking part in the program, the U.S. Postal Service asks that you do an internet search in your area for other charities that also answer letters to Santa.
Operation Letters to Santa Program 2010 dates and locations

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December 17th, 2010

Tips for Hosting a Christmas Party

Christmas Party Tips and Advice from Operation Santa ClausInvitations for holiday bashes go out early. Before every day of the season gets booked up, get your bid in for a Christmas party of your own. Spread the word early so that all of your invited guests get a chance to positively respond to your invitation.

If you are going to throw a Christmas party, you want all of your friends and family in attendance. Invite neighbors, church members, coworkers, and others who you know love to celebrate the festivities and make merry. Sounds great, huh?

Hang on a second! If you are going to host such a legendary party, you’ll need to start planning as soon as possible. Here are some great tips for getting that party off to a good start.

  1. Print up the perfect invitation. Card programs on the computer usually include party invitations that can be personalized for your needs. Try for a Saturday afternoon a week or so before Christmas. As it gets closer to the holidays, your available days and times will get shorter. Include party theme (if applicable), menu (if applicable), and time frame for the party, and address. Don’t forget to ask for an R.S.V.P. Send out invitations right after Thanksgiving. 
  2. Start on the party planning. What games will you have? Are you serving finger foods or a catered meal? Is the dress casual or dressy? Will there be recorded music or a DJ to play requests? Is this a party with alcohol or non-alcoholic beverages? Are kids invited? What is the capacity of your home? All of these questions will get you started on the planning. 
  3. If you plan on catering, then the responses to your invitations are important. You’ll need an accurate headcount for ordering. If everyone has not responded by the second week in December, call the non-committed invitees and ask for a response. 
  4. Buy your decorations. This is a party, so your home needs to look the part. If it is a Christmas costume party, decorate according to the theme. 
  5. If kids are invited, they will need to be watched by their parents or you can designate an older child to watch them. Many Christmas parties are for adults only. If yours is one of them, state that in the invitation so guests can find child care. 
  6. Move all breakable items out of the room. If there’s going to be dancing or games, something is bound to get smacked off the mantle or kicked across the floor. Store these things out of sight. 
  7. If there is a bar, offer to drive your guests home if they get inebriated. No one wants their friends to drive drunk and hurt themselves or someone else. 
  8. Set your house up early that day so that you have time to dress before the caterers arrive or if you are serving the food, before the food is ready. Have a list of games and supplies ready beforehand to play at the party.

Christmas parties can be so much fun. Make yours a party to remember, and more importantly one you as the host can enjoy without stressing over every single detail.
Operation Letters to Santa Program 2010 dates and locations

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December 15th, 2010

Favorite Christmas Stories to Read During the Holidays

Rudolph the Rednosed ReindeerThere are plenty of ways to get into the holiday frame of mind. We sing songs, watch movies, attend parties, and we read. Here is a list of heartwarming and endearing Christmas stories to read for yourself or to your children during the holiday season.

Another suggestion is to read to residents of a local nursing home or children’s hospital, hospice patients or area schools and homeless shelters. Getting children involved is a great way to start a family Christmas tradition and put a smile on less fortunate faces.

The best stories are the ones we hear over and over again. They conjure up visions of sugarplums, ghosts, snowflakes, treasured memories, and funny scenes. Here are some suggestions for holiday stories to read that just might become family favorites.

  1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – This story was originally written as a ghost story but turned out to be a better lesson of the meaning of Christmas. Ebenezer Scrooge has developed a cold heart over the years that resulted in bitter loneliness until he is given a great gift by his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. 
  2. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry – Two lovers who want to give the perfect gift to each other sacrifice their most precious belongings to make the other happy. It is a funny story of love and irony. 
  3. Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore – Also known as “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, it is one of the most popular poems of the Christmas season, it tells of a man’s surprise on Christmas Eve when he encounters the red-suited icon in the flesh. It is a must read to the family on Christmas Eve. 
  4. The Nutcracker – We have all heard of the ballet of the same name by Tchaikovsky. It is the story of a little girl and a nutcracker that turns into a prince. He has to fight the three-headed rat king in order to save the little girl. See the play  or the ballet if you can and definitely read the story. 
  5. The Nativity – This is the story of the birth of Jesus. It has been the subject of countless movies and cartoons. Mary and Joseph journey to Bethlehem where she reaches her time to give birth to the Christ child. 
  6. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus – This story is actually a response from the editor that appeared in the New York Sun to a letter written by Virginia O’Hanlon. They turned the response into a cartoon short. It is a letter espousing the timeless quality of the Santa Claus tradition.

 

What are some of your favorite Christmas tales? Add them to the list above for a delightful family reading every night of the holiday season leading up to Christmas.
Operation Letters to Santa Program 2010 dates and locations

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December 14th, 2010

Christmas Is A Coming – Lyrics

“Christmas  A Is Coming” is a nursery rhyme and Christmas carol (frequently sung as a round) with lyrics as follows:

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!

This became the basis for Bing Crosby’s song ‘”Christmas Is a-Comin’”, re-written by Frank Luther, which contains these lyrics as follows:

When I’m feeling blue, when I’m feeling low,
I start to think about the happiest man I know.
Now he doesn’t mind the snow, he doesn’t mind the rain,
But all December you will hear him at your window pane,
Singing again and again and again and again and again:
Christmas is a coming and the bells begin to ring,
The holly’s in the window and the birds begin to sing.
I don’t need to worry, and I don’t need to fret,
And the more you give at Christmastime the more you get.
God bless you, gentlemen, God bless you!
The more you give at Christmastime the more you get.
Christmas is a coming, the egg is in the nog.
Please give a friendly man a friendly little dog.
If you haven’t got a friendly dog, a friendly cat will do,
If you haven’t got a friendly cat may God bless you!
God bless you, gentlemen, God bless you!
If you haven’t got a friendly cat may God bless you!
Christmas is a coming, the lights are on the tree.
How about a turkey leg for dear old me?
If you haven’t got a turkey leg, a turkey wing will do.
If you haven’t got a turkey wing may God bless you!
God bless you, gentlemen, God bless you!
If you haven’t got a turkey wing may God bless you!
Christmas is a coming, the cider’s in the keg.
If I had a mug of cider I wouldn’t have to beg.
If you haven’t got a mug of cider, half a mug will do.
If you haven’t got half a mug, may God bless you!
God bless you, gentlemen, God bless you!
If you haven’t got half a mug, may God bless you!
If you haven’t got a thing for me, may God bless you!

Operation Letters to Santa Program 2010 dates and locations

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