Archive for December, 2010

December 14th, 2010

Must-See Holiday Shows for Kids

Operation Letters to SantaThe Christmas season is upon us. Everyone is getting ready to put up decorations and get into the holiday mood. Entertain your kids this holiday season with television programs geared towards getting them (and us) into the Christmas spirit.

Who says that there is nothing valuable on television anymore? During the holidays some of the best programs air on regular stations and cable. Consult your local guide for show days and times. Here are the programs to highlight for viewing by your kids.

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – Poor old Chuck. He’s feeling left out again. No one has invited him to any Christmas parties. But, his luck seems to be changing when he is chosen director of the Christmas play. That is, until Lucy decides to offer him her expert advice. 
  2. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) – This is the story of the Who’s down in Whoville and their nemesis high above them, the Grinch. For some reason he hates Christmas and dislikes anyone who enjoys it, namely the Who’s! The story is narrated by Boris Karloff, a legendary horror movie icon in Hollywood’s heyday. 
  3. ‘Twas the Night before Christmas (1974) – The cartoon is based on the poem by Clement C. Moore. In this story, the children in a small town end up on Santa’s naughty list when someone begins sending hate mail to Santa. It is up to the town’s clockmaker, Joshua Trundle to fix the situation with a rousing Christmas song. 
  4. Mickey’s Once upon a Christmas (1999) – The Disney gang is all accounted for in a program that encompasses several small vignettes about the Christmas holiday. See Mickey and Minnie, Daisy, Donald, and their three pesky nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and Goofy. 
  5. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983) –The classic Christmas favorite by Charles Dickens is animated and acted by the Disney characters. Mickey plays Bob Cratchit to Scrooge McDuck’s Ebenezer Scrooge. The characters bring the story of greed and redemption to a kid’s level of understanding.
  6. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) – Our favorite reindeer is back again with his friends Yukon Cornelius and Hermie, the elf. Rudolph proves that being different is not a curse, but a blessing. Along the way they sing a lot of great songs and everyone learns acceptance. 
  7. Frosty the Snowman (1969) – Who is the fastest belly flopper in the world? It’s Frosty of course. A group of school children bring their snowman to life with the help of a magician’s hat.

So, pull up a chair and a bowl of popcorn to watch these fun family favorites with your kids. Many air more than once during the month of December so if you miss it the first go round there will be other chances.


Operation Letters to Santa Program 2010 dates and locations

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December 10th, 2010

The Meaning of Advent

Operation Letters To Santa's Advent Calendar - download free Christmas desktop wallpapers every day.Advent is the four week period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a season celebrated by Christians of all denominations. Advent prepares our hearts of a time of worship on Christmas day.

Advent means “the coming.” It is a time when we look forward to and anticipate the celebration of the Christmas season. During Advent season, we are given insight into the giving of God’s most precious gift to human beings, Jesus Christ. Advent can be celebrated at church and also in the home for a ceremony that just involves the family.

Advent season involves the lighting of candles in a wreath. The Advent candles can sit in a candle holder specifically designed to hold the five Advent candles or can be put into votive candle holders surrounded by a green garland wreath symbolizing the season.

Advent candelabras and wreaths range from the very expensive (used in large churches) to the affordable ones used in home celebrations. A family can construct their own Advent centerpiece so that it has the personal touch. The Advent candle setup is placed in a prominent spot in the room so that it can be a constant reminder of the miraculous birth we celebrate on Christmas Day.

The first Sunday of Advent for 2010 is the last Sunday of November. One candle is lit each Sunday representing four virtues of the season: Faith, Joy, Hope, and Love. Different Christian publications list each virtue in a different order.

There are four main candles for Advent: Three blue or deep purple candles and one pink candle. The Advent portion of service usually involves a litany, a song, and the lighting of the candle. Parishioners are welcome to do additional readings on each virtue through the week to get ready for the following Sunday.

Advent can be celebrated at home also. Each night families can light the candle for the week’s virtue and read a scripture and say a prayer. Advent celebrations open up discussion between parents and kids about the real meaning of Christmas and the significance of Christ’s birth.

The last candle and usually the largest is the white candle that fits in the center of all the others. It is called the Christ candle and is lit on Christmas Day. Some churches hold special services on Christmas and some do not. Everyone can light the final candle in their homes as a celebration for the culmination of the Advent season.

Advent is a time of remembrance and internal reflection about on how we view Christmas in our hearts.

Visit Santa’s Advent calendar here and click on each day to download Christmas desktop wallpapers to decorate your computer with during the Christmas holidays. These beatiful desktop wallpapers are our gift to you!

Operation Letters to Santa Program 2010 dates and locations

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December 9th, 2010

Operation Santa Claus USPS 2010 Locations

Operation Letters to Santa answers "Dear Santa" letters from needy children each ChristmasOperation Santa is a letter adoption program enabling the public, charitable organizations, and businesses to respond to deserving children’s letters addressed to Santa Claus, the North Pole and other seasonal characters. The New York Post Office’s program is the largest in the country, receiving 500,000 letters a year.

“This program provides the ‘St. Nick’ in all of us with a way to help Santa make holiday wishes come true for deserving families,” said USPS New York District Manager William Schnaars.

The program, which dates back to 1912, will open to the public on Dec. 1 at 9 a.m. Customers, charitable organizations and businesses are invited to read, adopt, and respond to letters from children of all ages who write to Santa in hopes that their holiday wishes will be granted.

Operation Santa letters can be adopted at the Main Post Office, 421 8th Avenue, New York, NY from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.Monday through Saturday and on Thursdays until 7 p.m.

Below is a list of the post offices around the United States which currently offer the Operation Santa Claus program. As of this writing, the program is offered in 14 states and mostly in major cities.

Operation Letters to Santa Program 2010 dates and locations

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December 9th, 2010

Operation Santa Claus New York Dates

Santa, Students, and Postal Officials Kick-off Operation Santa

Operation Santa Claus answers "Dear Santa" letters from needy childrenNEW YORK, NY — School children from PS-33 got to visit with Santa a little early in the holiday season this year at the James A. Farley Main Post Office on November 30, 2010 as they participated in a ceremony to kick-off the New York Post Office’s 2010 Operation Santa program at 421 8th Avenue in Manhattan. Operation Santa is a letter adoption program enabling the public, charitable organizations, and businesses to respond to deserving children’s letters addressed to Santa Claus, the North Pole and other seasonal characters. The New York Post Office’s program is the largest in the country, receiving 500,000 letters a year.

“This program provides the ‘St. Nick’ in all of us with a way to help Santa make holiday wishes come true for deserving families,” said USPS New York District Manager William Schnaars.

The program, which dates back to 1912, will open to the public on Dec. 1 at 9 a.m. Customers, charitable organizations and businesses are invited to read, adopt, and respond to letters from children of all ages who write to Santa in hopes that their holiday wishes will be granted.

Operation Santa letters can be adopted at the Main Post Office, 421 8th Avenue,  New York, NY from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.Monday through Saturday and on Thursdays until 7 p.m.

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December 9th, 2010

Christmas Name Swapping

Operation Letters to Santa - Santa's blogChristmas is a time of giving and showing others the love of God in our hearts. Presents are one way that we show that love to others, but the commercialization of Christmas can get out of hand even if we have the best intentions. In an effort to cut down on holiday spending but still maintain the giving of the season, try swapping names this Christmas.

Name swapping cuts down on the number of people in your family or civic organization that you have to purchase gifts for. At church, the name swap can be done amongst Sunday school classes or Bible study groups. Name swapping also works at the office if employees want to spread a little Christmas cheer this year.

There are only a few guidelines that need to be followed for this type of activity. Best of all, everyone gets something they like for Christmas and no one has to go broke. This activity also teaches an important lesson to kids and adults. That lesson is this: The blessing is in the giving and not just the receiving.

  1. Propose the idea of name swapping to your group. Do it before Thanksgiving so people have time to make up their minds early. At the workplace, they like to call name swapping “Secret Santa.” everyone who wants to participate can get a chance to sign up.  
  2. Set the guidelines for the swap. For instance, what will be the monetary limit for the gifts? This is crucial. Some people are not picky shoppers and will get your gift from the Dollar Store. Others are more lavish and you’ll get a $100 gift. To make it fair, setting a price limit of say, twenty dollars keeps all gifts on the same level. At home, you can set a higher limit for family if you so choose.
  3. Get everyone to list three of their favorite desires for Christmas on a piece of paper. Of those three, the Secret Santa will decide what to get. If you ask for something that is under twenty dollars, your Secret Santa may get you more than one thing as long as you don’t go over the limit. With families, there is more discretion as to how many gifts they will want to choose from your list.
  4. Set the date for the gift swapping. For families it will more than likely be Christmas day. At the office, choose the last day that everyone will be there before the Christmas holiday. Some groups hold a party in conjunction with the gift swap.

Name swapping at Christmas is one way to save money and get into the spirit of the season. Put your own spin on your gift giving this year by requiring that everyone make their gift or create something from only a specific list of items, etc. The possibilities are endless and the memories will be too.

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December 7th, 2010

Decorating the Christmas Tree

Christmas TreeWe want our homes to look the best they can over the holidays. Before the Thanksgiving turkey is even cold we are pulling out the yuletide decorations. While we spruce up the inside and outside of our homes with bells and whistles, don’t forget about the Christmas tree.

Decorating a Christmas tree is a family affair. Now, the husband and the kids may not want to go around the house hanging Christmas banners and Christmas cards with you. You may not enjoy climbing on the roof of the house to hang lights either. Everyone can, however, participate in the Christmas tree decoration. Your tree says a lot about you as a family – your choice of ornaments, tree topping, and tree skirt.

First choose your tree. Many go for artificial trees because there are no dried pine needles to pierce the bottoms of tender feet or vacuum up. Some artificial trees come pre-lit so that eliminates the need to buy strands and strands of lights. Artificial trees are available in many different colors, white, blue, pink, as well as green and are of varying heights and types.

For a real tree, some families get theirs a couple of weeks before Christmas. Tree farms and tree lots usually have a nice selection of Christmas trees with hearty branches. Be sure that you can’t see through the tree. If you can, then it will be too thin to hold heavy ornaments.  Also make sure to water real trees frequently once you’ve brought them home and placed them in their stand. This will prevent drying out of needles and possible fire hazards or a brown tree on Christmas morning. 

Here are some decorating suggestions no matter which type of tree you choose for your family this year.

  1. Start with the lights. It’s going to be hard to put strings of lights on the tree after you’ve put all of the other goodies on the tree. For kids, it’s fun to put a strand or two of running lights so that they blink instead of staying on all the time. Depending on the size of your tree you may only need a couple strands of lights. 
  2. Add a touch of garland. There are many different kinds. Most people shy away from traditional icicles because they are a fire hazard especially on a live tree. The garland that has icicle like strands are just the same. Some opt for homemade popcorn  or cranberry garland (fun for kids!), colored beaded garland, or snowflake garland made of plastic. Wrap the garland loosely so that it doesn’t strangle the tree. Let some of the length hang between the branches so it can be seen. You can also use wide ribbon instead of garland.
  3. Now for the fun – the ornaments. Some families use a color scheme of two or three colors for their ornaments. Others may purchase pre-packaged ornament sets with a certain theme. Kids can hang ornaments they created in school. You could end up with quite an eclectic looking creation. Space ornaments so they surround the tree and leave no bald spots. 
  4. The tree topper goes on last. There are angels, stars, and even bows. Some have a plug that fits into your string of lights. Just remove one light on the strand and plug in the tree topper. Others have their own plug that can be connected directly into the top strand of lights or the wall outlet. Some don’t have a light at all.

Once you’ve finished the decorating of the outside and inside of the house and your tree is dressed to its best, the house is completely ready for the holidays.

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December 6th, 2010

The Stories Behind Popular Christmas Carols

Looking for a way to get into the Christmas spirit? How about singing a few bars of some popular holiday tunes to get you in the mood. Christmas is a festive time filled with good food, good friends, family, and music to bind it all together. Here is a list of six of the more popular Christmas carols that we have all grown to love.  And they all have some very interesting history behind them. Be sure to click on the title of each song to be taken to the sheet music for it.

  1. We Wish You a Merry Christmas This song wishes good tidings to all we meet during the holiday season. It also mentions a figgy pudding, an old English dessert that is set alight and served with a sprig of holly and brandy butter at each Christmas meal. 
  2. The First Noel Noel means Christmas in French. This song speaks of the events that are chronicled in the Bible surrounding the birth of Jesus.
  3. Silent Night This song was composed by Franz Gruber in 1818. The actual story has several variations, but it involves a troupe of performers traveling to towns in the Austrian Alps. One of the churches where the troupe was to perform a play had an organ out of commission. Apparently there was a mouse problem. The troupe performed in a home instead of the church. One of the ministers was moved by the performance and wrote a carol for the church’s Christmas Eve service. He approached the organist Franz Gruber about putting the words to guitar music. Fortunately, the organ was fixed by service time and Gruber sat down and played an unforgettable melody to accompany the words. This song is one of the most popular Christmas carols in the entire world. 
  4. The Twelve Days of Christmas This is a fun song to sing and play games with at Christmas. No one knows the true origin except that it is English. The fourth day was originally Colley bird not calling birds. It is another name for a blackbird. There are many variations of this song as well. People have taken to comedy in versions such as Jeff Foxworthy’s rendition, The 12 Redneck Days of Christmas and many more.
  5. Jingle Bells While you are dashing through the snow, this song was written about sleigh races in the olden days.  It was not intended to be a Christmas song at all. They would be like drag races of today only with tricked out sleighs. The song’s composer was a rogue named James Pierpont who loved to live fast and race hard. 
  6. The Christmas Song Just the words conjure up smells of roasted chestnuts. This song was originally written by Mel Torme in the 40s but was immortalized by Nat King Cole a couple of years later. Mel wrote the song in the heat of the summer in an effort to “cool off.” Who knew? Anyway, it’s one of our favorites when we snuggle inside to watch the snow fall.

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs? I bet there’s a story behind it that would surprise you. You can probably think of your own memories when you hear certain holiday songs as well, maybe a special Christmas as a child or the first Christmas you and your husband or wife were together in your new home. The power of song is amazing isn’t it? Please share your favorite Christmas music and memories with us. We would love to hear from you!

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