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Emmanuel Tio from Batangas, PH
Seeing God ‘Face to Face’ is the Real Meaning of Christmas

Death had been the most common problem I’d been facing ever since I was a kid and I usually tend to pray that something good or better might ‘show up’ - I mean, something good to happen. I’d never met God literally but I guess God sometimes is my death – A Very Special Person in disguise. I think he’d been under the mask of death and laughing at me whenever I weep of pain and agony inside my parents’ house. He is very scary, of course, but in due time, He’d been The Most Wonderful Person I’d ever met in my entire life. He’s as quiet and peaceful as the aurora borealis and has the speed of ‘hyperlightyears’ – faster than the speed of light. I thought He was a will o’ the wisp but I think He’s much, much greater than one. I can’t describe the face He’d shown me but I guess, the babe in the manger may be much, much more beautiful as compared to His ephemeral face in the darkness of the ‘heavens.’

I was thinking of the night sky when He was born. The night was so peaceful that even grasshoppers whispers would adore Him in the middle of the night.

I know what He felt in the manger: damp air outside and in the inside, stinking grounds filled with animals’ muck and the deadliest problems He may have would be the enemies of the enemies that prowl in the darkness – looking for Him to devour His flesh.

Thus, the fleshless beings arrive – the angels. They saved The Savior’s Body quite well and I still could recall how these fleshless beings rescued endangered lives in the hands of the oppressors, of the evil ones. If angels had directed the route to Egypt from the soldiers of the governor, the same way they did in the seminary and in the hospital where I almost died plenty of times. The savior had been sick all the time, of course, due to His very poor conditions and I guess that He’d needed quite an abundance of angels to rescue Himself from the forces of death.

I love the songs of angels so much and their songs had been my inspiration in my suffering years in the seminary and my deadliest hours in the hospitals. They are invisible and I can testify that what I heard in the movies about Christmas regarding the songs of angels are nothing compared to the real music angels are making to survive the Savior of the world in the manger and to rescue good people in their most troublesome moments of their lives.

Another thing that I have in mind would be, what were the roles of animals during the first advent of Christmas in Bethlehem?
I have a pet inside the house and he’d been rescued from a vehicular accident through the power of prayers. He almost died after being ran down by a speeding car. He was lame and now he is walking normally.

Sometimes, animals pay back. If you rescue animals from death, sometimes, they rescue you from your problems. Our dog had not been sluggish but he moaned like a human before. His voice was like that of my workmate when I was still working as a merchandiser in our nearby mall during my college years. He was complaining and behaved like a human.

It was in a certain early morning at around one to three o’clock in the morning that he barked at me while I sleep in the living room. All doors had been locked and I have no idea what or who he was barking at. I stared at him blankly and I know what he was up to: I have to finish the exam sheet that would be given to my 230 high school students in our province. He woke me up and I finished writing the exams for my students. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis after teaching two or three months. I thought I would be dead but I never lost hope. I prayed a lot in the hospital ward and this was the last time I heard the most beautiful voices of angels in my entire life. Miraculously, I just have asthma after my release from the hospital. Thanks to our dog! Without him, my students will surely attack me and I think they did. I resigned from my post as a free music teacher and thanks be to God for granting me more or less 34 thousand Philippine Pesos. I used the fund for treating lung disorders. Our dog had been my guardian angel and I guess animals present in the Birth of Our Savior felt the same happiness angels felt while singing over the sheep and the shepherds – the happiness of being with God again after billion years of waiting in the darkness of ignorance and evil. I have the privilege of praying to Him my little ode:

Ode to Baby Jesus

Beyond the sunrise Thou hast fed
Billions of star lights bearing their foreheads;
Intuition and serendipity might have been wed
But Thine passion and agony no one could ever bet.

In Thine eyes of Perfect Charity
No one in the universe His Divinity may agree;
That Your fragrant face may be
As appealing as Nirvana unto me.

Behold, Thy Perfect Face in me -
A sinful and poor creature that is to be;
But as Humble as Thou art to me
I never imagined that You will behold before me.

I’ve prayed that I will be healed
By Your Forever Immortal Destiny;
And here Thou art in front of me
Looking at me with Perfect Charity.

Thanking Thee may enough not be
Fearing that evil will again attack me;
Sacrifice Thou art and never again
My sinful life be enliven….

Thank You!

Sarah Luczak from Rocky Hill, CT US
I was eight years old and told my parents that i want a bible.. i wrote a letter to santa..

On Christmas Day, I saw a gift from santa. it looks like a book.. I open it and IT WAS A BIBLE.

I am 22 years old and i have still that bible.. i took the bible for holy hour and retreat!

Catherine Hayes Ulasinski from North Hollywood, CA US

In 1987 when I was still living in New York City during the Christmas season I was performing at Macy's Herald Square .doing this wonderful character named "Huggable Honey Bear". I would go throughout the store saying "Hello, my name is Huggable Honey Bear and I give hugs for Christmas would you like one?" I would hug hundreds of people a day but each hug was special. To me it was like not only spreading Christmas cheer but the special love of God that He has for each of us. I remember one older man just holding me and thanking me. He said it was the first hug he had in a long time. It was a very precious time for me...especially Christmas Eve. At the closing hour all the employees take out bells and ring in Christmas. That year I ran through the aisles to the singing of the bells proclaiming "Glory to God on the Highest He is Born!" Everyone was hugging each other saying "Merry Christmas". It was truly a blessed and magical time.

Melissa from Moline, IL US
The first year I went to the Christmas Eve mass with my Godparents was magical, the music was penetrating to the very soul of me. I was a washed with the tinkling bells, the warmth of candles, and fully realized God's presence. Being still a bit young I was searching the sky for Santa's sleigh, and went to sleep wondering what he might leave. A little note thanking me for the cookies was left. The biggest but light as air box was beautifully wrapped under the tree just for me. That year I received a Teddy Bear I named Mandy, she was who I shared all my dreams with over the years, I received the gift of family, the gift of Gods presence, and the gift of Love.

Christa from Taber, II CA
Christmas music fills the air. Lights sparkle on the Christmas trees in each of the “Drumm girls” homes. A bowl of “fake” fruit and vegetables sits on each of our dining room tables—plastic carrots and lemons, metallic cucumbers, carved stone pairs, crystal covered apples and more. Each piece holds a memory. Each piece—a part of the Christmas tradition that began on December 24, 2002. Each piece—a memory of our mother.
The story begins….
Our mother’s memories unravel and lie at her feet in a tangle web of confusion, but we hold the memories just as the crystal bowls in our homes hold the fruit. There came a time when our father could not longer wrap those memories into a coherent ball; it was time to transition our mom to living a long term facility in Brooks.
Before living there permanently, mom would spend time in the Brooks hospital, giving dad respite as her caregiver. One of those times of respite was just before Christmas. As we wheeled our mom to her room, our eyes were blurred by tears, but our mom’s eyes were fixed on the beautiful Christmas trees decorated with fruits and vegetables of every sort. The diabetes society was encouraging healthy eating! Our mom’s eyes lingered on the sparkling produce hanging on every branch; our eyes saw only the dreaded future for our mom.
When we left our mom that night, we had o idea that our tears would turn to laughter, that our mom would lay the foundation for a new Christmas tradition.
During our mom’s stay at the hospital that week, she began to harvest the ornamental fruit and vegetables that hung on the Christmas trees in the entry. Each time she wheeled past the trees more of the fruit would disappear from the branches, into the folds of her clothes, into the crevice she created as she sat in her wheelchair. Mom would then sneak her treasures into her suitcase in her room. In the evenings our dad would come to have his supper with mom and then tuck her into bed. As he looked into mom’s suitcase for her nightgown, he found the stolen harvest and quickly snuck them into his pockets to return them to their rightful place. Each day mom gleaned the fruit from the Christmas trees and dad would sneak them from mom’s suitcase and sneak them back to the trees. He didn’t want the nurses to find out that mom was the “thief” on the ward. Mom was sneaky in taking, dad sneaky in returning.
When my sister realized what was happening at the hospital, she decided she would “sneak” mom’s treasures of forbidden fruits home before our dad arrived for the evening. He was none the wiser, thinking that mom had lost her sneaking tendencies. He was none the wiser, until at Christmas the forbidden fruit was divided among us.
Our mom died a few years later on November 15, 2002. The forbidden fruits had graced our Christmas trees each year since the theft, but this Christmas the fruits held an even greater significance. That first Christmas without our mom, we talked about mom’s escapade in the hospital, we laughed and we cried as we opened the various gifts under the tree. Gift giving was almost over. Under the tree were three identically wrapped gifts with a little card addressed to three of the four sisters. The card read, “Now that our mom will no longer spend Christmas with us, a new tradition must begin—a tradition that keeps us together and honours our mom’s memory.” When we opened our tiny packages there lay a carrot to be added to our individual collections of mom’s stolen treasures. Kathy, who shared our mom’s name, began a most wonderful tradition that has continue now for 8 years. The fruits no longer fit on the Christmas trees in our home. Each of our homes now has a bowl holding the fruit. For eight years now, as sisters, we have been giving each other a fruit or a vegetable to be added to the bowls. Each year there is the challenge to find a new and different fruit or vegetable. Each year as we open our “last” gift of the evening we remember the first stolen fruits, we remember our mother. We remember. We laugh. We cry.
And now it is not only the “sisters” who give gifts of fruits and vegetables to each other, but Frerik as well…mom’s only grandson has joined in the gift giving. When he first gave us the stone pears, as sisters we looked at each other and thought, “He’s invading our territory!” But now we see that the next generation will continue the tradition of remember mom—grandmother.
This story is dedicated to all the staff of the Brooks Alberta Health Center who, for many years, loved and cared for our mom, Kathy Drumm, and who now finally have discovered why the Christmas trees in the entry grew bare, so many years ago.

Billy from Kosciusko, MS US
Christmas - Where are you ?
Chrismas should be a happy time. Not a sorrowful time like Lent. Some confuse or mirror the two seasons but they should not. Rejoice, the birth of Jesus will be soon. To repeat- Rejoice.

Michael T Taylor from Charleston, SC US

Bernadette Paulse from Auckland, NZ
My story happened during midnight mass in 2007. It was a long, exhausting day and I was not too sure whether I wanted to attend midnight mass or leave it for the Christmas morning. My children, then 9, 14 and 17 were all getting ready for mass, so I couldn't disappoint them.

We got to church and there was no parking, so my husband had to park outside on the road. Inside the church was packed! The usher at the door informed us that the front row, right in front of the altar still had seats. I had this feeling that my teenagers would not want to sit right in the front. So I made a sharp u-turn to go to the hall. My son asked, "Where are you taking us?" I almost said, "Home."

The hall was empty, with a tiny nativity set hidden in the corner. No altar, no flowers, just a big hall with absolutely nothing. I felt as if I have turned up at the wrong venue for a party. I sat down and my heart sank, feelings of rather going back home and returning in the morning, went through my mind. I could feel my family's disappointment and didn't look their way.

I bowed my head and started a prayer of complaining and whining, deeply disturbed that I was locked out of the holy sanctuary. No altar, no flowers, no candles, no choir...I spent a good couple of minutes on this prayer, not knowing how I would get through mass. Then, when I was spent, I clearly heard this voice saying, "You are not shut out, you are in the midst of the most Holy night. My son was born in a stable, away from the hustle and bustle of the town. There was no choir to welcome him, no flowers, no congregation. His young mother had no one to assist her. It was a quiet place but a holy place."

I started shaking and crying. By that time, the half an hour of carols before the mass had started. With joy in my heart I started singing and praising the Baby Jesus. The whole mass I was focused on Him, not what was happening in the church. By the time it was communion, I received with so much passion and thankfulness, knowing that I have experienced the most holy nights and Best Ever Christmas!

Patrtcia from Lumberton, NJ US
i brought my baby ,christina, home from the hospital christmas eve. my mom had bought a white dress with red trimming on it and the hospital nurses put her in a christmas stocking. when she woke up for her two o!clock feeding the tree was all trimmed,and lit. it was so peacefull.

Veronica from Houston, TX US
After my father passed away 5 years ago and it was our first Christmas without him, I prayed to God that my father was in heaven with God and the angels.
That Christmas was the first white Christmas in my hometown (that I know of). It may snow in South Texas every 20 years or so, but on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!
That was the best present that I received from heaven, literally.

Peter from Victoria, CA
My Christmas Card Poems; starting a few years ago and carrying on up to this year. While I have other poetry and claim copyright on it, I do not claim copyright on my Christmas card poems but, rather, leave them to "public domain."
The final one is this years and soon to be mailed.

(See John 10:11)
When the weather turns grim and stormy
And the dark cloud rages and vents
That is a time when many shepherds
Huddle in the warmth of their clustered tents.
With flocks gathered close
To help each other stay warm
But, there is one Shepherd who rises
And ventures into the raging storm
To search for the poor little lamb
Who's lost the way among steep craggy cliffs
Where lightning bolts do their battle
In destructive and thunderous tiffs.
Until this Shepherd who endures the worst of the storm
Stretches a hand to this lost little lamb
So that, holding it close and soothing its fears
He bears it back to the flock
Which warms it and offers comfort which cheers.

Is humility so degrading
That we can only use it at lowest low?
Or, is humility a massive strength
That puts us in the know?
As it untangles lies and denial
Out of which we've built a prison wall
And keeps our feet on solid ground
Lest we tumble down and fall.
Well, who sets a fine example
That humility is a strength?
Some are the winners in Recovery
Whose abstinence has great length.
But, there is One who used humility
On the first Christmas Day on Earth
Who showed that the Best used humble strength
When He slept in a feeding trough after birth!

Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men
Is like a seed in my heart to be shared with my pen
For the Greatest of Gardeners has planted a seed
That grew to a plant which choked out every weed
So that the peace that I live in can come from within
As it helps shed the bondage which chained me to sin
So that I'm happy to celebrate that Wondrous Birth
In a manger, in a stable, that first Christmas on Earth.

His Love

Bridget from Independence, MO US
Preparing for Christmas every year meant we pulled out the wooden crib, and left it empty. As a child, we learned simply the joy of doing good deeds. When we felt as if we had done a good deed, we place a straw into the crib. Jesus will have a manger to keep warm at Christmas after his birth. Fewer straws may mean we had forgotten to pray or ommited something when giving. When something bad happened, I felt sad when a straw or two was taken away, until we knew of God's goodness to replace it. It was our choosing to take away that straw. Any time when I needed to, I could speak to Jesus about our concerns when mother never failed to place Jesus in the manger. Oh so wonderful a Christmas ever.

Marc from Veenendaal, NL

Slowly and quietly, not to wake mommy and daddy, the two little boys climbed from there bunk bed, opened quietly the door of their bedroom and walked carefully down the stairs.

In the house was it quiet and outside dark, they came to look at the Christmas tree they bought with daddy on the parking lot near the mall. The Christmas tree they decorated with mommy, daddy and their big sister.

The lights in the tree where not on now, it was not so pretty as on other times, on the table was the chandelier for nine candles, they forgot the name, it was such a difficult name.
Daddy had told them that the meaning was that light of God had entered the world; Jesus the little Bethlehem child.

All these things, all the decorations in the room where nice, but that was not where they came for, they came to see if the presents where all ready under the tree.
Daddy promised… so….
Yes, the presents where there, five shiny wrapped presents!

Wow, don’t’ touch now, not trying to peak to see what is in it, just guessing for who which present would be.
Tonight at Christmas eve would it be time to unwrap the presents.

Yesterday, when the lights and candles where burning bright, had daddy told them that he would lie the presents under the tree.
The benjamin of the family shouted isn’t it weird that it is Jesus his birthday and that we get the presents.
It is so that the one who celebrates his birthday should get the presents.

Later that evening, just for bedtime, took mommy them on the couch and told them why they received presents at Christmas eve, why this birthday was so different from any other birthday.
Warm and cosy with mommy on the couch, big sister went to watch a movie at a friends house; daddy had a meeting at the church.

Long ago, more than two thousand years, something amazing happened.
God who created heaven and earth and all the plants and also men decided that he was going to do what always intended to do.

He the greatest of all would become the smallest.
Not without a reason, listen with me.

God send an angel to a girl called Marry and the angel asked Marry if God could give her a son that would grow in her belly.

Not with a mister as daddy, but God would by a miracle, that is something very special what is not possible but God still does, make a baby grow in Marries belly by his Holy Spirit.
Marry would be the mommy and God the daddy.

Marry found a bit scary, but she wanted to listen to God and so she said yes.
Marry also had a boyfriend called Joseph, one day she would marry him, they where all ready encaged.
At first Joseph did not know what God had told Marry, and just as the neighbours and other people of the village Nazareth where they lived did he became very, very angry.

Because it was not right to get a baby when you where not married. Joseph was also very sad, because he thought the baby is not mine, so there must be another daddy Marry loves. This was a terrible thought for Joseph.
But God had not forgotten Joseph so he send an angel to Joseph in a dream that told him everything was all right, told him that the little baby was Gods own son and that his name should be Jesus.

The oldest interrupted the story and said: “Mom and than Joseph and Marry went a journey and Jesus was born in a dirty stable, isn’t it, with shepherds and wise men from a land far away…”

Yes, that is so mommy said and there was much more the happened then.

But now I was going to tell you why you get presents on the birthday of Jesus.

This little baby was no ordinary baby it was a presents from God to mankind, not that the people knew it already, and many never would want to know, but still this how it was.

Jesus, lived as all other people but he never did bad or naughty things, no sin we call that.

In this way he grew up and became wise, when he was a man he walked with a group of friends through the land to tell people about God and the Kingdom of God.

People thought that Jesus would become the new king and would kick the Romans, who where bullying them, out the land.

Jesus, told people that God was a kind and loving God, but also that he can’t stand bad things, people who do or think bad things can not belong to God.
That was frightening because everyone does something bad sometimes.
However Jesus especially went to the people who did bad things, he healed them when they where sick and forgave them the bad things, that means that he told them that he and God would no longer think about those bad thing but would put them away.
The people of the temple and the synagogue, a kind of churches for the Jewish people said that he could not do that and became very angry at him.

As you know was there end to things going well, Jesus entered the city Jerusalem on a donkey and than it was party time, people though now it will happen, now does Jesus will become king.

But that is not how things went, one of Jesus friends betrayed him, other left him, turned their backs on him.
The people killed Jesus, after hurting him very bad, and nailed him to a cross.

Mommy the youngest said; such a cross as in grandma’s church? The church with that nice smell?

Yes, mom smiled, such a cross.

But that is wrong mommy, that hurts so much doesn’t it mommy?

Yes, it did cause Jesus a lot of pain and suffering, but again he was a present for the people.

Jesus, said to God his father, I take all the bad things of all the people who live now and who will born later and take them with me on the cross, I will become all these bad things, that is how much Jesus loves us.
This was also the plan of God, Jesus who never did something wrong, was the only one who could do this.
He received the punishment we deserved, amazing isn't it?
Yes, the oldest replied, I would not want to get the spanking on my behind for something he, he looks at his little brother, had done, that is not fair, or is it?

No, mom said that doesn’t seem fair, but that is why it is a present, grace we call that. We should get punished but still we don’t get punished.

If we believe in Jesus and want to follow him than does God no longer look at the bad things we done and the punishment we deserve, as long as we tell him the things we remembered doing wrong honestly. He looks at Jesus who received the punishment in our place.
Grace is a present, a gift, we did not deserve, nor have to deserve, but what we receive freely from God through Jesus.

That is why we give presents at Christmas time, where we remember the birthday of Jesus. Because Jesus became Gods present to us.
And through his death on the cross can we also receive the present of grace.
That is why we give presents at Christmas eve.

The youngest whispers…. Jesus did not stay dead, did He? With a soft sad voice he says this…

No, by a miracle of God did Jesus not stay dead, but became alive again, and went to heaven after that.
But one day, a special day, will Jesus return and than as a man, a soldier bringing peace, the great king.

This is something else we think about on Christmas day; not only about how came to us as a little baby, but also about how he will come as king.

But most of all how he loves to give presents became a present, than that he wants to receives presents.

Still there is a present Jesus loves to get; the oldest says… can you guess which present that is?

Let me think mommy says… do you know it she asks the youngest?

The youngest thinks… his whole face looks like a junior professor… than he nods no... I don’t’ know.

Now, tell me mommy says…

Now, now, Jesus wants us to give our selves as present to him, so that we can become his friends!

Yes, mommy laughs that is right…

After this story mom tugged them in, the oldest did read for a little while the youngest slept almost right away.

Now they where awake, and looked at the presents, the lights in the tree where not on now, it was not as pretty as on other times, on the table was the chandelier for nine candles.

They hear the steps of the stair… daddy enters the room with his sleepy head and messy hair. Hi little rascals, I thought already that I heard something.
Daddy always looks a bit funny when he is just awake; just if he is w bit wrinkly, his hair messy, in his T – shirt and boxer short.

You guys are awake early, it is just a quarter to six… did you find thing so exiting, daddy laughs…

They nod

Come daddy says, I am going to tug you in again, nice and warm in your bed, just try to sleep a little longer, or read a book or watch the pictures if you can not sleep at all anymore.
I call you at eight than will we have a nice family breakfast together… and tonight, tonight we unwrap the presents.

Copyright Marc Pranger

Alice Burdo from Chestertown, NY US
My story starts in Cohoes New York. A special Baby Jesus that was made by my great aunt, grandmothers sister who was a cloisterd nun from Canada. She happens to be artist, she use to make baby Jesus's out of wax. Well 65 yr. ago she hand made a special one for our Catholic Church, St. Joseph. She even used real hair that my grandmother sent to her . It came from the heads of my father & his 6 siblings. She gave the baby Jesus a prem. It is beautiful, they have been using it every since. Every Christmas eve the smallest alter bay carries the baby to the crib, while the whole Church sings He is born of couse in French.
Well Our beloved St. Joseph in going to close Feb. 10 2009 please pray for us. That the bishop will change his mind. I don't know what will happen to the Baby Jesus.
Have a Merry Christmas Everyone. God Bless Mrs.Alice Burdo

Patrick George Mcdonald from Rocky Mountain House, Ab., CA
Each of us can remember a Christmas that seems to stand out and tug at our very souls. Mine happened several years ago when I was a struggling and inexperienced young lawyer, still unsure of my future journey.

It was Christmas Eve 1961 and my wife and I were looking forward to attending midnight Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in Calgary. Going with us would be our one-year old daughter Carolyn, born the year before in December.

A telephone call.

It was around 10 p.m. when the phone rang. My wife answered hoping it was our parents calling from Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

"It's the police station."

I took the phone and was informed by a young police constable friend of mine that I should come down and meet with a young girl who had just been arrested. I meekly protested but realized that it was unusual for the police to call and was assured that, "you should listen to this."

When I arrived at the old police station in downtown Calgary I was ushered into a cell by a matron where a young girl of 16 was crying on the edge of a cell bunk. Snuggled on the bed all wrapped up was a tiny baby girl of very few months.

The young mother, a runaway from a southern Alberta town, had been struggling to make ends meet. Her little amount of cash had depleted and she found herself desperate on a Christmas Eve in Calgary, deciding to sell her services - something she had never done nor even thought about until that evening.

The very first person she approached was the young constable going off duty and in his street clothes. To compound his amazement, the young mother had her baby daughter with her.

So started the chain of events that brought me to the police station on that long ago Christmas Eve.
The cells were empty when I arrived. She related that she had run away several months before, frightened to tell her parents that she had become pregnant. She had no previous record and was not known at all to the police. The look in her terrified eyes told me everything.

I asked her if she would like me now to contact her mom and dad but she was afraid that they would be ashamed of her and would not want to talk to her. I phoned a Crown prosecutor friend who, after being told the circumstances, phoned a mutual friend, a police magistrate. In the meantime I called her parents. They were overwhelmed with emotion that their daughter had been located. I also explained that they were now grandparents.

When the prosecutor and magistrate arrived it was decided, the arresting officer concurring, that justice would not be served by having this young mother enter the processes of the criminal courts. A makeshift court was convened and charges were withdrawn.
The young mother and child were placed into my custody to deliver to her parents. A bus was leaving for her hometown around midnight and we all decided to accompany her and her young daughter to the bus depot. She had no money so each of us chipped in to gather enough money for her ticket. We got her safely on board.

As the young mother gave each of us a hug, and climbed the steps of the Greyhound, it was difficult not to muster tears.

I hurried off to get my wife and young daughter to attend midnight Mass. We would be late for this celebration of another young mother and her newborn child.

A letter explains.

Many years later, a letter tracked me down in Grande Prairie:
"Dear Mr. McDonald, you may not remember me, but I have never forgotten you or those other kind men who helped me so many Christmases ago. I was the young mother you put on the bus with my young daughter sending me back to my parents and a whole new life. . . .
"I know that I can never repay you but I want you to know what your acts of kindness did. I am happily married now, a practicing nurse, with four lovely children.

"I was so afraid that Christmas Eve. I don't know what fate placed me in your hands that evening and I shudder now to think what could have happened to my life and that of my daughter if I had not been arrested that evening.

"Thank you for the greatest Christmas gift I ever received."

Graziella María from Mexico City, II MX
My husband and I are Mexican. We lived in England while he studied for a D. Phil. at Sussex University. We met friends from several countries in the Meeting House Chapel, where we used to celebrate a truly "Catholic" (universal) mass. Two of our best friends later became our daughter`s godparents. When my daughter was 9 months old we came back to Mexico.

These British friends (and "compadres") have come to stay with us on a few holidays. But the Christmas I`ll never forget was when Verónica, my daughter, had just turned two years old.In Mexico, the big Christmas celebration is Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day.Families go to Mass at night and then have a big dinner party at a relative´s home. This is a special party in which many children are allowed to stay up till very late.

In my husband´s and in many families, people used to do and continue doing the following, which we now keep as a tradition as well:
After mass, on Christmas eve, the family gathers around the Nativity scene, in which the manger is empty. The figure of Baby Jesus is brought out of its "storage" place and given to the youngest member of the family, in our case, Verónica, to pass it around for all to "kiss" it. Then, she and Guadalupe, her nearly 3 year-old cousin, "rocked" the baby to sleep. We then asked Verónica to give the "niño Jesús" to Guadalupe so that she could place him in the manger. She didn´t really want to, but she obeyed nevertheless! Usually, the same child does all of these things, but we had them share to prevent a quarrel, which luckily didn`t happen when Verónica agreed to surrender the precious baby!

We were singing some carols as we did this... and THEN Verónica suddenly put everything together: my brother´s reading from Luke´s gospel, the decorations, what we all had tried to explain to her, and the little baby in the manger... and she shouted at the top of her voice "¡Ya nació!" (He is born at last!)She repeated this many times, while she ran around the room. She was so truly happy. It was very endearing to watch such a small child discovering the true meaning of Christmas for the very first time.

I hope we all renew our joy in re-discovering that our Lord was indeed born one day, and that He will come again.

It was also a special Christmas because we were thrilled to be with these friends again, and we sang some English and Mexican carols, and some from other countries that have become classics around the world.

The following day we went to my auntie´s for Christmas lunch, which we also get to celebrate because of the European origin of parts of our families. My friends brought crackers from England,which my extended family loved, and we had mulled wine and mince pies (which only a few people loved, and as a result I´m afraid I ate and drank one too many) and wore the English Christmas hats everybody thought were wonderfully silly.

We have been blessed with traditions and friends from many countries, and it´s wonderful to experience the Church as one big family.

Feliz Navidad a todos desde la Ciudad de México (Merry Christmas to you all from Mexico City) Your sister in Christ, Chela (Graziella) Raluy de Turnbull

Maria from Atlanta, GA US
Christmas at our home

On Christmas eve all the family Dress as if we are going to a fancy dinner and go together to 6 pm Mass. After Mass we all go back home and have a formal sitting down dinner. At each place setting I put a candle, each one says a wish not for the family but for the world and light his or her own candle, the table is all lighted up with love and prayers for the needs of the world. It is a long seatting down meal because we sit and talk children and adults together.

Around 5 mts. before the stroke of midnight 11:55 we gather together in the family room where the christmas tree is with a small manger under it - Chrismas is never withouth a manger under the tree - the manger is without baby Jesus until at the stroke of midnight I put the baby, an italian porcelain baby with a yellow dress my grandmother made by hand for him. Everybody reads different parts from a booklet that I pass around we begin at the annunciation until his birth then we sing to baby Jesus and then we have a long moment for each one prayer of private intentions and prayer and thanksgiving.

After all of this we stand up and began to hug each other and wishing each one Merry Christmas. Then we open our gifts. At about 1 am all go to bed and I clean up for our afternoon family dinner nest day. It is the best two days of my year, the Birth of our saviour!!!

James from Missoula, MT US
The Christmas story that is the most popular amongst Christian communities is the Nativity. This is the Christmas story which tells about the birth of Jesus Christ. The Christmas story about the Nativity, as stated on the Holy Bible, has been translated in various languages. It informs people about the birth of the infant Jesus in a manger situated on Bethlehem, and it also talks about a star guiding three wise men to the manger to acknowledge the birth of the Savior. The Holy Bible also states that the angels had proclaimed the birth of the Savior by singing melodies that very much represent the modern-day Christmas carols or the act of caroling during the holiday season.

There are even non-Christians and non-Catholics that have heard the Christmas story about the birth of Jesus Christ, and the Nativity is widely popular amongst kids and grownups alike around the globe. But for kids in particular, another famous holiday story is that of Santa Claus, also referred to as Saint Nicolas by most European communities.

Saint Nicolas has been known in European tradition and religious history as the bringer of gifts and prosperity. The modern-day image of Saint Nicolas, or Santa Claus, was popularized by an ad in the mid 1970s about the best selling soft drink - Coke. The modern-day image of Santa Claus, which depicts good old Santa Claus in red robes happily singing while riding on his flying reindeer-driven sleigh, was featured as a TV ad by Coca-Cola during the 1970s, and it has stuck in the minds of children and grownups alike up until now.

There are also Christmas stories about the personal lives of celebrities, and these stories have all been shown as movies. There are even those stories about the childhood holiday memories of various people that have been written on books so as to share their experiences with the world. A widely popular book about an individual's personal holiday experiences is The Christmas Story, a real-life masterpiece of Jean Shepherd, and this book was also released as a movie during the early 1980s, which was directed by Bob Clark.

Great Christmas Gift Ideas