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Christmas in motion

“How wonderful, as waiting ends,
That men and angels meet as friends
To celebrate the Christ Child’s birth
As starry peace descends to earth.”
“ Wonderful How” by John C. Bonser

Hubby and I have our own angel. She is attached to the rose trellis in front of our home. Parts of her body plus her halo and trumpet are outlined in gold electric lights, and her long dress is outlined in blue lights. The lights along the porch railing are multicolored LEDs. (By the way, my pal Barbie from work and I like the Grinch cartoon the best of all. Did you know that the voice of the Grinch is performed by Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft, who died in 2005, at age 90? He was also the voice of Tony the Tiger.) We are still amazed that we have beautiful yellow and peach roses on two of our bushes. They are growing about four feet above the ground and haven’t been hit by frost as yet.

I finally got my Christmas cards down from the attic. I am a little late in sending out my Hanukah cards. One has to go to Israel, to my high school classmate Flossie. I also have Cousins Michael and Maureen in Ireland, Cousin Laura in Switzerland, and two cousins in Canada. I wrote their cards late last week. I hope they make it to them on time.

Here we are, just a few days before Christmas. You probably have bought your live tree. In the US, Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states, including Hawaii and Alaska. Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and California were the top-producing states. In 2009, Americans bought 28.2 million live trees, compared to 11.7 million artificial ones. (The live trees, following the holidays, are often used for sand and soil erosion barriers.) Edison General Electric was the first company to manufacture Christmas Tree lights and General Electric was the first company to sell them. The National Christmas Tree Association has presented a Christmas Tree to every president since 1966. Did you know that the tree for Rockefeller Center must be 65-feet high and 39-feet wide? Bing Crosby sang “White Christmas” for the first time in the movie “Holiday Inn.” (It has already been on TV several times in the last two weeks.) “White Christmas” is such a popular song that it has been recorded in more than 500 renditions, in many languages. Christmas carols have been a way to teach those who could not read about the story of Christmas.

Some more Christmas facts: The Christmas Rush is not a very new way of shopping. It was begun during World War II to send gifts to service personnel overseas. Exchanging gifts began with the ancient Romans. The average American household receives about 28 Christmas cards each year. “The Charlie Brown Christmas” TV program was first shown in 1965 and has been repeated every year since. (Hubby and I watched it the other evening.) The Salvation Army’s bell-ringing Santas have been collecting donations since the 1890s. On Christmas Day, in Brazil, the kids in the family make breakfast for their parents. LED Christmas lights have a life span of 100,00 hours. (We must replace all our old Christmas lights with LEDs.) By the way, the damp fall weather has made top-quality trees this year.

Back to Carney’s Senior Supper: The hospital’s staff passed out a booklet called “Steward Continue,” which is a program tailored to the health care of Steward’s Over 65 population. It even has a Traveling Wellness Van. Then we had a delightful treat at the supper. The children in grades one, two, and three of Pope John Paul II Academy came by to sing Christmas songs for us. They opened with “Jingle Bells,” complete with bells. Then they sang, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” and then “Jingle Bell Rock.” We were transfixed by one of the little boys in the choir who kept time with his whole body. They sang “ Silent Night” beautifully and then rocked the cafeteria with “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas.” I was able to sing along with “Felize Navidad,” their last song, because Daughter Sue had taught me the Spanish words last Christmas. As the children left the room, they waved “goodbye” to all of us. Before Barbara Couzens ended the supper, she announced that the next Senior Supper will be on Wed., Mar. 13, 2013.

On Thurs., Dec. 6, Hubby and I drove to UMass Boston for the sixth annual Boston State College Celebration ceremony. As we came in, our friend Carol DeSouza greeted us, along with her friend and former co-worker, Linda O’Brien. They were already seated so we sat at a nearby table. Both gals were raving about their wonderful trip to Ireland. They said that the economy in Ireland is quite poor. The Irish welcomed them and their two traveling companions with open arms. One Irish fellow was very helpful so Carol asked if she could buy him a drink. He said, “For a little more, you can have me also.” The gals all laughed. They bought quite a few gifts before they left Ireland so they must have helped the economy. Carol also told me that she tried to look up her family names, Foy and Hagan, but they are not very popular names, so it was difficult.

Then it was time for the formal part of the ceremony. Gerry Burke, a member of the Class of 1953 served as emcee for the evening. He had the audience laughing throughout the evening with his jokes. Gerry then introduced UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley, the eighth chancellor of the university. He proudly told us that the university is currently working on a 25-year improvement plan. There are currently 16,000 students at UMass Boston, which is among the top 150 colleges for the money in the US.

The first to receive the Education for Service Award that evening was Selma (Seiller) Sax. Selma is currently the director of the Center for Quality Teachers at the Wexford Institute, in PA. The second person was John Flores, PhD, a member of the Class 0f 1971. He is currently the executive director of the US Distance Learning Association and an authority in the field of education, technology, and telecommunications. The final recipient was our friend Carol DeSouza. Carol, who recently retired from UMass/Boston, was a tireless advocate for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and disabilities at Boston State College and UMass Boston. She received the Parker Award for her work in assisting veterans at the university. The contributions that each of these award recipients have achieved are far more wide-reaching than I have written about for you. Each richly deserved the award he or she received.

The final person who spoke was Dr. John Moon, who, along with his wife June, were recipients of the Education for Service Awards last December. John thanked all of us for asking about June’s health. She has been quite ill but is expected to be home finally from the hospital, in time for the holidays. As usual, we stayed once the program had ended and had coffee with our friends. What an enjoyable evening!

I love hearing about the top names for babies each year. The top 10 girls’ names for 2012 are: Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Isabella, Ava, Lily, Zoe, Mia, Madison, and Chloe. The top boys’ baby names are Aidan, Jackson, Ethan, Liam (one of my favorites, which is William in Gaelic), Mason, Noah, Lucas, Jacob, Jayden, and Jack. A year ago, Hubby checked to see the most popular baby names in the year we were both born (1934). My name was No. 5 on the “Hit Parade.” Now it is not even in the top 100. Hubby’s name, Vincent, was never in the top 100 names in our birth year and it is still not in the top 100 in 2012.

I must mention how much my family was affected by the tragedy in Newtown, CT, having so many teachers and even a school nurse in our family. From the time we first heard of the shooting on WBZ, Hubby and I watched the unfolding news on TV. We called Cousin Janet, a retired Boston school principal, and discovered that she was already aware of the carnage. I think back to the 1950s when I taught and would never have thought that something so horrific could happen at a school. I had door in my classroom that opened directly onto the school’s playground. In the fall and the spring, when we encountered warm days, I could even leave that door open. Gone are those days. How sad! Please remember the victims, their families, and friends over this Christmas vacation.

My family and I wish you all a very Merry, Happy, and Holy Christmas, and in other languages: Joyeaux Noel. Frohe Weihnachten, Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad, Prettige Kerstdagen, Glaedig Jul, Mele Kalikimaka, Zalig Kerstfeest, Chuc Mung Giang Sinh, and Nollaig Shona!