Our Lady of Guadalupe
Ms. Michelle Hartman’s Third Grade Class
by Leah Chandlee
Christmas is important because it is Jesus' birthday. Christmas is about family and giving, not about the presents. Christmas is a time to make others happy by helping and by giving them your time. Christmas is a day to celebrate and thank others. Christmas is a time with your family.
What Christmas means to me
by Charlie Curtiss
Christmas means to me that baby Jesus is just born. It's a time to celebrate. It also means spending time with my family and talking by the fire. It's not about the presents. It's about JOY! But most of all it's about Christ! To me it means having fun!
What Christmas means to me
by Nicholas Hill
What Christmas means to me. What I like about Christmas is that I have a good time with my family. Sometimes Santa comes to my house and last year in 2013 he brought a book. And for Christmas Santa gives us scavenger hunts! He gives us clues and we figure them out! Another thing I like is when I look under the tree and see the set of the Son of God being born. That's what I like about Christmas. It's Love.
What Christmas means to me
by Alison Munshower
Christmas is a special time of year for me because I get to spend time with my family and it is Jesus' birthday.
What Christmas means to me
by Drew Rothenberger
What Christmas means to me. It's not about presents it is about spending time with your family. About the birth of Jesus and what He gave up for us. You go to church and celebrate because of what Jesus did for us.
Why Christmas is special to me
by Paloma Valdez
Christmas is Special because it is Jesus birthday and we are with our family. We get to open presents and we get dolls and boy's cars. Christmas is a fun holiday and a special holiday.
Ms. Connie Cosgrove’s Third Grade Class
by Elijah. Barnes
Christmas means that it's a celebration. And relatives come to visit from all over the U.S. They come to celebrate Jesus' birthday.
by Kevin Bradley
To me, Christmas means fun and joy. Fun because of all the presents that Santa delivers, and joy because of celebrating Jesus' birth and spending time with your family and friends.
by Alex Briggs
Christmas means spending time with relatives because they come to town. Christmas also means going to church to learn more about the birthday of Jesus.
by Shea Brown
Christmas is special to me because it is the only time my whole family comes out to Iowa. They all live in Illinois. My cousins and I like to play Hide and Seek in the dark. We like to build forts and play in the snow.
by Maggie Carr
Christmas means celebrating Jesus' birth. It also means gathering and spending time with relatives.
by Luke Duggan
Christmas is fun with your family. It is cold and has big Long blizzards. You can make a snowfort and have snowball fights. That's Christmas to me
by Gracie Leibfried
Christmas means joy, happiness, fun, and Love. Everyone spreads Love around. Fun is for presents. Joy is for laughter. Happiness is for smiles. Then they all come together and make a happy world.
by Jadon Miller
What does Christmas mean to me? Christmas means happiness and joy. Happiness because I like watching Seth open his small presents. Joy because I Love spending time with my family.
by Audrey O'Neill
Christmas is happiness not just because you receive, but give. Families give you gifts not just because you were good, but because your family Loves you and cares for you.
by Carter Rambouseh
Christmas means a lot to me because after we open our presents we pack up our stuff to go see my cousins and celebrate Christmas. We stay with them for 3 days and then go home and we do it every year and it's very fun.
by Logan Renne
What does Christmas mean to me? Christmas means happiness because it is Jesus' birthday and I get to see friends and family. I get to help put up our tree and put up decorations. That is what Christmas means to me.
by Daniela Rojas
Christmas means a special time for a family gathering, because it's Jesus birthday. Everyone should celebrate on Christmas.
by Maria Romeno
To me Christmas mean's gathering together all our family and friends, cousins, aunt's and uncles. We celebrate the wonderful holiday. We put up our Christmas tree and decorate it. We spend the whole day together.
To Me Christmas Means
by Maria Schockemoehl
Christmas means happiness and joy. We celebrate Jesus' birthday. We get together and talk about it, which I think is very fun.
by Jacob Schreiber
Christmas is Joy for Jesus' birthday. It is also happiness for the New Year. Christmas is a time to spend time with your family and friends.
by Maria Schreiber
Christmas is spending time with family and relatives. It's having a good time and giving gifts to friends. That's what Christmas is to me.
Table Mound School
Mr. Jeremy Hoffman’s Third Grade Class
by Kyler Miller
One Christmas, I was opening a present from my parents. It was an iPod that I was wanting for years. I was so happy I started screaming. Right after I opened the rest of my presents, I went to my grandpa and grandma's for Christmas presents. When I got there, I played on my iPod. After that I opened an alarm clock and it was an iPod charger too. It was the best day ever!
My Three-Day Christmas
by Avery Kirk
Christmas is my favorite holiday because mine lasts for three days. The first day begins on December 23rd when my family of four opens presents with each other and has a family supper. On December 24th we go to church with my grandma, Dena, and stay overnight at her house. We always get one present from her before we go to bed. On December 25th Christmas Day, we wake up to tons of presents under the Christmas tree and a plate full of Grandma's banana bread. After spending the morning with my aunt, uncle, cousins, and grandma, we go to my grandma Pat's house for supper and more presents with more of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. These are my favorite three days of the year (next to my birthday).
by Mackenzie Lang
Last Christmas I got a lot of presents. First, my dad got me and my mom a dog. Then, Santa Claus got me a Barbie doll, a stuffed animal, two movies, and some clothes. Then, I went to my Grandma's house. She got me a puzzle, some toys, and some more clothes. Then my family and I went home, and I played with my new toys. Later, I watched my movies. I had a fun Christmas, but the true meaning of Christmas is that Jesus Christ was born. The End.
The Christmas Day
by Memphis Koch
One of my favorite memories is my Christmas of 2012, at my great grandpas (Papa's) house. My grandma comes from a family of 11 children so I have a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins. We all get together on Christmas Eve and have lots of fun. We play games and eat. When I get tired, I sit on my papa's lap and rest. Papa always called me termite and it made me happy when he called me that. It would be my last Christmas with my Papa, for he passed on January 1st, 2013. I think of him often and miss him. Our chair we shared still sits in the basement and we still have Christmas Eve there with all my family.
My First Christmas With My Brother
by Kazmira Stark
Last year in 2013, my big brother came for Christmas. His name is Sterling. I was very excited because I never saw him before. We all went sledding and opened presents, and built the biggest snowman ever. We named him Freddy. The end
by Dennelle Clancy
Every year my dad's side of the family goes to a hotel, not in Dubuque. There is a swimming pool, 5 floors, and a party room. Last is a breakfast room. Mom, Dad, Jaime (my sister) and I are always on the 3rd floor. The first place we all go is the swimming pool. They all get crazy and put chairs in the pool. Next, we go to the party room and get everything set up for our party for Christmas. Then, we all go back to the room to go to bed. In the morning, we all go to the breakfast room and have breakfast. Then, we get dressed and go to the party room on the first floor. Once everyone is there, we go do the gifts and a drawing. We write names on a card and put them in a jar. Whoever's name has been drawn the most is first, and then second, most is last (third). We all get a picture and leave. The end.
by Lacee Elain Barry
When it was Christmas Eve, I went to bed early. I woke up early. All I saw were presents everywhere. I told my mom, "Can I please open one?!" My mom said no. Later I got to open the biggest one. "I GOT AN AMERICAN GIRL DOLL!!!" I opened another one. I got a Grand Harbor pass for $2. My mom got a coffee maker. She said, "I GOT A COFFEE MAKER!!" My step dad got a phone. Also, I got an iPod.
by Kelsi Yarnall
Last year, we got together to make Christmas cookies. I helped make the sugar cookies and played with my cousins. This is one of my favorite memories.
Ms. Maureen Moran-Kalloway’s Third Grade Class
I Can't Wait Until Christmas
by Kenedy Stolk
Christmas is my favorite holiday. My mom makes cookies and milk. We buy carrots for Santa's reindeer. Once me and my sister tried getting a picture of Santa but we fell asleep. Every year my family gets each other presents. I can't wait to get my family presents. I hope I can build a snowman and go sledding in my yard. I can't wait until Christmas.
One Christmas Eve
by Vanessa Welborn
There was a lot of presents. I think I got the most presents out of my sisters. I got my Little Pony for Christmas. It was fun. The presents were cool. I wonder what next year will be like. I hope there will be more presents next year.
by Hunter Quagliano
Christmas is a time to get together and sped time with others, and to give presents and get presents. It is also time for Santa to give you presents. It is also time for Joy and to bond with your family.
by Clara Pregler
My favorite holiday is Christmas because you get to spend time with your family. I also get to go sledding with my sister. After that you can have hot cocoa with marshmallows with your family. If my hand gets cold I will use my hand warmers. I also have an Elf on the Shelf. Don’t forget about the Christmas tree.
by Parker Freese
It is a special holiday. I get to go to my mom's house and I get to open The Christmas presents. I like to decorate the Christmas tree with ornaments and lights.
by Chloe Vrotsos
My favorite Christmas memory is when my grandma came and she slept over at my house. When she sleeps over, in the morning me my brother Ryan, my sister Madelyn, my mom, my dad, and my grandma all sit in a circle and then we open presents!!! First I go, then my sister, then my brother, then my mom, then my dad, then my grandma. Then the rest of my relatives and my family celebrate Christmas together and we all have a great and wonderful time.
The Best Time of the Year
by Samantha Wodrich
I think it was last year when I went to my nanas and played Bingo and won prizes. I won some prizes and I also won the booby prize too! Right on Christmas! Also for Christmas we went to my Uncle Scott's and Aunt Becca's house and had Christmas. That's when I got some dangle earrings and my flowers earrings. I also think that's when my brother got a small remote control monster truck and went screaming and running all around the room and scared their cat. I think that was also the Christmas when I learned how to play euchre and play soccer. I also think that was the time when we had a giant dinner and found out what Aunt Becca's and Uncle Scott's backyard looked like. Right in their backyard on Christmas was right where I learned how to play soccer. Then me and my brother would sometimes play soccer. It was truly the best time of the year. I can't wait ‘til next Christmas and the next one too! I bet it will be great like this one. Well I hope! So does my family!!! The End!!!!!!!
by Adelyn Schwager
Christmas is special because you get to set up a Christmas tree and decorate it with ornaments, lights and the Christmas star. On Christmas Eve night Santa comes on his sleigh pulled by his 8 reindeer and delivers your presents When you wake up you can open them!!! But if you don't get any presents that means you got on the naughty list and you get coal in your stocking, not presents.
My favorite Christmas memory is when we played White Elephant!!! It's where you buy something about ten dollars. After, you'll get a number. You go in the number order and pick out a gift! When everyone is done, number one could keep his own or steal from someone else. I got a DQ credit card! That’s my favorite Christmas memory. What’s yours?
by Braydon Grimstad
My favorite time of year is Christmas. Every year I go to my aunt's house and open up presents. Then I go to my grandma's house. We open up presents there too. Last year I got a remote controlled monster truck and 3 Hot wheels. It was awesome! Then I went home and me and my sister Lily opened presents. I got a 3DS with a Mario game too! I got pajamas, a puzzle and 3 new wii games. It was awesome!!
by Rylee Ann Steffen
Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. I am also excited about my Elf on the Shelf. Her name is sparkle. She is the best Elf on the shelf. I always love baking Christmas cookies and watching the snow fall from the sky. The best thing I love about Christmas is the gifts and to have fun, but the best thing is I get to see my family. I know when Christmas is coming because I can hear bells ringing and see snow falling. I also love having a buffet for Christmas. We do it every year but some times some of my family cannot make it and the other half of my family can make it but usually all of my family can make it to the buffet. A lot of my girl cousins wear tutus dresses or shirts and shirts. I wish we could do this more often but Christmas is only once a year but oh well. I always still have so much fun.
I Love Christmas
by Savannah Engler
Christmas is a special time of the year when nobody fights. Every one is happy and friendly and very very kind. It's not about the gifts the tree or decorations. It's about family and friends. When I think Christmas I think of Santa Claus. When I think of elves and Rudolf that makes me think of family friends and God. When I'm spending time with my family that makes me smile. I love Christmas!
Ms. Dawn Atkins’ Third Grade Class
by Owen Ranson
My favorite holiday memory was a couple years ago when my whole family took a party bus to see Christmas lights at Murphy Park. It was very fun we listened to Christmas music on the way there and back to my house to open presents and it was very fun and then I went to Sleep and had a good dream. The End.
by Will Sullivan
On Christmas Eve we are going to our grandma’s house our cousins are going to be there. And our uncles are going to be there too. Then we are going to open our presents. Then we are going to our other grandmas house and I am going to see our other cousins too. Then we are going to open our presents. I like Christmas because I get to spend time with my family.
by Jordan Hennings
My favorite part of Christmas is getting presents. I like to see my cousins from Cedar Rapids. I like to see my aunts, uncles, sister and baby brother. I like to hand out cookies for Santa and a glass of milk. I like to make arts and crafts.
by Lillian Azrak
My favorite holiday is Eid al-Fitr this holiday happens after the holy month of Ramadan. It is when we Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.
by Jarrett Herber
My holiday memory is the Christmas of 2013. At my dad's house in the garage was a blanket. We got to open it after bowling on Christmas Eve. So we went bowling. We all played one big game. Then on the way home Marissa (my sister) asked me what I thought was under the blanket. I said a trampoline. When we got home we opened the present was ... a trampoline! My step mom said, "Did you peek at the present"? I said no. And I actually didn't. And this is my favorite holiday memory.
by Isabella Morman Jimenez
Christmas is my favorite holiday because I spend time with my family. And you get presents from family and Santa. It will feel like your birthday. But before Christmas you make cookies for him. It will be the best Christmas ever. You also give presents too.
by Maddy Teasdale
Hi. My name is Maddy Teasdale. My favorite holiday is Christmas. On Christmas morning, my brother and I get really excited. We go out in the living room with my parents all together. Me and my brother will run into the living room and look at our presents. Then we open them. Then we go in the kitchen to see if Santa ate the cookies drank the milk my mom set out for him. We watched Christmas movies on tv. We spent the rest of the day playing outside and playing with our new toys. I also like playing with my two kitties. That's my Christmas memory. The End.
by Aric Stevens
My favorite thing about Christmas is Santa and the reindeer. I like opening presents. I have an Elf on the Shelf. My cat finds it for me. Then I make a snowman. I play with my neighbors. I go snowboarding at Bunker Hill.
by Ayla Kemp
My favorite holiday is Christmas. I like to help decorate the Christmas tree. We sit around with my brother and sisters and open our presents from each other. Then we play with our presents. One year we got nerf guns and shot them at the ceiling fan it was a lot of fun I like it when Santa brings us presents. Christmas is also about baby Jesus’ birthday we set up a nativity set on a special table for baby Jesus.
by Mia Brooner
It was a cold day. We were stuck in traffic because of a very bad snowstorm. We were on our way to my Grandma’s house. All I hear is Ella saying, “Sophie, when are we going to be there?”
My sister is only two. She is cute but sometimes annoying. We are going to my Grandma’s for Christmas. Today is the 20th and we are staying until the 26th. My Aunt Catherine is bringing her three children, Ellie, Ava, and Sam to my Grandma’s house. Ellie is ten, Ava is 16 and Sam is one.
“Sophie we are going!” screamed Ella.
“I know,” I said.
“We are probably going to be there in a couple of hours,” said Dad.
“In a couple of hours?!” I screamed.
“Yes, honey, traffic is very bad,” Mom said.
“I know, but our cousins are already there and I just want to see Grandma and them,” I said.
“Just go to sleep honey,” Dad said.
Two hours later, “Hello, hello, hi, honey,” is what I heard when I woke up. To my surprise it was Sam and Catherine.
“Hi,” I say in surprise.
“Hi, sweety,” Grandma said.
“Hi, Sopy,” said Sam because he cannot say Sophie.
“Hi, Sam,” I say.
“Hey, Sophie, do you want to go on the trampoline with Ava, Sam, and me,” asked Elli.
“Sure,” I say.
“Mom, we are going on the trampoline,” said Ava.
“Okay,” said Aunt Catherine.
“Okay let’s go,” said Elli.
“Owwwwww, ow, ow, wha, wha, wha,” I hear Sam scream.
Then I see him on the ground and say, “We were not supposed to let him on the trampoline. He fell of the ladder.”
Then I take him to Ava. “What happened? Is he bleeding?” asked Ava.
“He fell off the ladder,” I said.
Sam was still crying. Then Ava took him inside.
“What happened?” Aunt Catherine screamed when she heard Sam crying.
“He fell of the ladder,” I said.
“I am going to go take him to the doctors. Come with me but tell the rest first,” said Aunt Catherine.
“Okay,” I say.
“Grandma, Mom, Dad, Ava, Elli, and Ella let’s go take Sam to the doctors. We will explain there,” I say.
“Ok,” they say.
Fifteen minutes later at the doctor’s office.
“He just has a bad sprain in his arm and hurt his leg,” said Mr. Yoyo the doctor.
“Ok,” we say and leave.
Five days later.
“Deck the halls with boughs of holly…” we sing.
“Lets go open presents,” I say.
“Ok,” dad said.
“I got Barbies, clothes, and candies,” Ella said.
“I got a guitar, Princess Bride the movie, and lots of clothes,” I say.
Then everyone shared what they got. It was the best Christmas ever I think.
Two hours later and at home
“That was the best Christmas,” I say to mom and dad before I go to bed.
The Night Before Christmas
by Anna Knockel
It was cold and snowing outside. In the kitchen, I was drinking hot cocoa. Everybody is asleep but me. I'm excited for Santa. I hope he comes this year.
I yawn. “I better go to bed,” I say, “I have school tomorrow.” I get my pajamas on, I turn my light off, and I get in bed. After a while I fall asleep.
The next day after school I run downstairs. There is a big pile of presents, but after I look at all of the tags they are all for my little sister. I tell my mom and dad that I did not get anything. We go down stairs. We all look under the tree.
My mom says we will find your presents. We looked for three days but there was still no sign of them. Three days later when my mom and I were taking down the tree, I saw this small box. It has my name on it. I tell my mom to come look at it. My mom says open it. When I open it there is a snow globe in the box. Inside the snow globe, it’s snowing out and there is a big tree with presents on the bottom. I keep looking in the box and there is more. I find a diamond necklace. I thought Santa forgot about me but there is a note on the box. It says, “I will never forget to get you a present.”
We all smile.
Cindy’s BIG Day
by Liliana Marrero-O’Hea
One day a girl named Cindy was decorating the house for Christmas with her dad. She put up red and green streamers. Then she started decorating the tree with beautiful lights and decorations.
Cindy’s dad was at the store getting some more Christmas decorations, which meant Cindy was home alone putting up more Christmas decorations when all of a sudden the lights went out. Cindy looked outside and saw the biggest snowstorm in the world was happening, and not only in her town. It was happening all over the world. She started to get scared because she was home alone and her dad was stuck at the store. She thought on the couch for a while.
Then she heard a knock at the door. Cindy was scared she didn’t know what to do. What if it was a robber?
Then she heard the doorknob shake and she was about to run for her life when the door flew open. She thought she was about to be kidnapped, but when she opened her eyes she saw it was just her dad with his arms full of more Christmas decorations.
Cindy’s dad asked her, “Can you give me a hand?”
Cindy said, “Sure,” and grabbed some of the Christmas decorations and brought them inside.
Then she explained why she didn’t answer the door and he understood what she meant. They put up more Christmas decorations because the lights were back on. They were just about to turn on the lights for the Christmas tree when the lights went out again. Cindy started to get scared from the blizzard. Cindy and her dad went and found flashlights. An hour later the blizzard stopped and everyone was alright!
A Christmas Morning
by Jocelyn Salinas
On Christmas Eve, my sister Ariana and I made cookies and then went to bed so Santa could come. All of a sudden, I heard a loud noise downstairs at 12:00. I hurried down the stairs. Guess what I saw? I saw Santa. It was AMAZING! He had presents for us and he made a mess out of the cookies and he drank the whole entire glass of milk I could not believe my eyes!
Then when I turned around there was my mom. She was really mad at me. She said, “Go to sleep. You are going to be tired in the morning.”
Then I went to sleep. When I woke up I went down stairs as fast as I could. When Mom handed me my present I opened it and it was a puppy. I was so excited. I held the puppy. It was a Chihuahua. I named her Lucy. She was so cute. Her color was black.
I took my puppy to my room. I showed her all around my room. Then I said, “We don’t have any food for you yet. You stay here and I will go shopping.”
Mom and I went to the store to get dog food and toys. When I got home the dog was going crazy to see me. Then my mom and I gave the dog the toys and the food.
After that we all had dinner. We had scalloped potatoes and ham. It was really good. When we were done eating, we all colored a pretty picture while the dog was eating her food. After we colored we played a game. The game was called Guess Who. It’s this game where you have to guess a person without looking, but if you look you have to start all over again. After that we all snuggled and watched a movie. The movie was called Wreck it Ralph. It was very funny. When we were in the middle of the movie we made popcorn with salt and a little butter, and then we continued watching the movie. When it was over we went to bed. Ariana slept with mom and I slept with dad and we all fell asleep at 8:00 p.m.
When we woke up, we went to the store and got cinnamon rolls. They were delicious. I could not wait to have them. When I was done eating I played a game with my family. When we were done playing the game my family and I were watching Disney Channel and eating breakfast at the couch. The movie on Disney Channel was called Hop.
When we were done watching the movie, we went to the store to get some food so we could eat lunch. For lunch we were going to have tacos. When we got home, Mom made the tacos right away. When we were in the middle of eating, Ariana got up so she could watch the movie. When I was done I said, “Thanks for the dog!” My mom said, “You're welcome!”
by Lilah Takes
Gleaming as an image of joy
For ornaments are the very piece
When Santa sees the great beauty
He laughs and rejoices
Now the Christmas tree is a big part to celebrate
I imagine a Christmas tree
As a special greeting in life
For all the people in the world
Are safe on Christmas Eve night
So when you snuggle to go to sleep on Christmas Eve
Tell Santa thank you for Christmas
by Lilah Takes
I was going to visit my grandparents for the holiday. School was out and there was no homework. My dad said we had to go at exactly 5:00, it was 5:30. My dad carried us to the car and started to get the luggage in the car. See, my dad says we might get into the 6:00 traffic. When we started to get to the highway the traffic had just begun. There’s 110 miles in front of us. We’re going to Manhattan, New York.
When we started to get out of the traffic, the sky got dark like a blizzard was coming. Then it started to hail! Soon it started to snow with big chunks flying everywhere. So far this trip was exactly what we needed. My dad did not stop driving, he kept on going. My mom was worried sick that my dad might accidently drive into a ditch.
Finally, my dad couldn’t take my mom’s complaining anymore so my family and I stopped at a motel. We all hurried inside with our luggage. The concierge was very welcoming. While my mom and sisters helped the concierge bring in the luggage, my dad and I checked in. When we got to our room, we slumped down into a chair or bed and fell asleep.
The next morning we woke up as early as a bird and headed out. The blizzard wasn’t as bad as yesterday. My dad told me we had 70 miles to go. My sisters would not be quiet for one minute talking on their phones. My dad kept giving us heads up warnings of when we were getting closer to our grandparent’s house.
Finally we got to our grandparent’s house, but all the lights were out. Yet there was whispering inside. I was baffled. When we knocked on the door, it slowly opened. When we turned on the lights … SURPRISE!!!!!!
My aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents had surprised us. My parents, my sisters, and I were very surprised. We all had a big celebration. That night it was hard for me to sleep, so I crept downstairs to get a glass of milk. I went in the living room with my camera so if I saw Santa I’d take a shot.
Right there and then I saw Santa. So I said, “Hey, Santa, say cheese.” Santa turned around just in time to get a perfect picture that I’ll remember forever.
Santa sighed and went up the chimney because he already finished that stop. That morning I was going to show all of my family my photo, but it had disappeared and it was never found again.
The End… or is it?!
by Patrick Rambousek, John Sigwarth, and Liliana Marrero-O'Hea.
From Ms. Paula White’s Fourth Grade Class at Our Lady of Guadalupe
Book 1: Volume 1: Santa Happy X-mas
Panel 1: One night on X-mas
Panel 2: There was a boy who wanted to see Santa so bad.
Panel 3: But he didn't notice him until…
Panel 4: He heard something come down the chimney!
Panel 5: And then he saw Santa coming! He had millions of presents!
Panel 6: It was so amazing to finally meet him
Panel 7: There were so many presents!
Panel 8: And they all lived happily ever after. The End
Book 2: Volume 1: Santa Returns – Jeans
Panel 1: One night he heard it... “What?” CLANK BOOM!!
Panel 2: It was Santa again.
Panel 3: He ran downstairs as fast as he could.
Panel 4: Santa?
Panel 5: “Santa why are your Jeans on fire?”
Panel 6: “Because I'm smoking in them.”
Panel 7: “Is that why they’re on fire?” “Ahhh Ahhh!!”
Panel 8: “Well bye-bye, son.” The End… Ahhh!
Book 3: Volume 1: Northpole
Panel 1: Santa Returned one night
Panel 2: Santa said "Would you like a ride?"
Panel 3: The boy offered to go.
Panel 4: And they arrived at the Northpole.
Panel 5: "Wow it's huge!"
Panel 6: "It's even huger inside."
Panel 7: "This is the presents!"
Panel 8: And then they went home. The End
Book 4: Volume 1:
Panel 1: Mom come on!
Panel 2: Coal!?
Panel 3: “1-800 Santa service. Hello. There’s a bunch of coal and I have not been bad.”
Panel 5: There it is
Panel 6: But where is he
Panel 7: There he is…. Kapoo!
Panel 8: And they live happily ever after. The End
Book 5: Volume 1: Santa Gets Sick
Panel 1: One night Santa and his elves were working
Panel 2: One of Santa's elves went to see how Santa was doing.
Panel 3: “How are you… ”... Ahhchoo
Panel 4: …Feeling?” “Not so good.”
Panel 5: “We can tell. You have been sneezing all night.”
Panel 6: “We'll need to find someone else to deliver the presents.”
Panel 7: “No! You don't need to find anyone else.”
Panel 8: “I'll be better by the time we need to deliver the presents.”
Panel 9: “Time to Deliver the Presents”
Panel 10: “Ok you need to find someone else.”
Panel 11: “It's too late, sir. Christmas is ruined”
Panel 12: “Noooooooo!” The End
Book 6: Volume 1: Christmas Nightmare
Panel 1: One night on X-mas everything went wrong!
Panel 2: Coal! “What?”
Panel 3: "Is this happening again."
Panel 4: "Hello 1-800 Santa service it happened again!"
Panel 6: "Ha ha ha" "Christmas is mine!"
Panel 7: "Hey stop that." Darth man
Panel 8: "Snowball" "Argh"
Panel 9: "Yeah!"
Panel 10: Christmas is saved!
Panel 11: Wah?
Panel 12: The End?
Book 7: Volume 2: Christmas Comics!
Panel 1: for now on I’m going on a diet.
Panel 2: ZZZ!
Panel 3: dan dadla!
Panel 4: “Hello sir would you like a cookie?”
Panel 5: “No!!!”
Panel 6: Maybe just one?
Panel 7: Christmas night! “I’m going back on…”
Panel 8: boom! the end
The X-Mas Horror
by Michael Bodnar
One Christmas Eve night, on the outskirts of Great Britain, there was an old abandon house. There was nobody there of course. All of a sudden there was a huge explosion and when the smoke cleared out came a little doll. This was a normal doll of the time. The explosion woke up everyone in the town.
The townspeople came and saw the doll in the middle of the wreckage with no damage, just bright red eyes. The townspeople got worried and got the priest to do a cleansing on the doll. After that was over the townspeople went home. But what the townspeople did not know was that the cleansing did not work because the devil himself had possessed the doll.
The next day the priest woke up like normal. Then he saw scratch marks on his arm. So he looked around and saw the doll smiling and sitting in a chair with a knife. The priest ran out the door and told everyone in town that the doll was in his bedroom.
After that all of the townspeople went to the house with torches and set the house on fire. They all watched it burn for an hour or so. People started to leave and continue on with their day like normal. After all, it was Christmas day.
But after the house stopped burning, the doll was sitting in the same chair as before. It was still smiling and still had a knife. All of the townspeople came and saw this and they were amazed that it had no scratches, burn marks, or any missing pieces.
The doll sat there all day and all night. Then there was a high-pitched scream that woke everyone up. The people went to the house and saw the doll sitting there and a lady was dead.
Day by day more and more people fell victim to the doll. The people started to get sick of the doll, so they got the priest. The priest got an ancient book from the church and went to the doll. He said an ancient blessing and then the doll exploded and then it was over.
The Best Hot Chocolate
by Colin Kintzinger
Once upon a time there was a man named Jim. One day Jim was watching TV and he saw a commercial saying, “Come get the best hot chocolate in the world only sold in Portugal.”
So Jim got online and bought a plane ticket and went to Portugal. After Jim got off the plane he went and got some coffee, but Jim did not like it. So Jim went to the factory where the best hot chocolate was being shipped and there were about three million people there. Jim started playing on his phone for about three hours. Then all the people formed a line and Jim was in the middle. When Jim finally got to the front of the line, the man said that they were all out.
Jim said, “This was a waste of money.”
Jim got back on the plane back to California. But just when Jim thought that he would never get any of the best hot chocolate, he saw another shipment of the best hot chocolate in the world. Jim told everyone, “There is more of the best hot chocolate.”
Jim parachuted out the window so he could get some of the best hot chocolate in the world and he did. Then Jim saw that there was the best coffee in the world. So it all happened all over again and he was stuck in Portugal.
Then Jim said, “I am going to miss Christmas.”
But Jim was wrong.
The Portuguese police came and said, “We need you to get out of this country right now or if you want to stay you will have to give us the hot chocolate and coffee. The best chocolate and coffee!”
So Jim went back to California to his family and to his work. Jim swore that he would take his family to Portugal. But he did not know that he was banned from Portugal because of what had happened on Christmas and he lived happily ever after.
Christmas Horror at School
by Ella Culbertson
My class was coming in from recess and there was a lot of snow out there. We come in and there are no teachers, just an empty hallway. I thought they were in the bathroom but they’re not. I go and see if anyone was in the office, but no teacher was in there or in any rooms or outside. No classes were in their classrooms, but then I go to check the Kindergarteners, just in case. Then I found then in the corner all together. I got them all and we went up to my classroom. There was food and drinks there. Sooooo we all dug in. My friends and I went and got the TV from Miss Mangos’ room. I had a movie in my book-bag because it was pj day and it was the movie The Polar Express. It is one of my favorite Christmas movies. I always watch it on Christmas Eve. We all got comfy with blankets and all. Lucy and her friends sat together. Sam and Kaiden found another TV in Mr. Gonzalez’s class. Sam had a horror movie in his book-bag.
My class went in the art room. I went and got the popcorn. In the middle of the movie it was snowing in the movie and zombies came out. We all were so scared. We all wanted to go and watch The Polar Express. Then we all went out and there were classes and teachers of zombies. We all went back in and got books, desks, and the big tables. We got in the room and locked the door behind us. Then it was very quiet and I said, “Does it seem quiet to you?”
Then we all said, “Diego.”
After that we all tried to find Diego. But no sign of him. We all sat down and watched The Polar Express with the little kids. I was so tired I fell asleep, because I could not fall asleep last night because my sister had a party all night. It was so loud!
When I woke up, no one was in the room. Then I heard a voice and it said “Ella! Ella! Ella!” So I woke up and it was Lucy saying my name. I saw that the movie was almost over. Then we all heard a big smash. I look outside the room. The zombies were trying to get in with a bunch of hammers and other stuff that will give you nightmares. We all grabbed something strong or heavy.
My class took down those zombies like they were pencils. Then all of the zombies were on the ground. We all celebrated and had a fun party at school. Then the bell went off we all were sad but at the same time happy because we were done with that and we had fun doing it. But we got a little scared in the whole thing.
by Katie Cushman
The smell of hot chocolate is in the air, that means the best time is near.
The lights are up on houses, that means the bright time is near.
The gifts are being wrapped up tight, that means the giving time is near.
The carols are being sung, that means the joyful time is near.
But that’s not the real reason for Christmas.
The real reason for Christmas is not the hot chocolate
or the lights on the houses
not even the gifts or carols.
It is Jesus’s birthday that we celebrate at Christmastime.
It is the best time, brightest time, the time to give, and a joyful time too.
A Christmas to Remember
by Evelyn Blakeman and Anna Sigwarth
Part One - Prologue
Hi! I’m Poppy. Today we will learn about the tragic yet happy story of the miracle twins. It all started with a terrible fight. Mr. and Mrs. Claus had just found out they were having twin girls and they were not thrilled. The sad part is the twins cannot live together because of their powers. Their powers were too strong to be together. Mr. and Mrs. Claus decided that as soon as the twins were born, Mrs. Claus would take one to the city and the other would stay with Santa in the North Pole. When the girls were born they named the brunette, Mistletoe and the dirty blonde, Chrysanthemum. They called Mistletoe, Missy, and Chrysanthemum, Christy.
“Did you see Missy today?” said Marsaidy, the daughter of Hades. “She fell like flat on her face.”
“She looked like a smooshed pancake,” said the daughter of the Mad Hatter, Maddie.
“Because you tripped her,” Christy said.
“How dare you sass me,” said Marsaidy, “Everyone loves me because my mom is rich.”
“I don’t, and who cares if you’re rich.”
All of the girls raised their hands at the table, except Christy. Marsaidy had a smiley grin when this happened. Christy just got up and sat at the table where Missy was sitting. This was a start of a new friendship.
To be continued….
A Christmas Carol
by Kaiden Knockel
Once upon a time there was a family of five who lived in a small town. The mom had no job and their dad worked at a mill that had very little money. So the two sons were shoe shiners. The only daughter, who was only six years old, had to help her mom. The family lived in a small cottage in Vermont. In 1902, there were a lot of people who had no job, so the Philip family was very lucky.
One day the two boys had to go get firewood for the winter. When they reached a tree that was a decent size, they had to go and ask their mom if it was okay. Mom said it was an okay size to cut down. When they were done they had to bring it to their dad’s mill so he could cut it down into smaller pieces.
While the boys were at the mill, the mom and the daughter were cooking a big turkey for Christmas night. The relatives always bring different goodies to eat so mom pretty much cooks the biggest meal. For Christmas the grandparents always give a piece of chocolate for the two boys and the girl.
Once dad was done cutting the wood, the two boys went back to the shed and started to stack the wood one by one. John said, “I'm tired, can I have break?”
Christopher replied, “No.”
So the boys went back to work. After they were done, their hands had calluses and hurt so much they were bleeding.
Once everyone was finally done they all went back to the house and had something for dinner.
The next day, early in the morning after everyone was up, mom and dad announce that they are going to have Christmas at their house this year. Mom said, “It’s been awhile since we've had a Christmas at our house. So we all need to help clean.”
John and Christopher went to find a Christmas tree. While the boys were cutting down the tree, Mom and Lucy were cleaning the house and getting Christmas ornaments for tonight.
Soon Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Jill, and Uncle Jason were here. Mom brought out a big turkey, mashed potatoes, and corn. Once everyone was sitting at the dinner table, Mom said, “Ok, let’s pray.”
After they prayed, John said, “Let’s dig in.”
After dinner Grandma said, “I have something for you children,” and she brought out a silver coin.
Grandma said, “I got this from my grandma when I was your age on Christmas, so I'm going give it to you.”
John, Christopher, and Lucy said, “WOW, thank you so much.”
Mom and Dad looked at the Christmas tree for a while and then walked over where the kids were standing and said, “Time for bed.”
In the morning Lucy was the first one up. Lucy immediately went down stairs and she saw a whole bunch of presents. She ran upstairs and shook John and Christopher and said, “Come downstairs quick. Santa came.”
So John, Christopher, and Lucy went downstairs and saw all the presents.
Christopher ran upstairs and woke up mom and dad up and they came downstairs. Mom said, “Wow, you must have been good this year.”
Lucy said, “Yeah, I was good.”
A Christmas that Heals a Person’s Heart
by Isabella Milam
One day there was a boy who had a dog. They lived on the street and their family abandoned them. Every day was a struggle to find food for him and his dog. Every day he walked by the same place.
Once when he was walking, this enormous dog chased them until they got to this creepy house. The dog that was chasing them stopped and started whimpering. Then he realized that he had this huge cut going down his knee. So they ran to the creepy old house and knocked on the door. This beautiful lady said, “Oh, look at that knee. Come inside.”
“Okay,” said the boy.
When he walked inside the house it didn't look creepy, it looked beautiful. When they walked into the kitchen she gave him a bandage and he put it on his knee. She asked him if he would like to stay for a while. He didn't know what to say so he said, “I would be delighted.”
They talked awhile. She said, “I see you pass by my store every day. My store is the one that is called A Sunny Day in Paris, but I think I should change the name in the winter.”
“Yes, I have.”
“One last question. Why aren't you in school?”
“Well . . .” and that is when he told his story.
After that he said, “It is time I should be leaving.”
“Would you like to stay for lunch?”
“No, I better be going.”
“No, please stay. I don't think you have anywhere else to go do you.”
“No, and thank you,” he said.
So they ate. He said, “I must go find a park bench.”
She said, “Okay,” in a sad tone, “See you tomorrow.”
That night she called the adopting service and said, “I would like to adopt a kid from the street.”
The lady on the phone said, “Go to your nearby police station with the kid and they will do the paperwork for you and then you will be able to bring him home.”
“He has a dog. Would I be able to adopt the dog too?” she asked.
“Of course,” the lady on the phone said.
The next day she found the boy and said, “Come with me.”
When they were at the police office she told him that she was adopting him.
After all that they all had the best Christmas ever.
A Christmas Wish
by Kylee Mitwede
Charlie got up in the morning with the best mood ever! It was because the next day it will be Christmas and he knew today is the best day of the year. Charlie got his clothes on and went downstairs to do what he always did when it was the day before Christmas.
“Mom, what did you get me? What did you get me?!”
“Why do you need to know? It’s only the day before Christmas!” said Charlie’s Mother.
Then for the first time Charlie slid and clung to her leg.
“This won’t help,” said Charlie’s Mother, “You better get off my leg or you’ll miss the bus!”
Charlie got up and walked away. So far he hates school because he has gotten twelve responsibility slips.
Charlie walked out of the house and got on the bus.
After lunch Charlie got to go to his favorite teacher, Miss White, she taught science and social studies.
Then, for the first time in five years, there was a new kid. He had brown hair and had nerdy glasses. Miss White said that his name was Bob.
Charlie’s friend Chris said, “Did you know that the new kid is broke and that he never got a Christmas present?”
“I never knew that!” said Charlie.
At Charlie’s old school (and his school before that) he always bullied the new kid. But this time, he did not want to bully him, he actually wanted to help him. So he made a plan.
His mom and he were on the Christmas committee every year, it helped give presents to children in need. Charlie never liked it until now.
Every Christmas he saw the new kid at the festival, but he was never picked. Every year the same kid was picked. Then after the kid got the prize that he won, he tipped Charlie for it. It was a twenty-dollar bill. Charlie usually would put it in his bank account, but this time he knew what he was going to do with it.
At the Christmas festival, the same kid won and Charlie got another twenty dollar bill, like always.
“Oh, let me guess! Was it, that you jumped in the snow and found the money!” said Mom, “No, no! It was in the alligators mouth, right, was it, was it?”
“No, but can I go to the store, please?!” said Charlie.
“Fine, but come back in ten minutes or I will be very mad, ok?” said Mom.
“I got it, but do you think you can drop me off so I will have enough time to look around and pick something out?” said Charlie.
“Sorry Charlie, but I have to help clean up, you know that, you’ve helped me before,” said Charlie’s Mother.
“I know,” said Charlie. Charlie thought to himself, I hope I get to the nearest store before it closes.
Seven minutes later. “Oh, no! I only have three more minutes left until my Mom gets here!” Charlie whispered to himself when he walked through the door of the toy store.
It took him two minutes to get an idea and pick out a toy. It was a tiny baby dolphin mini-figure. He thought that Bob was so nice that he was like the elegant baby dolphin. It was because a baby dolphin can get mixed up and Bobby can too, but only when he’s confused.
Then to Charlie’s surprise, Bobby walked through the door, but was walking sadly. Charlie checked out, went up to Bobby and said, “I got something for you!”
Bobby was so surprised when he saw the baby dolphin that he started to drool! Bobby said in a very fast voice, “Did you know that is the last baby dolphin with a star on the top!”
“I did not know that!” said Charlie
“You just made my day because that will complete my collection!” said Bobby, “You're the BOOM!!!!”
by Diego Mejia Moreno
One night, just before Christmas, Santa Claus was in a hurry to get the toys done and delivered.
Meanwhile in Dubuque, IA, the Johnsons were celebrating. There was mom, dad, Nickie, and her brother Max. They were both 11.
Max asked Dad, “Did you get us any presents?”
Dad responded, “Sorry son, we can't afford any presents this year since the company shut down. I guess you guys will have to write Santa a letter.”
Max told Nickie, “Let’s get to work.”
Meanwhile in the North Pole, Santa was in a hurry. Santa asked Jingles, “How are we doing on the presents?”
Jingles responded, “We’re almost done, sir.” Jingles is Santa’s right-hand elf.
In Dubuque, Nickie and Max are done with their letters.
Max asked Mom, “Can we go to the diner to get some food and send our letters to the North Pole?”
Mom said, “Sure, you can go and get Dad and me some food.”
On their way to the diner, Max and Nickie spotted a mailbox. After they put their letters in the mailbox and got some food at the diner, they headed home. While on their way home they heard a, “Ho, ho, ho.”
Max said, “It’s Santa.”
They both ran to the red sleigh. They also saw Rudolph and the big bag full of presents. Max started to count the reindeer. All of them were there. Nickie helped Santa out his sleigh. He was chubby and he had a long, long beard.
Santa asked Nickie and Max, “Can you kids help me deliver these toys?”
Max and Nickie said, “Yes we can, Santa.”
Then Santa pulled them into the sleigh and the reindeer took off. They were going really fast. Santa was going down the chimney and out the door in less than a minute. Max and Nickie also helped Santa by giving him the gifts. Finally the last house, but when Santa tried to go down the chimney he got stuck. Nickie had to push him down and Max had to pull.
Santa’s two new helpers saved the day.
A Christmas Story
by Caroline Slaght
The Christmas tree is up, the music is playing. The kids (Lucy, Leah, and Lauren) could not wait for Christmas. They just got their stockings from St. Nick. They are all stuffing their face with candy.
Lucy said, “Lauren don’t you love all of this candy? Guess what's in 19 days?”
“Obviously my favorite holiday, Christmas,” says Lauren.
Mom says, “What do you guys think you'll get more of, candy or presents?”
Leah says, “Uhh, I think candy.”
Lucy says “Are you nuts? It's Christmas! Obviously we’re going to get more presents.” All the kids were thinking about Christmas presents and candy.
One week later. “O.M.G. 12 more days until Christmas. Can’t wait!” Lucy said.
“Oh my gosh, I’m so excited. I love candy!” said Leah.
One week later. “I’m almost done with my Christmas list,” said Leah.
“Me too,” said Lucy.
“I was done like 20 minutes ago. All I want is an iPhone. I hope you heard that mom.”
Four days later, Mom said, “Can't you wait for Christmas tomorrow? You guys will have to go to bed earlier than usual because if you stay up late Santa won't come.”
“Okay,” said Lucy.
Mom said, “I'm at least expecting you ion bed by 10 o’clock.”
“Yes, later than usual,” said Lauren. “Oh, wait, mom, don't we have that one party at Aunt Mary's house?”
“Yeah, but we won't be going until 4:00 because dad has to work till 3:30.”
“Yea!” said Lucy, “I can’t wait to see baby Corra and Henry.”
“Yeah me too,” said Lauren.
Four hours had passed when Mom said, “Get in the car. Time to go. Dad’s here.”
Dad asks, “Is everybody in the car?”
“Alright roll call,” said Lucy, “Lauren?”
“Lucy? I’m here. Leah? Okay I’ll go get her.”
On they go to the party at Aunt Mary's house. They got to the party and put their food out. Right away Lucy grabbed Henry. They played for quite a long time but sooner or later Lucy put Henry to sleep so Corra and Henry had to leave him alone.
Lucy, Lauren, and Leah were so bored they fell asleep watching The Christmas Story. Soon they had to go home. They left at about 9:45 and they got home at like 10:05. All three went right to bed. All they were thinking about before they went to bed was Christmas.
At around midnight, Lucy and Lauren both woke up at the same time. They heard something but were too tired to check.
Seven hours later they all woke up. Lucy ran downstairs into her mom and dad’s bedroom saying, “Wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake uuuuup. There are so many presents you don't even know how many there are. Let's go, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon.”
“Okay, gees,” says mom.
They all ran upstairs. They were all ripping open their presents. They each got at least 15 presents from Santa and at least five from their parents.
Mom said, “Name the top present you got from Santa.”
Lucy went first, “Mine is all of my clothes.”
Leah went second, “Mine is everything.”
Lauren went third, “Obviously my iPhone.”
“What was your favorite thing mom?” asked Lauren
“It was watching all of my precious children open their presents and having fun.”
“Thank you for everything. I love you, Mom! I love you, Dad!” they all said
by Claire Walker
All the lights are up, the snow is gleaming, and I can hear the kids laughing and playing! I’m walking downtown to get some presents. While I’m walking I run into my friends Elly and Anna. Every year Elly, Anna, and I go shopping together. We all buy presents for each other, but today I’m going shopping for my family.
I say, “Hi” to them.
They ask, “Can you play?”
Sadly, I have to say no. I keep on walking until I get downtown. I’ve never seen the stores so packed. Every store that I walk into is playing Christmas music.
For my brother I’m thinking a video game. Oh boy, is he going to love it! He is obsessed with anything electronic. For my mom, I got some lovely purple earrings. She loves purple and when I say love I mean LOVE! Oh, and for my dad some toy soldiers! My dad loves toy soldiers. His hobby is making them. I love Christmas time. Dad and I always paint toy soldiers together! For my dog I got a huge bone. It’s shaped like a candy cane.
When I get home, everyone is snuggled around the fire. So I say, “Why don't we go sledding?”
Everyone thought that sounded wonderful. We put on our snow gear and left.
When we got there it was so much fun. Every time we went down the hill our dog would chase us. She was so full of snow she blended in. That’s hard for her because she is black!
We were all cold, so we decided to head back. When we got back, I made some hot cocoa for everyone. We all snuggled up on the couch, and watched a movie!
Adult Christmas Stories
Christmas in a Small Town
by Barbara Barr
As sometimes happened in our little village, young folks went off to the big cities to seek their fortune, children came along, were an inconvenience, and were sent home to parents or grandparents, or in our neighbor’s case, an elderly uncle. He was a kind gentle man whose ancestors helped found the village. A valley leading into the town beside the river was even named Glass Hollow, after the prominent family.
So it came to pass that little, three-year-old Vickie was sent to her great-uncle during Christmas vacation. Seems her dad liked her mom, but thought Vicki a bother.
Christmas Eve rolled around, and the parents failed to retrieve Vicki as promised, so she and Uncle Phillip attended Christmas Eve services with our family at our church. It was the traditional affair with the Sunday school kids re-enacting the manager scene. Three boys in bathrobes with dishtowels around their heads were shepherds, an angel warbled away, a crude cradle with a doll was front and center, and Mary and Joseph lurked nearby. Then a new wrinkle was added to the manager scene: a little white goat was led in dropping its little poop marbles which were hastily picked up by a prepared shepherd equipped with a plastic bag and paper towels.
We were all singing “Silent Night,” when suddenly the big double doors blew open with a gust of snowy cold air. The tall-to-the-ceiling pipe organ whumped up the volume to “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” and in walked three kings in silk robes and gorgeous glittering crowns. They walked regally down the aisle bearing gifts from afar, and they sang in big, baritone voices right up to the twelve-foot Christmas tree whose lights were the only ones on.
A magical moment in time!
Not a Santa, but the kings dispersed wrapped gifts from under the tree to the children who were all seated in the front pews. When the lights came on, a little girl beside Vicki realized Uncle Phillip would not have known to bring a gift for her as other parents had for their children. Without a word spoken, she gave her gift to Vicki then proceeded to help her open it. It was a gorgeous doll with a soft body, porcelain face, and blond curls like Vicki’s.
Not only the three kings, but the blessed Three-in-One were surely present at this most holy of nights.
A Christmas Mistake
by Jan Bosman
After Christmas in 1949, my parents, sister and I were invited to visit a distant cousin in Sterling, IL. I was ten. On the trip from our small farm near Orfordville, WI, my parents emphasized that Cousin Mabel and her family were poor. We certainly were not rich, as I discovered many years later when I roomed with a girl from Whitefish Bay, WI. My family’s idea of going out to dinner was to pick up a sandwich at the Cozy Corner, a ma-and-pa restaurant. Her family’s idea was a country club soiree.
But, when my parents explained that our several-times-removed cousins were quite poor, they dwelled on the fact. We even took some oatmeal cookies and a frosted chocolate cake with us so as not to inconvenience them by our visit.
When we arrived at this under-heated upstairs apartment with bare floors and spare furnishings, I understood what my parents meant (as much as a ten-year-old could) by “poor.” I think Mabel had diabetes as well, an ailment ill-understood in those days with treatment below par. So, the family had some challenges, but they welcomed us warmly into their very common home. The adults quickly settled into the front room for some conversation or a game of Five Hundred while my sister and I moved with the children into an adjacent bedroom.
I remember vividly that the three children showed my sister and me the new record player they had gotten for Christmas as well as a couple of 45 rpm records. They could have been from The Nutcracker Suite; I don’t remember clearly, but one of the children pointed out that the new vinyl records were unbreakable. That was astounding news because the old 33 1/3rds had to be handled with care; they were made from a shellac compound and easily broken. My family had a bunch of those at home and an old record player that played “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette” and some other classy Spike Jones numbers.
We children listened to the records for a while, and then everyone left the room except me. Why I didn’t leave at the same time, I don’t know (maybe I had to use the chamber pot). Anyway, my distant cousins and my sister closed the door. I stayed behind.
“Hum-m-m,” I thought. “So those new records are unbreakable.”
I’ve always considered myself a bit of a “goody two-shoes,” and, certainly, an honest person; but not that night. While everyone else was out of the room, I picked up one of those small records and tested it by dropping it flat on the floor. It didn’t break. I picked it up again and held it, perpendicular to the hardwood floor, between two fingers. Then, I threw it as hard as I could on its edge. This time some pieces broke off from the rim of that small, new 45!
I knew I had made a horrible mistake. I suddenly realized that “unbreakable” was either a salesman’s gimmick or a relative term. Panicked, I picked up the pieces and dropped them into the bottom of a wastebasket in that bedroom, covered them with the trash already in there, and walked out of the room to join the rest of the group.
I never told anyone until now.
I’m not sad that I found out for myself, at a young age, that what people tell us is true often is not. And I have continued to be a questioner all my life. Yet I do feel guilty that I destroyed a very cool new gift that those kids got for Christmas in 1949. And the fact that I remember that specific incident – after more than 60 years – really causes me to reflect on the power of guilt.
by William Dall
Silver ships scud across the frozen skies
disguised as snow clouds in December haze.
Inside occur experiments in crystallization
which mankind’s brain could never conceive.
Alien particles – billions, each structurally unalike,
drift through moonless silence down to Earth.
I stand in dusk-light and witness this tranquil invasion.
In watery disguises they land everywhere –
on me, my boots, on the pines guarding this hillside.
Those that alight on my face, I drink into my body,
almost incognizant that their atoms and mine
will mingle, chemically combine, become as one.
And I am transformed! Not a gradual metamorphosis –
my spirit is captured all at once. They do not
come to snatch me away; they come bearing gifts:
intense beauty, the awe of joyous appreciation.
We humans may be the descendants of stardust –
yet, I am certain that I am also born of Snowflakes.
“I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas …”
by Allan Ede
All of my six kids and their families live in Chicago suburbs. For the past five years, we have been meeting in the Galena Territories to celebrate Christmas. We rent two houses for two or three nights. With my children, their spouses, and ten grandchildren, we really need both houses. This year we will gather together on December 19-21. Every year we worry about the weather hoping it will cooperate so that everyone arrives and gets safely back home. Like most Midwesterners, we wish for a white Christmas, and sometimes we are more than satisfied. Three years ago, as we were driving through the Territories to our destination, Mary Jo and I both acknowledged how bleak the woods looked. No prospects for a white Christmas. No snow predicted for that weekend. Well, we thought, we’ll just have to enjoy Christmas without the white stuff.
We celebrated late that Friday night, eating, drinking, playing euchre, bingo, pool, and listening to our favorite Christmas tunes. Oh, yes! A good time was had by all. But wait! That’s not all! (sounds like a TV commercial, right?) But guess what! The next morning all of us looked out our windows to gawk at a most picturesque scene. About three inches of snow covered the ground, making the otherwise bleak woods beautiful. And heaven forbid! I’m not making this up. Out of the woods, a family of deer trailing one another made the postcard scene complete. The momma, the papa, and three baby deer pranced across our property. I can still hear the squeals of delight coming from not only the children but also from the adults, including me. We could not have envisioned a more pleasant scene. It truly uplifted our spirits for the rest of our stay.
What is even more remarkable about our experience is that not many people outside our region enjoyed any snowfall. Only a slim narrow band of snow across our area was reported. The city of Galena showed no signs of snow. When I was telling a group of my friends in Dubuque about our white Christmas, they all exclaimed almost in unison, “Yeah, right, Ede, just another one of your make-believe stories!” Well, we had pictures to prove it.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
My Inner Scrooge
by Katherine Fischer
"I've been done since September," my friend boasts about her Christmas shopping. Discovering that I've not yet even begun, she offers to case out the stores for me, "I love shopping!" Her name is Martha. Really.
Resisting the tendency for present-buying to become a check-off list of annoying duties, I insist that gift-giving be meaningful. What's more, I'm committed to buying from local stores whenever possible. Wanting, too, to avoid the proliferation of useless stuff for friends and family, my list of options grows slimmer as Santa grows fatter.
Too conscientious about having the right spirit in which to shop, it takes everything I can muster to avoid reverting to my inner Scrooge.
Steeling myself for the yearly retail adventure, I whistle Tom Paxton's tune with its whirring, zipping, and bopping "Marvelous Toy." The last line of the song, however, strikes terror in my holiday heart, "I never knew just what it [the toy] was and I guess I never will." Not only must gifts be meaningful, but the Ghost of Past Christmas Gifts haunts me. What if I buy a really wrong gift?
What if on Christmas morning the red-headed recipient opens the orange mustard sweater from me and grimaces through her gritted teeth, "Oh, it's JUST what I wanted!"
Tops on my list of worst Yuletide gifts are those given by a friend's husband. One year he gave her a vacuum cleaner. The next he tried to redeem himself by giving her a tawdry, black and red shorty negligee. Even worse, it was size XXL. Worried that this year he'll buy her wrinkle cream or a Weight Watchers membership, I've offered to advise him.
Always a promoter of women in business, my own father gave me a leather attaché case the Christmas I was 16. "You're old enough to think about the corporate world." He thought he was bolstering my ego, I'm sure. Little did he know I'd been hoping for a moped.
When it comes to toy presents, I am frequently reminded of Herbie, the misfit elf in the animated movie, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He wants only to be a dentist. His toys, as a result, have more molar than amusement to them. Anyone who'd create toys fashioned after war implements should definitely consider another line of work (although not dentistry, please).
Remember Gaylord the battery-operated dog whose ads proclaimed, "He acts kinda crazy, walks kinda lazy?" Going one better than Betsy Wetsy there was also Baby PoopsAlot. Fed special food, she "performed." Happily, Baby PoopsAlot was pulled off the shelves after the first season. She suffered a techno-intestinal glitch which caused her food to back up.
Not to be outdone by my dad, my husband and I have given our own children most of their least favorite presents. First there was Fort Apache. By that Christmas afternoon several years ago, my husband sat patiently with son Jason teaching him a more informed sort of play than Fort Apache's originator had ever dreamed. The cow-persons and the Native Americans joined inside the fort and bowled one another over with a ping-pong ball. Ten-month old Jason demonstrated his avid interest by sucking on his toes.
Another year everything we gave three-year old James resulted in the same response. He tore into each package and then dashed it to the floor scoffing, "It's NOT Leggos!"
Just ask all five of our kids. Their list of worst gifts ever includes every educational toy we ever gave them: the S'Math game, pens attached to writing tablets, Phonics Freddy, and "the Un-Game" which encouraged "players to compliment one another and move beyond competition."
Chemistry sets and bows and arrows fall into this category – unless you’re giving them to someone else’s kids. Miniature tape recorders might seem like a novel idea except if it’s for pre-teen boys prone to spying on older siblings. And trikes. I know, bicycles are the time-honored perfect kid gift in everyone’s home movies. TV commercials abound with six-year-olds hopping on shiny new Schwinns. But the year my little brother Charlie received a trike, he barely got a ride. Dad hopped on the trike “to show him how” and ended up pedaling around the dining room table for an hour to everyone’s hilarity – except Charlie’s.
Tragic are those gifts that start out well but go awry. O'Henry got away with the fiction of a wife who sells her hair to a wig-maker in order to buy a watch bob for her husband. He, we discover, has sold his watch to buy a set of jeweled hair combs for her. In real life, most of us aren't that lucky. Circumstances over which we have no control can ruin our otherwise perfect gifts.
One year my parents gave each of the eleven of us something electronic – transistor radios, record players, hair dryers, plug-in remote cars. For an hour, the house buzzed, but when the biggest snowstorm of the past three decades hit that afternoon, the lights went out. Noel transmuted into No-electricity in the Fischer household.
Paradoxically, the most difficult person for me to select a gift for is he who is closest to me. It's not that my husband has everything. The problem is that he's exceptionally non-materialistic. True, he loves food and he is a vegetarian who doesn't like vegetables. All the same, I think he'd be offended if I signed him up for the Starch of the Month Club.
Do you suppose Theisen's has a leftover Fort Apache set in the back room?
Fischer is an award-winning author and Professor of English Emerita at Clarke University. Her books include Dreaming the Mississippi, That’s Our Story and We’re Sticking To It, and Writing the Right Way. Her email address is Katherine.email@example.com.
Child of Mammon
by Rob Gomoll
“Today you are a man!” said his father, but the twenty-one-year-old could barely hear him. His father was calling from somewhere in China. The young man rarely saw his father. Today it’s China; tomorrow it may be Mexico. It was all about the global economy and outsourcing, not about jobs, food, mortgages, or health care for U.S. citizens. “Eddie, are you there? Are you in your room?”
“Look out your window. In the driveway. The keys are in it.” On the driveway below was a new glacier white Corvette. “I had the dealer drop it off. Sort of a combination birthday-Christmas present. Like it?”
“Yeah, Dad, I do. I… ”
“I have to go. Happy birthday, Eddie! Wish I could be there.” The phone went silent. Ed – he hated the name “Eddie” – sighed, threw the phone on his bed and finished dressing. A fifteen-speed bike, a motorcycle, it was always the same: a big-ticket item to salve his father’s conscience.
His mother was also absent. She reminded him of those women on that Housewives reality TV show. She was always visiting some exclusive spa that advertised the latest fountain of youth. Today she was getting her body kneaded by the tanned and well-muscled Raoul. Last year on his birthday, she booked him on a flight to meet her on some small island in the Mediterranean. He’d probably hear from her soon, too.
He lit his first joint of the day, held in the smoke and expelled it loudly into his reflection in the mirror. With a sigh of ennui, he descended the staircase, his footsteps echoing in the large, empty room, and walked to the driveway. There sat the long, low Corvette. It was so white it hurt his eyes… or was it the effects of the marijuana? He opened the door and folded his lanky frame into the low-slung sports car. It took him a few minutes to figure out all the technical goodies then he pushed the start button. The ‘Vette had an eight-speed automatic transmission. It could go from zero to sixty in under five seconds! He revved the engine and did some mental math. This propitiatory gift had to cost over fifty grand. He put another joint between his lips and fumbled for his lighter.
He took the on-ramp to the Interstate. “Let’s see what she can do.” He downshifted and accelerated to 100. He shifted to sixth… 120. Seventh… 140. Top gear… 160… 170…175… The scenery was a blur. He missed seeing the “Lane Closed” sign; and when he tried to take the exit ramp, his car hit the shoulder and became airborne. The THC in his system inhibited his brain from fully comprehending his situation. All he felt was exhilaration until… lights out.
He was transported from a world of luxury to a world of tubes, wires, and beeping machines. He had servants to attend to his every whim; now he had orderlies who would turn him so he wouldn’t get bedsores. The family retainer had proxy and took charge of Ed’s care. He notified the parents who promised to get the next red-eye back to the states; but if he was getting adequate care, there really wasn’t any hurry. After all, he can’t communicate with them now anyway.
When Ed opened his eyes he was in a dingy apartment. He was lying on a lumpy, befouled sofa. He looked up at the cracked ceiling to see water stains. He smelled the aftereffects of a clogged toilet commingled with stale pizza, stale beer, and overripe garbage. His mother’s face showed what smoking crack does to one’s teeth and complexion.
“Can you get your lazy butt off that couch and get us some money? That bastard-father of yours hasn’t been around in a week. Who knows where the hell he is? We just about used up our check on….”
She smacked him so hard his ears rang. He sprang up and stomped out the door, forgetting his coat. It was cold, and people were huddled in doorways and on porches. “Hey, got any money?” someone yelled.
“Yeah, I’m a billionaire.”
A police car drove slowly past, eyeing him. He had no past, no future, and no destination; he just walked. He paused at a church. A sign said, “Christmas Eve Service, 7:00 p.m.” He stopped, shivering, when a tall man touched his arm. “I’m Pastor Jay. Looks like you could use a warm coat.” He was taken downstairs to their “Open Closet” where he tried on coats until one fit. “Now, come to my office. We have a special fund for emergencies.” Without fanfare, he pressed three wrinkled tens into Ed’s hand. “The church on Main serves dinner in a little while. Maybe we’ll see you for church sometime.”
Ed continued on, seeing more people milling around, purposeless. He saw a young woman in the company of three older men all going into a run-down house together. He could only imagine what that was about. “Hey, boy, I’ll pay for some company tonight.” Ed pretended not to hear and walked a bit faster. He turned a corner and ran into a gang of young men all wearing similar hoodies. He was powerless to retreat. The next thing he knew, he was in a mix-master of fists and boots.
“He’s awake! Edward! Edward! Can you hear me? Can you see me? Get the doctor, he’s awake!”
Ed moved his hand, which was attached to several tubes, up to his face. He felt a rough texture. He had grown a beard. He painfully lifted himself up to look in the mirror. He barely recognized himself! Instead of a pampered rich kid, his face had taken on the character of a man.
The doctor entered and spoke calmly and slowly. “You’ve been in a coma for a month now. You were in an accident, but you were very lucky. Your hip is broken and you have had a severe concussion. We had to do a small trepanning to relieve some pressure. After some physical therapy, you’ll be walking… with a cane, of course. Then we’ll see how fast you can heal.” The doctor left, and a nurse entered.
Ed couldn’t shake off that dream where he lived in a dark, dangerous, depressing world.
“Hand me my cell phone, please.”
“We’ve kept it charged for you.”
“Excuse me while I make this call.” He spoke with the family lawyer. They talked a long time.
The next day the lawyer arrived. “You’re sure?” the lawyer asked.
“I’ve never been so sure.”
“He will probably disinherit you and fire me.”
Ed chuckled. “I don’t know if it was the wreck, this beard, or that strange dream I had while I was unconscious, but I feel different… stronger… confident. Free up my trust money, will you?”
“You’re an adult now and entitled to it,” the lawyer said, closing his briefcase.
After a year of legal wrangling and threats from his father who was in India, Ed became part of a consortium of bankers and entrepreneurs who believed that “People Are Our Profits.” They also added realtors who got Federal block grants with matching funds to rehab neighborhoods. “I was always good at Monopoly,” quipped Ed at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
There was a story in the business section of the local paper about a factory reopening, providing jobs for two hundred people. They were guaranteed a living wage, health benefits, and profit-sharing. They would have training programs at the local community college in 3D CAD. Their state-of-the-art machines could turn out just about anything the engineer could dream up, from automotive and aeronautical parts to medical instruments.
His father’s new lawyer informed Ed that he and his mother were divorcing. “When you can pull yourself away, I want to introduce you to a friend,” his mother called from Cabo.
Another Christmas came around. The new-fallen snow made walking difficult. Ed leaned heavily on his cane. He paused in front of that same church. “Join us for Christmas Eve,” said the sign. He heard the choir practicing for tonight’s service, singing about hope, life, and beautiful celestial cities. The night was cold, but this time Ed had a warm coat. Ed went inside and saw a tall man. “Pastor Jay,” called someone and pointed to Ed.
“Can I help you?” asked the pastor, extending his hand.
“Of course, he wouldn’t recognize me. I didn’t have a beard then,” thought Ed. Long ago, he stopped questioning what was reality and what was a dream. “This time maybe I can help you,” Ed replied, taking the pastor’s hand.
The Ice Skates
by Karen Howard
The Kinney Shoe Store in Waterloo, Iowa occupied a storefront on East Fourth Street across from the upscale, five-story Black’s Department Store. The shoe store had two big display windows flanking the entry, each holding the latest 1950s shoe fashions.
While I waited for the city bus to arrive and take me on the half-hour trip to Evansdale, where I lived, I would scour the display of shoes. There, in the far corner – along with those awful zip-up women’s goulashes, trimmed in fake fur that chafed legs above the ankles with raw, red circles – was a pair of white figure-skates.
I was an eleven-year-old girl who longed to possess them. As soon as I spotted those skates, they called my name and I knew I had to have them. My allowance and babysitting money combined would not stretch far enough to make the purchase. Desperate to buy the skates and the fun they promised, I made a bargain with my parents. Dad and Mom would pay half of the price of the ice skates and I would cover the balance. The rest of the bargain was that the ice skates would be my Christmas gift – and they would be my only Christmas gift. The Santa Claus that visited our house was on a nearly nonexistent budget, and I had three other sisters who were expecting Christmas gifts. The bargain was struck.
On Christmas morning, in the wee hours before my parents and sisters stirred, I crept out to the living room. Under our spindly and sparsely decorated Christmas tree were the beautiful white ice skates, with my name on them! And to my surprise, I had another gift – a pair of denim blue jeans with a front zipper. In those days girls were only allowed to wear dresses or skirts to school, but the teenagers on Disney’s The Mouseketeers wore jeans. I was ecstatic and can honestly say it was my best Christmas ever!
I made pom-poms from leftover yarn for my skates, but could not afford to buy the rubber guards to protect the blades. Every afternoon after school, I skated until dark no matter how cold. Often I was in such a rush to get there that I would put my skates on at home and walk all wobbly the three blocks to the Triangle, a useless piece of land across from the Grace Baptist Church at the curve where McCoy Rd. and Sixth St. intersected. The city flooded it each winter, creating a large span of rough ice for skating. The remainder of the year it was fallow and full of sandburs, but during the winter it was a magical place for me. I not only learned to ice skate, I also learned to skate backwards and do figure eights. I played crack-the-whip and occasionally skated with Marvin D. or Bob M. It was a heavenly place for a girl and the beginning of my boy-girl relationships.
The Triangle is now gone, as is the church and the homes of my girlhood friends. Interstate 380 came through Evansdale about thirty years ago, removing all of those landmarks. Though the landmarks no longer exist, they remain vivid in my memory.
Those white ice skates still hang in my garage. The leather is cracked and the blades are dull with rust. I am no longer eleven years old and I no longer ice skate, but those dingy white and rusted skates remain among my most prized possessions. No matter my age, when I see them hanging there, I’m transported back to the Triangle, flying along on the ice, laughing with my friends, carefree, and young again.
A Christmas Break Drive
by Michael Hustedde
I was born in Waterloo, Iowa and with the exception of a year around 1973/74 and four years from 1978 to 1982, I’ve been a resident of the state and thus have experienced plenty of Iowa winters. I remember snowfalls during childhood in which the drifts were literally head-high. As an adult, the snow falls just as heavily, but the drifts don’t seem as deep.
One of my most memorable winters came during my undergraduate years at the University of Northern Iowa. In mid-December 1970, classes were over for the semester and three friends of mine decided that a road trip was in order. One friend had a sister living in Rochester, MN at the time and he wanted to see her as the Christmas holidays were just beginning.
The Saturday morning selected for the trip dawned dry, bright, but cold. Around 8:00 a.m., my three friends pulled up behind my parents’ home in Cedar Falls in a red Ford Mustang. My mother offered the group some hot chocolate to warm us for our trip, after which we set a northerly course on Hwy. 63 with the car’s AM radio tuned to KWWL, Waterloo. We wanted to keep track of any weather warnings and updates on highway conditions. At that time, KWWL was also the only radio station in the area playing music popular with UNI students.
The Mustang flew north past snow-bedecked fields and small, rural towns. As we drove, the brightness of the day dimmed with each passing mile, yet KWWL insisted all was bright and sunny. An hour into our Christmas journey, light flakes were falling, and within another fifteen minutes, our bright and sunny day was downright close to a white out. About this time, the bright bulb in our group suggested that we were close enough to pick up a Rochester AM station. A few twists of the knob took us to a Minnesota station and a weathercaster speaking in measured, but urgent words, about the blizzard coming down out of the northwest.
Perhaps it was the radio report that unnerved our intrepid driver or maybe it was the snow-covered highway, but either way, just as the broadcast returned to some cheery Christmas tune, the light-tailed Mustang started to fishtail violently. We ended up perpendicular to the highway with the rear tires on the shoulder. Fortunately, no other cars were around, and three of us helped to push the driver and his car back onto the highway.
It didn’t take long for the four of us to agree that further northerly progress was out of the question. Following a careful 180 in the middle of the highway, we headed south only a few miles before we found Hwy. 63 closed due to an accident. It could have been us, but it wasn’t. Being bright Iowa kids, we knew that country roads were set on a grid, so we backtracked to the last highway/gravel road intersection and took a left for a mile, then another left to continue south. That first mile was fine, with the snow blowing at an angle across the gravel but not piling up. The second mile (the one going south) proved to be our undoing. The snow was piling in drifts to the top of our wheel wells. We’d gone maybe half a mile when the Mustang met a drift it couldn’t plow through. We were stuck high and freeze-dried. In the 1970s, Iowa farms were more numerous than today and, on getting out of the car, we spied through the blowing snow a farmstead just up the road. The four of us walked to the farmhouse and were greeted by the aroma of baked cinnamon rolls and the sight of a multigenerational farm family gathered around their kitchen table playing cards.
We quickly explained our situation, and the head of the family instructed two of his older sons to take a tractor from a nearby shed to pull the Mustang out of the drift and into the farm lane before the county plow would surely move it into the ditch. Our driver went with the sons while the other three of us were invited to join in the card games (Sheepshead, Eucher, and Pepper) and later to some lunch as we waited for the storm to pass and the plow to open the gravel road.
By late afternoon, we were clear to leave that Iowa farm family whose hospitality certainly set a seasonal standard for four college students. I’ve never again encountered such a roadside emergency, nor forgotten when driving in winter to check on the weather forecasts from where I’m going rather than where I’ve been. To this day I carry a warm memory of Iowa countryside hospitality in blizzard conditions made perhaps a bit warmer by the Christmas season.
"'Peace on Earth' was All It Said"
by John Klauer
The title is a line from a song of the ‘70s called "One Tin Soldier Rides Away," the theme from the movie Billie Jack starring Tom Laughlin. It seemed appropriate to use it on this story because I want to bring your attention to a Christmas when peace won out over war, however briefly.
One hundred years ago, in 1914, World War I was only a few months old when Christmas approached. Fighting was fierce and casualties on both sides of the line were heavy.
The conflict had started on June 28 of that year when a 19-year-old Bosnian Serb named Gavrilo Princip shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife Sophia of the Austro-Hungarian Empire while they were traveling in a motorcade through the streets of Sarajevo. (Gavrilo Princip was and still is seen as a hero to his people.)
Austria, of course, was incensed and wanted blood. It declared war on Serbia. Unfortunately, Europe was a hodge-podge, mish-mash of alliances which then came into play. Germany was allied with Austria so der vaterland entered the war; Russia was allied with Serbia so Mother Russia got involved; France was allied with Russia so La belle Francais, still upset and wanting revenge against Germany anyway for France's defeat by Germany in the Franco-Prussian War (July 19, 1870-May 10, 1871), got involved; England and France had been fighting each other for hundreds of years, but had formed an alliance a few years before, so all these countries were drawn into a conflict that should have been settled over a couple snifters of brandy and some good cigars.
Germany, at that time, probably had the best equipped and best trained army in Europe – possibly the world – and went on the offensive, using every weapon they had available. Most of the armies had the same weapons and they all used them. After all, generals of that time understood that the purpose of war is to kill the enemies' soldiers and break enemies' things before the enemies could do that to you. So you have millions of men up in arms fighting with orders to kill other men with the same orders shooting from trenches, occasionally charging, occasionally retreating, and always trying to kill the enemy. Did I say always? Well, not quite always. There is an old saying which I will now paraphrase: "while the generals are away, the soldiers will play." And so it happened a century ago.
Around Christmastime of 1914, soldiers on both sides of the line started singing Christmas carols which soldiers on the other side would then begin to sing in their own languages. Some of them cut and decorated small trees which were placed on the ground in front of the trenches. White flags of truce were raised and soldiers were allowed in the "no-man's land" between trenches to rescue their wounded and bury their dead. Through the week leading up to Christmas, parties of German and British soldiers began to exchange seasonal greetings and songs between their trenches; on occasion, the tension was reduced to the point that individuals would walk across to talk to their opposite numbers bearing gifts.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many soldiers from both sides, as well as, to a lesser degree, from French units, independently ventured into "no-man's land," where they mingled, exchanging food and souvenirs. Troops from both sides were also friendly enough at times to play games of football (soccer) with one another (in the only such match of which there is a record, the Germans won by one goal).
The non-official truces were often referred to afterward as symbolic moments of peace and humanity in one of the most violent events of human history. It was not uniform in scope; in some places along the front, fighting continued throughout the day, while in others, little more than an arrangement to recover bodies was made.
Common soldiers rarely get to make the decisions that may cost their lives and the lives of their comrades, not to mention the lives of both enemy soldiers and civilians. If they were able to make the rules, war would probably be outlawed as a means of solving problems. The Christmas truce of 1914 was most likely the last time in history when soldiers decided that there really should be peace on Earth, however briefly.
The following year, a few units again arranged ceasefires with their opponents over Christmas, but the truces were not nearly as widespread as in 1914. This was primarily due to strongly worded orders from the high commands of both sides prohibiting such fraternization. After all, fraternization with the enemy is treason, especially in times of war, punishable by court martial, time in the brig, and possibly execution by a firing squad. Given those possibilities as certain rewards for loving your enemies, hate becomes a very attractive alternative.
By 1916, the indescribably bloody battles of the Somme and Verdun had taken place; both sides had begun widespread poison gas use; soldiers on both sides increasingly viewed the other side as less than human, and no more Christmas truces were sought.
In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson broke his pledge to keep us out of war, saying "the world must be made safe for democracy," and US doughboys were sent to Europe to turn the tide. There was a bloody revolution in Russia and Czar Nicholas II was overthrown. He and his entire family were murdered and communists began a 70-year reign of terror throughout much of the world and especially in Eastern Europe and Asia. There was also a much less-heralded revolution in Germany where Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate and flee to exile in Holland and the replacement government sued for peace. As a result, France got revenge by blaming the entire war on Germany, demanding huge reparations – both monetary and territorial – and paved the way 15 years later for Adolph Hitler and World War II. Few people talked about Christmas truces in that conflict or any after that.
Thus it was that war, never a very enlightened undertaking to begin with, lost perhaps the last vestige of civilization after 1914 because some decidedly unenlightened leaders on both sides were afraid the common soldiers might just decide that the men they'd been shooting at and trying to kill weren't their REAL enemies after all.
Old wounds, old hurts, and old rivalries never really die – sometimes remaining for hundreds of years. So it is with the sectionalism and rivalries that caused two shots to be fired at point-blank range on a fine summer day in 1914. In June of 2014, one hundred years after the conflict started, a park and monument were dedicated in East Sarajevo by Nebojsa Radmanovic, the Serb leader in the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is merely the latest in a long series of honors for Serbian "hero" Gavrilo Princip, who fired the shot that led to the deaths of over 10 million soldiers and about 7 million civilians, most of whom have no monuments and never wanted anything except to live in peace.
Merry Christmas everyone! Peace on Earth; good will to men!
A Gift to the Arboretum: Pretty Kitty
by Sue Lemon, Volunteer Coordinator, Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens
Never did I dream the last volunteer of the season would come to us in the form of fluff and bounce… but like Tigger of the acclaimed Winnie the Pooh stories, “Mac the Cat” descended upon us with gentle intrusion.
As the Volunteer Coordinator at the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, I’ve recruited dozens of workers for the gift shop, the gardens, the greenhouse, and other areas within the park. Some volunteers come seeking roles as tour guides, mowers, trimmers, construction workers, electrical workers, plumbers, or landscapers.
In my position, I have the privilege of talking to passionate, generous people; interesting individuals of different ages and various backgrounds. An interview consists of a face-to-face conversation with prospects who possess a heart for service. In order to discern the best position for each volunteer, we chat about past experience, hobbies, and interests.
My dialogue with the kitten at the Humane Society was different. Cats don’t chat…with words anyway.
As a child, I was raised with puppies and dogs, turtles, chameleons, parakeets, and hamsters. Members of my family had cat allergies. So there was no room for feline fondness at our house. I grew up with an innate interest in cats. I remember a babysitting job that involved a Siamese. I didn’t have a clue what to do with him, but I was curious!
Imagine my response (immediate and enthusiastic) when my supervisor at the Arboretum, Director Sandi Helgerson, suggested we pay a visit to the Dubuque Humane Society to consider adopting a little one to serve as an official mascot.
In our five minute introduction, Mr. Mac convinced us… he was the volunteer cat for “our cabin.” Our interview was brief and to the point. With only three months and five days under his belt, this baby had limited experience to bring to the table, save his heart-warming personality. He peered up at me with mustard green eyes and turned on the magic motor.
He was drafted in the wink of an eye. With ears like a fox and stripes like a coon, he was promptly named “Mac,” after Mac Marshall, the original land donor of Marshall Park/Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.
Initiation to the office has been a snap. Mac’s warm, outgoing nature has served him well as the Head of Hospitality. His designer tiger tresses and cuddly nature have endeared him to visitors and fellow volunteers as Public Relations Director. A mother and her three daughters paid us a visit on Mac’s first day in the office. The girls were shy and uncertain, tentative and unexperienced with kittens. Within moments, Mac had won their hearts and their hugs. An office volunteer was experiencing an unusually slow day. Mac seemed to sense the void and leaped to his lap with a purr, begging for attention. Perhaps one day, his growing kitty claws and “pouncability” will equip Mac to perform as Chief House Mouser. Mac is indubitably the purrrfect candidate for the new positions he holds.
We are thankful for ALL that our newest volunteer team member contributes to the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Mac is one fine cat and a gift to us all!
by Steven D. Neese, Sr.
A gift is one of wonder
When placed under the tree
Wrapped with pretty paper
Whatever could it be
Maybe something big and bold
Or something small and fun
Maybe something from a list
Could this be the one?
A gift is one of mystery
Just can’t wait to see
What surprise is in the box
Beneath the Christmas tree
A fire truck for Landon
A scarf for Mama Dee
Slippers for Grandma Ellen
Warm gloves for Daddy Steve.
A gift is one of loving
Cherished from the start
Each present extra special
Given from the heart
The one thing always wanted
Proving wishes can come true
Merry Christmas everyone
My gift to all of you!
A Christmas Story: To Decorate or Not to Decorate
by David Nelson
I haven’t decided if I will decorate for Christmas this year. Last year on December 24, I promised I’d never do it again.
The seven-foot tree that cost me nearly $100 lost lots of needles driving home from the tree-getting place. Earlier that day, I’d spent two hours dragging boxes of ornaments, tinsel, lights, and the tree stand from the attic. Twice I slipped on the pull-down stairs and cut my ankle in two different areas. The extra large Band-Aids stopped the bleeding.
It was already dark when I pulled my pick-up into the driveway. The motion lights illuminated my path to the garage where the stand was ready to accept my Douglas fir tree. I loosened the four screw-like holders by turning each one no less than fifty-seven times. They were in the closed position so the stand could fit into the original box. My tennis elbow flared up a bit.
Singing “Silent Night,” I walked back to the truck to slide the tree base into the stand. Crap, I thought. It didn’t fit. The tree’s circumference was too large for the base. I had to trim my seven-foot tree to a spot where the diameter would fit the stand.
My head hit the door jam in the crawl space under my shop when I was looking for my chainsaw. Something wet started running off my baldhead and down the side of my face. I had cut my head entering the thirty-inch high opening. I wiped my face and smeared something red onto my shorts. The stain was a brighter red than the previous blood trails from my ankle injuries earlier. I used another extra large Band-Aid for my head.
Back at my pickup, I kept walking over to the motion lights so they would turn on and I could see exactly where to cut the tree. After some fifteen attempts to start that damn chainsaw, it finally cranked. My tennis elbow became more painful and my shoulder began to throb from my rotator cuff repair earlier that year. My fingers nearly stuck together from the sap and I had difficulty releasing them from the trigger on the saw.
A thump was heard when eighteen-inches of tree fell to the driveway. I shimmied. I pushed. I wiggled that five and a half foot tree into the stand. The tree base was so close to fitting into the stand. The ball-peen hammer dented the bottom of the stand slightly when I finally hammered it into place.
The throbbing in my left thumb from where I’d hit it with the hammer was tolerable. That pain was nothing compared to my elbow each time I turned the screws into the tree base. My shoulder didn’t hurt at all dragging that tree down the sidewalk into the front door. That’s because I’d used my other arm. There was a carpet of needles on the sidewalk behind me and into the living room. It sure enough smelled like Christmas.
Ten minutes later the scent of pine needles was replaced with the smell of 10% ethanol gasoline. I washed my hands in it to eliminate the sap. There was a little poof when I lit a cigar. The singed hair on the back of my hand fell to the floor and I noticed a small burn spot on my hand. Another Band-Aid covered the blister. I figured if I was going to be dumb, I had to be tough.
I spent the next two hours in the garage untangling lights and testing each one trying to locate the dead one. When one light goes out they all go out. I sipped on bourbon and smoked my stogie.
My wife, Trixie, met me in the middle of a three thousand light string. The very last one was loose. She plugged the string into the electrical outlet and stood back up. “What happened to your eyebrows? They’re gone.”
More singed hair fell to the garage floor as I wiped my barren frontal bone. Oops. Moments later I looked into the bathroom mirror and smiled. I was void of eyebrows. Now, there was a bloodstain on my face and side of my head, an extra large Band-Aid on my baldhead, and another on the back of my hairless hand. I thought it was pretty funny.
The Christmas CD of the group Alabama must have comforted our cats. They came out from under the bed and into the living room to help us decorate. I got another glass of bourbon.
Initially, Trixie and I asked each other where one ornament and another was purchased during our twenty-five years of marriage. We took our time and talked of trips we had taken across America. It was our tradition to buy Christmas ornaments wherever we visited. The throbbing in my left thumb and the blister on the back of my right hand intensified. I sipped more bourbon.
The damn cats kept lying on the ornament boxes and shredding the worn out tissue paper that protected the trinkets. I managed to break three ornaments when I lost concentration while pushing the cats off the coffee table. It seemed like the Christmas music got louder.
After some forty-five minutes Trixie and I stopped talking about our special ornaments and were more focused with hanging them on the tree. I turned off the blaring music. Three times of hearing the same songs was enough. Twice I had to pull tinsel from the cats’ paws. Peaches scratched my hand and forearm. Darn it. I was bleeding again in more spots and I was out of the extra large Band-Aids. There were now two medium sized on my left forearm.
Then the critiquing began. We walked around the tree at least ten times each. Following our Christmas tradition, Trixie pointed to the tree’s bald spots. I didn’t care. I bumped my throbbing thumb and drug my blistered hand across branches to hook ornaments in places that Trixie said were barren. And then I quit. I sat down and glared at Peaches. She ran off into the bedroom carrying a small wooden ornament in her mouth.
No fewer than nineteen times I must have heard, “How does this look? Is this straight? Do you see any empty spots?”
I rubbed the top of my head in disgust and made it bleed again. I sat on the couch giving pressure to the wound with a paper towel. My shoulder pain intensified and my elbow hurt from pushing down on my head. The other cat did a dive off my legs and I was scratched and bleeding in a new spot. I didn’t care. I finished my bourbon and fell into a trance.
Trixie turned off all the interior lights and went outside to admire our work. I tagged along. It was a pretty sight. I noticed how quiet it was walking on the sidewalk over the bed of pine needles.
We returned to the inside, turned the lamps on and Trixie’s eyes were fixed staring at the tree. She looked at me and said, “The tree is crooked.”
Our divorce is final in two weeks.
Another Disillusioned Christmas
by Doris J. Niemann
Every year, Alice placed the same wrapped gifts for her grandchildren under her decorated table-sized Christmas tree. Once again, she was anxiously waiting for the holiday visit from her family. Soon the special gifts she had chosen for each child would be revealed and enjoyed.
It seemed New Year’s Day came quicker this year. It was time to put away the fake Christmas tree, decorated with sentimental ornaments collected from long ago family Christmas celebrations. Also, the unopened gifts for her grandchildren were again placed inside the plastic storage box she kept in the spare room closet.
“Maybe next year they won’t be so busy back in Indiana,” she sighed with tearful eyes. “I can wait another year to watch them open these presents of mine. Besides, the Christmas paper and bows are too pretty to be ripped off.”
A Special Season
by Catherine Opper
It seems ironic that, most years after pools close
and schools open, comes the time to assess the
year almost past, close the books, try for an
annual statement, a summing up of why this
was/is a year to remember. Comes also in the
midst of sweet memories, a counter force, most
probably negative, to unleash a convulsive whim,
double dare anyone and everyone; companies cut
hours, jobs, fire workers without so much as a please
or thank you. Nations and states suddenly
anguish over a lack of space or some to-do. The
world takes a turn for the worse just in time for the
holidays. This, too, is a tradition; it has happened often
and to survive we have made the holidays a habit.
We can do this; we can get through them blindfolded, and I?
I bake! From a disorder of recipe cards, smeared with chocolate and
jam, I select with loving care friends of my life and
begin conversations with my past. I stir, beat, and whip
up treats for everyone I love, against a tympani of
clattering pans, a counterpoint of oven doors, and an
occasional shriek for dropped egg or burnt finger? I frost
absolutely everything, sprinkle candy, nuts, glitter on
every bite, edible or not. I hear echoes of children, happy,
tired, sugar-charged, sugar-coated, multi-aged children
passing gifts, making lists, anxious for the sound of hooves
or the swish of flight. I ride memory over chaos into the
the sweet fatigue of doing it all by heart. I learn again:
there is real safety in clouds of cinnamon.
A Heartfelt Christmas
by Bret Terrell
It’s midnight past the twenty fourth
This cold, December’s night
Wrapping treasures for the ones
Upstairs and tucked in tight
Brisk temperatures outside my door
Find chasmic forms of breach
Frosting up my window pane
With bands of icy sheets
The fireplace with subtle glow
Illuminates my task
Not much wood to offer warmth
In fact, this cord’s... our last
I hope my Suzie likes her gift
Though, not of her request
A Barbie doll, topmost her list
Not Walmart’s down filled vest
Appeasingly, the wrap I chose
Was patterned, not, with toys
Hopeful this will please my girl
But what about the boys
Their wish was for a motorbike
A scooter and toy train
Life, struck down with penury
Is sometimes hard explained
Instead, I found an overcoat
New sheets, to warm their beds
“North Face” would have been their choice
But shopped Goodwill instead
As for my wife, I offer her
The greatest gift I can
It didn’t cost my pocket much
But tasks me... as a man
You see, this Christmas is our first
To celebrate apart
Would seem that Santa’s gifted elves
Could not construct a heart
So I am left to bring good cheer
To “our” four gifts of love
My benefaction... keep them close
And mindful, she’s above.
Just Another Christmas Eve
by Maurice Theisen
It was a typical suburban neighborhood. Porch lights were on and reflected on the snow drifted along the sidewalks. Inside the house, the old man sat in his recliner, eyes half closed. He was aware of the other people around him, but didn't feel like reacting to them. He was traveling a trail of memories and was content to focus only on them
“Why is he acting like that?” The eight-year-old boy tugged on his mother's arm. “Is he okay? He doesn't answer when I talk to him.”
The mother sighed. ”He’s fine, Timmy. He just naps a lot. Just play quietly and this evening we’ll listen to some of his Christmas stories.”
Leaning back in his soft recliner, he rests his head on the soft cushion and remembers. How many years ago? His family had just got electricity on the farm, and his dad bought their first Christmas lights. He knew that today they would seem plain, but at the time they were the most beautiful things he had ever seen. Once or twice each night he would go outside the living room window, stand in the snow, and admire the twinkling colors. Every night he would lie on the floor near the tree, with all the lights off except the tree. A never repeating series of shadows was cast on the walls and ceilings as the small lights randomly blinked on and off.
He was aware of the aromas from the kitchen where his daughter-in-law was cooking dinner. Smelled like meatloaf. She made lots of soft foods that he could chew easily. He lapsed back into memory again.
My, the cooking when he was a boy! His mother would start making dozens of cookies of every type. Then she followed up with pans of fudge, divinity, and caramels. The whole house smelled like a confectionary for weeks, and this was just a prelude. On Christmas morning the real production began. Chickens were in the oven stuffed with sage dressing and slowly roasting. A ham simmered in a bath of honey and orange juice. Of course, in English tradition handed down by his great-grandmother, a Christmas goose. What a symphony of crisp skin and juicy flesh. It was sometimes a problem, but room was made on the table for bowls of mashed potatoes with a well of butter running through them. There were also two or three vegetables, gravy, and fresh yeast rolls that sort of melted in your mouth. The finale was a suet pudding, as round and heavy as a cannonball with delicious sauce over it.
The boy came up to his mother again. “Is he okay? He's sitting there smiling and started chuckling, but he's not watching TV.”
“Yes, he's fine. Just play quietly. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes.”
Dinner was served, and the old man let the family's conversation wash over him without really hearing it. In his mind, he was 10 again, sitting at his family table. Father sat at one end, his mother on the other, and his brother across from him. He was totally engrossed. Then he was brought back to the present by his daughter-in-law touching his hand.
“Are you okay, Dad? We were just talking about the presents. Should we open tonight or wait till morning?”
He thought for a minute, “Well, we always opened on Christmas Eve, but you do it the way you want to. You should have your own traditions.”
The dinner went on, but he was finished. He made his way back to the recliner. The youngsters were very excited about the presents piled under the tree. He paid no attention, because he had wandered back to an evening 70 years earlier. Just as now, everyone was gathered around the tree. Outside the window, the moon shone on the high snow drifts. The outside may have been cold, but the living room was warm and delightful.
His son handed out presents, and the fun began. The children were ripping paper and exclaiming over their games, toys, and new clothing. The parents exchanged their special gifts, and shared a Christmas kiss. Then his son said, “Dad hasn't opened his presents.”
Everyone turned to look at him. He was leaning back in the chair, hands in his lap eyes closed, and a smile on his face. His son walked over to him and said “Are you okay, Dad? Are you okay?”
He shook his father’s shoulder, but got no response.
The old man didn't answer or move. He had left the house. He was back on the farm, chasing his brother up the sledding hill, pulling the new flexible flyer sled he’d received from Santa Claus.
by Louis Winslow
I am a seventy-three-year-old man who grew up when an electric train represented the ultimate Christmas gift for boys. During my youth, trains were still glamorous and the premium mode of transportation. Passenger trains had names like “The Empire Builder,” “The North Coast Limited,” and “The Santa Fe Chief.” Freight trains were the major mode of transportation for delivering goods. For hauling freight over the mountains, three large steam locomotives with twelve driving wheels each were used. My older brother, John, and I thought trains were the greatest.
Our Uncle Ed was an engineer for the Burlington Railroad and his run ran between La Crosse, WI and Savanna, IL. At one time, he held the speed record for this section for the Burlington Zephyr, averaging over 80 miles an hour. I loved boasting about this to my elementary school classmates.
Until I reached the age of four, we lived in a large house in La Crosse that had an open basement stairway. While playing on the stairs one day, I vaguely remember dropping a toy over the side and reaching for it. The next thing I knew I awoke in my father's arms. I looked up at his face and he said, "I'll get anything you want for Christmas." Without hesitating, I responded, "I want an electric train."
My dad smiled, hugged me close, and nodded. I later learned I'd been knocked out for about an hour and he was extremely worried.
I didn't get a train for Christmas that year and pretty much forgot about it. We moved to Brownsville, MN, a small town near the Iowa border in the fall of 1945. On Christmas Eve of 1949, my brother and I went to bed at 8:00 because we wanted Christmas morning to arrive fast. We slept in the same bed and wrestled with each other to pass the time. We were excited and had a difficult time getting to sleep, but we finally did.
Awaking Christmas morning, I heard a train whistle. My brother awoke, and we jumped out of bed and ran into the living room. Our dad lay on the floor by a transformer watching a Lionel electric train running around an oval track pulling four cars and a red caboose. As we watched, my dad pushed a button on the transformer and the engine whistled. Right before the train reached a side track, our dad pulled a switch, and the train went onto a spur (a railroad track where cars are left for loading, unloading, and storage). My brother and I danced around shouting and laughing.
Dad looked at me and said, "You knew I wouldn't forget. Here is the train you asked for."
Through the years we added to the train. Dad bought a switch engine one Christmas and a cattle car with a loading dock another. The cows loaded into the car by vibrating the metal floor of the dock. It didn't work too well, but we thought it pretty cool.
We kept the boxes for the train cars and my brother and I would carefully pack everything away when not playing with the train. We had a large box to put the train in, but by the time I outgrew playing with it, the box barely held the entire set.
I married Carole Gilmore in 1963 and we had two boys, John and Miles, and a girl we named Katherine. The boys played with the train growing up. For the most part, they were pretty careful, but not as careful as my brother and I. Sometimes they planned accidents and one time one of the front wheels of the steam engine cracked and a piece broke out of it, but the original car boxes survived along with the large box to put it in. When the boys outgrew it, we packed it away and put it up in our garage attic.
Our oldest son, John, married twice and had four girls. Miles never married, so Carole and I decided to give John the train. He added to the set and bought a passenger train that he would set up circling his Christmas tree. He made a landscape of snow using cotton. The lights of the cars lit up and the engine he bought made chugging sounds.
In 2009 our son passed away and the train set was packed away in a couple of boxes including the original one.
Recently, our daughter-in-law, Lisa, was going through her closets and came upon the train set. Our granddaughters didn't want it so she asked me if I wanted it.
It sits in our garage right now awaiting transportation to Colorado Springs where our daughter and son-in-law live. Katherine and her husband, Gary, have three sons. As it turns out Gary always wanted an electric train. Our oldest fifteen year old grandson, Jonathan, told him, "Just fall off the basement stairs and knock yourself out. Then you will get one."
He doesn't need to fall off his basement stairs because I have decided to give him and our grandsons the train set for Christmas.
by Yasmin Rioux
This year marks the 10th anniversary of my US immigration. I moved here by myself when I was 18. In the back of my mind, I was going to return to Germany or some European country as soon as I had my completed degree in hand. A sound plan at the time.
For the first years, I would return home for Christmas and enjoy the aromas of Anis, Kardamom, Nelken, and spiced baked apples. I’d saunter through my city's Renaissance alleys, paved with cobblestones and history – my country's and mine. The Christmas market on the big city plaza blessed the streets and parks for 24 days in December as dim lights shimmered, sparkled, and reflected off dirty city snow, accenting the hymns of Christmas and the hums of busy shoppers.
Then came love and children and more love and children; going home for Christmas became bringing Christmas to us; forging it from what was present. Imitating, reconstructing, adapting. Consecrating a new thing. Now it was their turn to stay home for the holidays.
Others who have immigrated to this country describe the same phenomenon: you try to bake and cook something from home with the ingredients of a new home, but for some reason, the product just never tastes the same! As if all the herbs and spices, all the eggs and flour were conspiring to force you to overcome the heavy nostalgia that lingers in your soul. Divine intervention on the kitchen table.
Anis is not simply anise; Kardamom not cardamom, Nelken not cloves. To make a Zimtstern, a "cinnamon star," you must live surrounded by all things Zimtstern! You need to be in its environment to get just the right cinnamon at the precisely right time from the exact same market vendor every year! The one your family has been getting the perfect cinnamon from for the past 500 years! The glistening, oily dough must acquire the scent of cinnamon and accept the heaviness of its authoritative aroma. The Zimtstern's spice is not easily imitated or adapted. It’s baking creates a rich heat that lingers in the house for hours and is only subdued by another fragrant thing, like cloves stuck in orange peel. With those additional scents lingering in the air, the Zimtstern tastes like itself.
Similar to all things, new ones become the foundation for the status quo and reality. Taste buds, ear drums, eyes, and maybe even souls adapt to surroundings and the bittersweet aftertaste (like the one crushed cloves leave in the throat) of homesickness – longing and heart break might dissipate with time and Christmases.
We bake here now and decorate the yard with lights. We roll out sugar cookie dough and make red frosting. We hang colorful ornaments on our tree and wreaths on our doors. The songs and hymns are mine, engraved on my larynx.
(These are the things my kids will come home to on Christmas when they return from wherever they may be.)