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Christmas Married To A Pagan Feast

2014-DE-5835-limmat-V.'14 014

[ABL photo]

“The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”

~ Clement Clarke Moore

 

The first serious snow is falling. Outdoor Christmas lights across the street melt through a cover of snow – a sight I particularly enjoy.  So, I’ll reprint this – albeit edited – from a few years ago. Maybe it will become a tradition.

Christmas is a fake that has taken root like the holly, and it survives tenaciously. It has become a goodies grab fest, and helps keep our commercial society stable. Perhaps reason enough to exist.

The wily Christians conquered the outnumbered Celts, and supplanted their winter festival with the birth of their God. The wily pagans live on in the numerous traditions the Christians stole, so perhaps it is a fair trade. And no doubt those wily pagans chuckle over their cups o’mead, noting that this celebration of reverence has become a surfeit of greed.

I have been no fan of Christmas for decades, but its mixed legacy encourages me not to abandon it. My Christian background enhances my enjoyment of the music and traditions. Most commercial intrusions can be muted or turned off. I do have some personal traditions I follow religiously.

I do not even rail against Santa Claus. I heard his sleigh bells one Christmas Eve, when I was four. I saw his sleigh runner tracks in the snow a couple of years later.

I have even been mistaken for Santa a couple of times. Once, in the line-up in a bank near Christmas, a two-year old pointed at me. Unfortunately, my presence terrified him, and he started to scream and cry. I was wise enough not to go Ho Ho Ho. Another time – but this happened in early fall – a family approached me as I walked in a park. A boy, who looked to be six or seven, stopped in his tracks, then ran back to his parents. “Santa Claus!”  He pointed. Happily he did not cry. They walked past me in silence.

Also, for decades, I lived close to a residence where one of the very first recitations of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas happened. The author of that stirring piece, Clement Moore, who wrote it in 1822, sent a copy to his godfather, the Rev Johnathan O’Dell, of Fredericton New Brunswick. However, the poem was not published until 1837.

To be fair to myself, I’m not a total Scrooge, as I have written some Christmas tales.  Here is a wee segment from The Elephant Talks To God:

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“I want to see you,” said the elephant, and the words raced from his mouth. “I don’t have to see you, you know that. I’ve believed even before you talked to me. But I want to see you, it would mean so much. I wasn’t around for the Baby, but cows and sheep and things got to see Him. I can’t explain but it would … ”

“Go home,” said the cloud.

“You’re not angry with me?” said the elephant.

“No.” The cloud started moving away. “It’s an honest request.” The rain stopped falling. “Thank you for coming.”

“You’re welcome,” said the elephant.

“Sing some carols,” the voice was distant. “I like them.”

The elephant turned and started through the woods. He ignored the tasty leaves within easy reach and the tall grass near the brook. He wanted to get home as quickly as possible so he could join the singing he knew was happening later in the evening.

He turned along the trail, snapping a branch here and there in his haste, when he noticed the stillness, the hush which had overtaken the forest. He slowed down and the stopped in his tracks. He turned his head, his small eyes squinting into the brush. There was movement coming toward him, and when the trees parted, he went to his knees with a gasp. Tears rolled from his eyes, and a golden trunk gently wiped them away.*

*Last line edited from an error in the book.

 

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Re-Writing The Bible Luke 7 36-50

luke-7-by-reubens

 

Almost always, when I have cause to talk about Starbucks (which happened yesterday) this incident comes to mind.  Something to eventually place under the heading “The Life Of An Author”.

Some time ago I had an odd request – a very odd request, come to think of it – to re-write a portion of the New Testament. It is Luke 7 36-50, where Jesus is Anointed by a Sinful Woman. I was asked to write it from the woman’s point of view.

I met the man who made the commission at a Starbucks (his suggestion). He is a successful business man and owns and runs a professional corporation. He gave me the verses he wanted done and asked if I thought I would be able to do so. I said yes. I have the ability and the project intrigued me.  It would hold my interest.

He was not garrulous or forthcoming, and I refrained from asking him why he wanted this done. However, I did query the direction he might want the story to take. he was vague about that, also. A woman’s point of view. A woman of the times. I felt I pressed that issue strongly enough, even if I did not get an answer.

We discussed price. I told him what I thought such a project was worth. I explained it as an issue of time expended (even I wasn’t sure how much effort it would be). He agreed to an hourly price.

The end result was that he did not pay me. he disliked the finished story. I include the work and our email exchange at the end of the adventure. I wish he would have been as detailed in telling me what he wanted before the fact, instead of after.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Luke 7: 36-50

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman
36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.
37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume,
38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
 41 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[d] and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.
46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.
47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
 49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
I would like to see this story told from the sinner lady point of view.
****************************************
What I did.
The woman was a sinner. Everyone in the village knew this and everyone treated her accordingly. She would sleep with men for money, and thus was shunned. Except by those men who used her and paid her. But when they were done with her, they shunned her, too. Men are like that, selfish and deceitful. She has earned her money. They have earned her contempt.
The woman had reasons for being a sinner. Her parents were old when she was born and she was a chore to them. Not only a chore perhaps, but their affection was watered down. Their interest in her was always coloured with annoyance. She did not do what they wanted. She did not think as they thought. She had desires which had left them years before, so they did not think them important. And she was a girl – good only as bait for a man to marry. She was a burden.
However, she had a life to live. Her parents said she should thank them for her life. She said that instead she would blame them. She would look after herself if that was the way it had to be. She would use the tools that God gave her, just like a carpenter uses his tools to build. If there is no help from her parents; if her village looks down on her; if a man won’t marry her; well, she’ll set out on her own.
And she did.
It was not difficult to become a success at what she did. When with a man all she had to do was move her body and tell them lies. Praise them. Make those sounds they want to hear. Make then happy and she had a repeat customer. Keep the foolish secrets they seemed to insist telling her to herself. They trusted her as they used her. She used their stories for her own good. Learned where to purchase the best goods. Learned who to avoid. Make a bit of money on speculation. Even the cheapest grave digger when the time came for each of her parents. Be able to keep her parents house and even put some money away. What was a reputation compared to this?
It was from her clients that she first heard of Jesus. Yet another desert prophet full of crazy talk. The rabble seemed to love him. The Pharisees warned against him. He talked as if his words were the words of God. He seemed to give strange interpretations of the stories in the Bible. He seemed to think that more than just the rich were important. The men she was with laughed at that, but it was nervous laughter. There was something about this Jesus which troubled them, but also interested them. It was not usual that her client’s talk included references to God.
It was also from one of her clients – a Pharisee who liked to brag – that she learned Jesus was going to visit her village. The Pharisees were not happy with Jesus. They did not like what he was preaching. People are not equal. People need their leaders. Give people such ideas and they will be harder to control. So one of the Pharisees was going to invite Jesus to dine at his home.
The sinful woman decided she would attend the dinner. It was enough of a public event that she doubted she would be turned away. She wanted to hear what this Jesus had to say. See what he looked like. She knew about men and she was certain she could tell if he was to be trusted. And, men being men, she would bring him a gift. Nothing suggestive, just a jar of perfume to sooth him after his journey. She would present it to him if what she was hearing about him turned out to be true.
When she arrived at the house, and heard what Jesus had to say, she understood why the rich and powerful feared him. She knew the truth when men spoke it, because she heard it little enough. Jesus offered her comfort and asked for no favours in return.
She approached Jesus and kneeled at his feet, weeping. She was so affected by his compassion that her tears caused streaks through the dust on his feet. She wiped away at the tears with her hair, sobbing all the while. She then began to pour the perfume on his feet, rubbing the scented oils into his skin to relieve the ache of his walking.
Although the woman did not look up, she heard the condemnation coming from the Pharisee. She cowered lower beside Jesus’ feet and was prepared to be mocked and told to know her place. Forced from the house. Instead, Jesus remained seated and told a story. He asked who would love a moneylender more, one who had a huge debt cancelled, or one who had a small debt cancelled? The Pharisee replied that the one with the larger debt would have more love. Jesus agreed.
Then Jesus looked at the woman and smiled. He spoke to the Pharisee, and took the time to detail the actions of the woman since he arrived. He compared what the woman had done to the neglect of his host. She had paid attention to him, kissed his feet again and again, soothed him with perfumed oil after his walk, took the time to make him comfortable. The Pharisee had done nothing to put him at his ease. So if the woman was a sinner, then she deserved to have all of her sins forgiven, for she had done much for him. Her love was the greater, for she had overcome the greater sins, whereas the Pharisee, regardless of his fewer sins, had done nothing.
Jesus then forgave the sins of the woman, and told her to go in peace. And although this outraged the Pharisee and his guests, and made them question the authority of Jesus, the woman left the house cleansed.

*************************************************

Email Exchange Re: Bible Story

Hi, *****:
Let me know what you think of the story.
Dale
Did you receive the Bible story?
Dale
I’m starting to wonder if I have the correct email address, though nothing is bumped back. Did you receive the story? I am wondering what your reaction is.
Dale
I’ll try this address and hope to get a response
Dale
Hi Mr. Dale,
I expected the story to shed the light on the values and habits of Jewish community at the time of Jesus. I would elaborate on the social rejection to the sinners who does not conform with the social rules. I would not picture her as a community defiant person. I would highlight her struggle with her temptations & her religious and community values. I would illustrate how the teachings of jesus to invite the sinners to repent made a difference to her. I would imply how her humplness made the difference between her and Simon.
I do not think that the story delivered the massage that we discussed.

Jesus Takes His Trip Through Easter

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In my novel, A Lost Gospel, Druids and Unicorns must make certain that Jesus Christ (Yeshua) overcomes His human doubt and sacrifices Himself. But the Druid, Ogma, and the Unicorns’ encounter, does not stop there.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Are you lost?”

“No.”

Ogma was taken by surprise, but he did not turn toward the speaker. He had no desire to start a conversation, he just wanted to be left to himself.

“Yet you are a traveller to these parts.”

“Yes.”

Ogma knew only too well the interest local people had for strangers in their midst. It was an interest which could easily turn into suspicion. He was alone, and he did not want to have trouble in this unknown land.

“I had business in Jerusalem.” Ogma shrugged. “The desire came upon me to feel earth under my feet, not paving stones.”

“And you find yourself here.”

“I turned from the main road at a whim.”

“What did you in Jerusalem?”

“I do not intrude thus in your life.”  Ogma kept a steady gaze across the field, though he could not keep irritation from his voice.

“Yet you do intrude – for here you are.”

“If I’m on your land, I apologize. I thought it was a common road. There is no barrier in place to warn me otherwise.”

Ogma wondered if it was time to leave the way he had come, or to stay and talk. Despite the words spoken, the other man’s voice displayed no anger, or annoyance.

“Do you find no peace in Jerusalem?”

“I’ve had a troubled time in your grand city.”

Ogma suddenly realized he had things he wanted to say, which he could not discuss with the other druids. He finally turned to the man, wondering if he should explain further.

“By the gods of death!” Ogma stood back in fear. “This is not possible.”

“There are no boundaries to what is possible.”

“I saw them hang you up.”

“You saw flesh. And blood.”

“Then what do I see now?”

“More than a man of sorrows.”

“Glarus was right.” Ogma began to move further away, but stopped himself. “I’m not to fear you, or the change you bring.”

“Truth deserves acceptance, not fear.”

“Do you know of my burden?”

The other man raised his arm and pointed. Ogma turned to follow the outstretched hand. He saw the two unicorns standing close together among the trees.

“Have they brought me here?”

“They have led you to a place you sought yourself.”

“You know of Glarus.” Ogma stopped abruptly, and his voice lowered. “The gods I understand believe in trade. Take me instead of her.”

“You care so much?”

“I know the worth of things.” Ogma stared directly at the other man. “It is better to have her alive than me.”

“No man knows his own worth.” Yeshua touched the small man, then held him close. “My father’s love does not barter.” He released Ogma with a smile. “Return to Jerusalem. You travel with companions.”

“The beasts accompany me?”

“Thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.”

Unicorns Convince Christ To Sacrifice Himself

The first book in my Unicorn trilogy, entitled A LOST GOSPEL, centres around Christ’s death.
In the novel, unicorns were present to see Him born, and now must be present to see Him die. Glarus, the keeper of the unicorns, was also on hand for both events. In this excerpt, she assures Yeshua it is indeed the right time to make His sacrifice.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

3363260044_7ec0617f87

The Stuttgart Psalter, an illuminated Carolingian manuscript
Place of origin: Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Date of manuscript : around 830 CE

A LOST GOSPEL

“I know your voice.”

“You may give yourself.” Glarus stepped closer.

“My Father takes this cup from me tonight?”‘

“Yes.”

“They won’t kill me in this place?” Yeshua glanced around the olive grove.

“I have but followed the unicorns.” Glarus touched them. “They have lead me here to take away your doubt.”

“We’ve met before.”

“A baby in a stable.” Glarus smiled at him. “You have become more than memory.”

“Do you still have spice upon your cloak?” Yeshua turned from her. “Behold. These men and their hatred approach.” He put a hand on each of the ivory shafts. “You must be gone.” Yeshua stepped aside. “Call them.” He smiled. “They are yours again.”

“Haah!”

The unicorns pawed at the ground near Yeshua, then went toward Glarus.

“More than memory.” She looked at him closely. “And more than just a man.”

Glarus put a hand on each unicorn‘s back, and together they returned the way they had come.

DE

The Birth Of Jesus With Unicorn – A Christmas Tale

In my novel, A Lost Gospel, a Unicorn is present at the birth of Jesus – something, as far as I know, not disputed by religious scholars. Glarus, the Celtic priestess who accompanied the Unicorn, describes this event to Bettine and Sirona, themselves young women attending unicorns. Glarus was asked to be present at the birth by The Magi.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Excerpt from A Lost Gospel

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“The kings had some information, but the rest they had to figure out. They had

surrounded themselves with astrologers, navigators and philosophers. They knew

from the Jew’s Holy Book that the baby was to be born in Bet Lehem, and the Star

helped lead them to that town. We didn’t need the Star the last couple of days, but

it had given us comfort during a hard and uncomfortable trip. That last night we

waited on the outskirts of the town, and went in after sunset.”

“Were you afraid?” Sirona leaned closer.

“No. Why would I be?”

“You were going to see god.” Bettine glanced at Sirona as she spoke.

“To see god is a joy – not a fear.”

“And was he a baby?” Sirona giggled. “A baby god.”

“It was a time for the paying of taxes to Caesar, and Bet Lehem was crowded with people.” Glarus examined the fire for a moment. “The inns and resting places were fully occupied. We finally found Yeshua and his parents in a barn, beside one of the inns. He was settled with the animals, and sleeping in the hay.”

“But this was a god.”

“Yes.”

“But – ” Bettine sounded perplexed. “He should have been in a temple – or a palace. Not surrounded by animals.”

“There are more barns than palaces.” Glarus nudged the wood in the fire with a poker. “And more animals than priests. God is god of the world – not some carved gold in a temple.”

“But god can have whatever he wants.”

“Yes.” Glarus leaned forward and touched the young woman. “So remember what he chose.”

“What was god like?” Sirona was impatient, and pulled on Glarus’ skirt.

“God was the baby of a woman. A baby such as any of us could have.” Glarus looked at them closely. “You must not forget that. This god is as much man as god.” She stood suddenly and leaned toward the fireplace. “He was asleep when we entered. Even his mother was dozing as she held him.”

“What was she like?” Sirona didn’t realize one question interrupted another.

“Her name was Mary.” Glarus removed the pot from the open flame, and placed it upon a squat stone jutting into the hearth. “She smiled as her head nodded – she seemed quite peaceful. She was attractive, but not what one would call beautiful. She didn’t look much older than me.” Glarus looked mildly surprised. “She could still be alive, for that matter. She certainly seemed healthy enough.”

“Did she talk to you?” Sirona leaned forward, the heat of the fire against her face.

“She spoke to the ones who knew her tongue.” Glarus looked down at the women. “But no – not to me.” She suddenly smiled. “I saw her glancing at me a few times, as her husband talked to the others. And she took a liking to the unicorn – as did the baby.”

“Did she – ”

“What I felt most was her bewilderment.” Glarus didn’t realize she had interrupted Bettine. “She must have wondered why rich and powerful people were crowding into a barn to see her son. Giving birth for the first time was enough to get used to.”

The women were silent for awhile. Glarus stirred the pot, and tasted the liquid in the ladle. Bettine looked curiously around the house, while Sirona stared thoughtfully at her mother. She was hearing things she had never heard before.

“When did the baby wake up?” Bettine’s question broke into the silence.

“We hadn’t been there long.” Glarus began moving about the room, gathering some mugs together, along with food and utensils. “I think I was the first to notice. I just followed the lead of the unicorn, which already was walking toward him.”

“Did he touch the unicorn?”

“Yes.” Glarus took a loaf of bread from a cupboard, and removed some wedges of

cheese from a pottery jar. “It was obvious Mary had never seen such a creature. I

don’t think she was afraid, but she was hesitant to let the unicorn get too close

to the baby.” Glarus ladled the hot drink into the mugs. “However, Yeshua reached

out with his tiny hands, and tried to touch the ivory horn.”

“Did he touch you?” Bettine sipped the drink, and found the fruit tasted as if it were off the tree.

“Mary let me hold him, as she and Joseph prepared some of their food for the kings.” Glarus passed the platter of bread and cheese to the young women. “Food less grand than this. But still, the best of what they had.”

“You held god in your hands?” Sirona marvelled at the secrets she had never heard.

“Yes. While the others ate.”

“What was it like?”

“Damp.” Glarus looked at them both and laughed. “He was a warm and wet little baby, open-mouthed and smiling one moment, squeezing up his eyes in frustration the next. I still had the smell of myrrh on me, and he pushed his face into my breast, making contented baby noises. To the others, it looked as if he were trying to get fed. Joseph said something which made the others laugh.” Glarus chuckled as she took a bite of cheese. “When I finally heard what it was, I smiled too, even though I was embarrassed.”

“What did he say?” Sirona and Bettine asked the question together.

“Well. It’s no secret I’m big up here.” Glarus placed an arm across her chest. “I’ve had too much attention from too many men to let me forget.” Glarus cut more slices from the loaf of bread. “Joseph had said, that if the baby became too used to me, they’d have to use one of the cows after I left.”

“What did you say?” Sirona shared a glance with Bettine.

“It wasn’t my place to say anything. Anyway, I could tell he wasn’t trying to be offensive – or attentive. He was a poor man surrounded by rich and powerful strangers, and he was trying to be accepted.”

“Did Mary say anything?”

“Mary did not push out her garment, even if she was full of milk. After the laughter had stopped, I dared glance at her. She gave a shy smile and shrugged her shoulders.”

“If you hadn’t gone the way you did.” Bettine dipped her mug back into the flavoured drink. “Without following the star and the kings – would you have known Yeshua was a god?”

“No.” Glarus sipped from her mug, then placed it on the table. “But the circumstances were not natural.” Glarus hesitated before cutting more cheese. “The unicorn would not have been present, and I would not have seen them share time.”

“What did he do?”

“The unicorn?”

“Yes.”

“Both.” Sirona was excited. “When they were together.”

“They looked at each other with recognition.”

“But – ” Sirona coughed over her drink. “They had never seen each other before.”

“They saw more than just the bodies they possess.” Glarus placed her hands side-by-side on the table, almost touching. “When Mary realized the unicorn would do no harm, she held the baby this close to him. Yeshua reached a grasping little fist toward the ivory horn.” Glarus smiled at the two women. “You know how the unicorns avoid a stranger’s touch.”

“Yes.” They both again spoke in unison, and laughed.

“He bent his head carefully toward Mary, and let the tiny fingers rub against his horn. Yeshua’s eyes went wide as he sniffed him all over. The unicorn pawed in the dirt and the straw, and as much as his face is capable of smiling, I’d swear that he did.

“He didn’t even mind when Mary began to scratch him behind the ears. He moved his head so she could stroke the base of his horn, which he loves most of all.”

“I didn’t know of that place for years.” Bettine absently rubbed her fingers across the table. “I hesitated a long time before I even touched the horn. It can be so cold.”

“They don’t encourage contact,” agreed Sirona.

“Perhaps I was jealous. He encouraged Mary and the baby to do things for which I had waited years.” Glarus looked into the fire a long time. “He showed complete trust amid the strangers and the tumult. Usually, just the smell of humans and other animals make him disappear. This time, he ceased being wary, and concentrated fully on that little baby.”

“And Yeshua?” Sirona stared at her mother. “What did he do?”

“The baby turned his head, and stared at me.” Glarus again hesitated. “It was then I knew that I was looking into eyes which had seen the OtherWorld.”

DE

(image)http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2008/12/12/article-1093889-02C68847000005DC-361_468x332.jpg

The Pagan Feast Of Christmas Where Jesus Tags Along

irish-christmas-angel

Christmas is a fake that has taken root like the holly and survives tenaciously. It has become a goodies grab fest, and helps keep our commercial society stable. Perhaps reason enough to exist.

The wily Christians conquered the outnumbered Celts and supplanted their winter festival with the birth of their God. The wily pagans live on in the numerous traditions the Christians stole, so perhaps it is a fair trade. And no doubt those wily pagans chuckle over their mead, noting this celebration of reverence has become a surfeit of greed.

I have been no fan of Christmas for decades, but its mixed legacy encourages me not to abandon it. My Christian background encourages my enjoyment of the music and traditions. Most commercial intrusions can be muted or turned off. I have some personal traditions I almost follow religiously.

I do not even rail against Santa Claus. I heard his sleigh bells one Christmas Eve when I was five. I saw his sleigh runner tracks in the snow a couple of years later.

I have even been mistaken for Santa a couple of times.

Once, in the line-up in a bank near Christmas, a two year old pointed at me. Unfortunately, my presence terrified him and he started to scream and cry. His parents said things like “But Santa is nice and kind.” I was wise enough not to go Ho Ho Ho.

Another time a family approached me as I walked in a park. A boy, who looked to be six or seven, stopped in his tracks then ran back to his parents. “Santa Claus!”  He pointed. Happily he did not cry. They walked past me in silence.

Also, for decades, I lived close to a residence where one of the very first recitations of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas happened. The author of that stirring piece, Clement Moore, who wrote it in 1822, sent a copy to his godfather, the Rev Johnathan O’Dell, of Fredericton New Brunswick. However, the poem was not published until 1837.

This year, I have been brushed by Christmas but twice.

I entered a restaurant to meet a friend for lunch. Before any query was out of my mouth, I was ushered to the correct table. I found out the maître d ‘ had been told to be on the outlook for Santa Claus.

And, just this morning, I was told by a revered friend and writer that she was going to write a Christmas Eve column about how silly Christmas really is.

Silly is a kind word.

DE

(image)http://www.irishcelticjewels.com/celtic-wedding/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/irish-christmas-angel.jpg

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