“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”
– Helen Keller
Days to Remember
Dec. 4: Santa’s List Day – He’s making a list, checking it twice, today is when he finds out if you’ve been naughty or nice! I have it on good authority that this day was created by the North Pole. Kids, make sure you are being extra nice around this time of year, because a few of Santa’s top elves said the first draft of the “Naughty” or “Nice” list is due today! Then, they continue to review and adjust it, all the way to Christmas Eve! Which list are you on?
Dec. 7: Pearl Harbor Day – Pearl Harbor Day commemorates the Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor. The attack began at dawn December 7, 1941. It crippled the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and caused the U.S. to enter World War II. During the attack at Pearl Harbor, over 2,400 American servicemen were killed. Five of the eight battleships at Pearl Harbor were sunk or sinking and virtually all ships were damaged. On Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, U.S. flags are to be flown at half staff.
Dec 16-24: Hanukkah – Hanukkah honors the victory of the Jews over the Greek Syrians in 165 BC. After their victory, the Maccabees, sons of the family that led the revolt, entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and dedicated it to the service of their God. When the Maccabees entered the temple, they found only enough lamp oil to last one night, but the oil managed to burn for the whole eight days it took to go search for more oil. Therefore, Hanukkah is observed over eight days.
Dec 25: Christmas Day – Ah! Christmas, the biggest holiday of the year! Christmas has both a strong religious and traditional meaning. For Christians around the world, it is the day to celebrate the birth and life of Jesus Christ. It has a certain feel, all to itself, that you usually do not feel at any other time of the year. It creates within us, a sense of kindness and concern for others. At no other time are we more generous and giving.
Dec 31: New Year’s Eve – It is time to ring in the New Year! New Year’s Eve is when all the fun and festivities are. It is the time to enjoy the start of a bright and promising new year…a new beginning. Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Millions of people do. It’s easy to make resolutions, yet much harder to accomplish them.
Getting in the Holiday Spirit Early
For one sick boy who might not make it to Christmas, a Canadian community has delivered the holiday early. Evan Leversage has been fighting brain cancer for the past five years. When his doctors suggested that the family celebrate Christmas early this year, an outpouring of support from the seven-year-old’s community of St. George, Ontario made it happen.
Neighbors and friends started decorating their houses, going as far as importing fake snow to scatter around Evan’s front yard. Carolers have also been gathering early to sing songs on peoples’ doorsteps.The community even planned a parade for Evan where he was able to sit on Santa’s lap. It is estimated that 7,000 people came to celebrate Christmas early with Evan and his family.
New York City Women Buys Out Toy Store to Donate to Homeless Children
Carol Suchman loves to give back to her New York community and she does so by donating toys to local homeless shelters around Brooklyn. This year for the holidays she decided to go big and buy out an entire toy store in the West Village.
“When I saw this toy store, I just realized I could do it on a grander scale,” Suchman said.
Knowing this was something that she wanted to do Carol immediately went inside the toy store and negotiated with the owner to buy out all of the toys, stuffed animals and school supplies that the store had. She bagged all of the toys up and donated it to New York’s Department of Homeless Services.
While many people give donations and volunteer their time, “this is the first time anybody ever bought out an entire store and donated it to the children of shelters,” said Antonio Rodriquez director of special events at the Department of Homeless Services.
Carol is known for donating toys every year to be used as birthday gifts for children of homeless shelters and now this year for the holidays thanks to her donations, thousands of children in shelters will have at least one present to receive this holiday season. To read more about this story and see the video, click here.
Giving Back: As Simple as Buying a Sandwich
Social Bite isn’t your typical sandwich shop. It is “a sandwich shop with a difference” located in Edinburgh, Scotland. Social Bite prepares their food daily, with fresh local produce. 100% of their profits go to good causes, 1 in 4 of their team is formerly homeless, and they participate in the “Suspend Coffee and Food” initiative, which aims to feed the local homeless community.
On November 12th, this small business received a surprise visit from actor and social activist George Clooney. The Hollywood legend spent $1,000 on meals for the needy, as well as a sandwich for himself. In addition, Clooney attracted a crowd of a few hundred other customers who also supported this local shop in Scotland. By taking time out of his schedule to visit Social Bite, Clooney leads by example, exhibiting what this season is truly about – giving back.
PLA Media would like to extend our deepest condolences to all that were affected by the November 13th attacks in Paris, France. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this holiday season.
Curious to know how the French celebrate Christmas?
In France, Christmas is called Noël. This comes from the French phrase “les bonnes nouvelles,” which means “the good news” and refers to the gospel. In southern France, families burn a log in their home from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day. This stems from an ancient tradition in which farmers would use part of the log to ensure good luck for the next year’s harvest. On Christmas Eve, children leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts from Pere Noël (Father Christmas). In the morning they also find that sweets, fruit, nuts and small toys have been hung on the tree.
The main Christmas meal, called Réveillon, is eaten on Christmas Eve/early Christmas morning after people have returned from the midnight Church Service. Dishes might include roast turkey with chestnuts or roast goose, oysters, lobster, venison and cheeses. For dessert, a chocolate log-shaped cake called a bûche de Noël is normally eaten.
The Galette des Rois, or the Cake of Kings, is a flat pastry cake with a sweet filling which is made in France to celebrate Epiphany or Twelfth night. The tradition of Epiphany is the Christian celebration when three wise men or the three kings made their journey to visit infant Jesus.
The cake is made with a charm hidden inside and placed on the table to be cut into portions for everyone at the family celebration. Whoever receives the piece with the hidden charm is the lucky person and becomes king or queen for the day and has good luck for a year. Bonne Chance!
Our Family Holiday Traditions!
There is nothing like spending the holidays at home with your family. Luckily, my family has some great Christmas traditions that I look forward to every year. I am from Kansas City and every year around Christmas time, one of my favorite shopping centers, the Plaza, is lit up with thousands of Christmas lights. The Plaza’s architecture resembles a city in Spain, so this is like a European getaway right in my backyard. Going to this lighting ceremony is always a treat. We stand outside in the chilly night air with our hot coco. Then suddenly, all at once, the dark night is filled with light and cheers. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, a few families get together to decorate gingerbread houses. Although there is usually more eating candy than decorating, it is a great time to catch up with old friends I haven’t seen in a while. My mom has always collected Christmas ornaments from all the vacations our family takes. Decorating the tree is always fun because it is a time to talk and laugh about the memories we had while visiting those destinations as a family.
Our favorite holiday tradition is called “A Duct Tape Christmas.” This is a game where each person must bring one silly gift wrapped in an absurd amount of duct tape. The more tape, the better! We sit in a circle and roll dice until someone rolls doubles. They must then start trying to unwrap the gift using only their hands. As us kids have gotten older, the wrapping has become more intense. Now, it usually becomes a competition to see who can make their gift the hardest to unwrap.
Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year and when I am together with my family we have a few traditions that we like do every year. Usually the day or two after Thanksgiving my family likes to take the day and set up and decorate our Christmas tree. Once that is done my mom and I stay inside and decorate the house and my dad and brother hang up Christmas lights on the house. Once it gets closer to Christmas my family likes to go into Fort Worth or Arlington (when I am back home in Texas) and we drive through some of the neighborhoods and look at the Christmas lights on the houses. After looking at Christmas lights we usually grab dinner and finish up some last minute Christmas shopping. Then on Christmas Eve we gather with my grandparents and aunt and uncle and we go to a Christmas Eve church service and sometimes open one gift before Christmas day.
Christmas dinner is always held at Grandma’s house. The house is set up beautifully with Christmas music playing and the current sporting event on the television. As a child, I hated how slow the adults moved. It seemed like hours of small talk before we actually got to eat the food! Luckily, I’ve grown to appreciate the quality time.
One fairly unique tradition we have is hiding the pickle. Originally a German tradition, you hide a glass pickle ornament in the tree and whomever is first to find it wins a prize. See’s Candies is a Los Angeles based chocolate shop that we always buy our prizes from. However, it’s a rigged game and grandma won’t let you win unless you are under fifteen. Despite this, Christmas is my favorite holiday because it is the one time of the year where my family is able to all come together under one roof.
Holiday Inspired Recipes
Sarah’s Spice Tea
My mom always makes this spice tea at the beginning of November and is the offical fall and winter drink around our house. This drink goes perfect with a cold day and sitting in front of a fire.
12 cups of water
4 tea bags
1 1/2 cup of sugar
2 cups of orange juice
4, 6oz. cans of pineapple juice (or use 24oz. if you buy a large can)
1/4 cup of lemon juice
Bring water, sugar and the orange and pineapple juice to a boil.
Add tea bags and cloves
Let seep for 1 hour
Amanda’s Yorkshire Pudding
Despite being a third generation Californian, my family is still very, very British. This is most obvious when Christmas rolls around and the table is full of roast beef, cranberry sauce and Yorkshire pudding. Yorkshire pudding, in particular, is a family favorite. However, this dish loves to be difficult. Year after year, each with multiple and identical trial runs, it always turns out different. Perhaps that’s part of the fun, but typically causes my grandmother claim this year is the last year we will ever make it. Yet, Yorkshire pudding continues to appear on our Christmas table. Give this classic British dish a chance at your Christmas dinner. It goes best with lots of gravy!
3 large eggs
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup rendered beef or pork fat, olive oil or melted butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, flour and salt. Do not overmix. Allow the batter to rest 30 minutes at room temperature.
Heat fat over the stove, about 5-7 minutes. Add a teaspoon of fat to each cup of a 12-cup popover tin. Then, divide batter equally to fill the cups about halfway, and return the popover tin to oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the puddings are golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately.