Christmas

Last year, my wife, daughter, and I traveled from the U.S. to my childhood village in Zimbabwe for the holidays.

As far as nostalgia goes, nothing for me beats holidays at my childhood rural home. The entire village feels very much like one happy family reunion as folks from nearby cities, neighboring countries and overseas converge in their childhood homes to celebrate the festive season. I am especially proud to share this tradition with my Hungarian wife and my American-raised daughter.

Salvation Army
Caitie Switalski / WLRN

Hundreds of volunteers ran around the Community Center in Fort Lauderdale in Santa hats Friday, pushing big red shopping carts. Parents lined up out the door to pick up Christmas gifts for their children.

The Salvation Army of Broward's Holiday Toy Shop is open for one day -- and one day only. It's known as "Angel Tree Distribution Day." 

It's crunch time for getting packages delivered in time for Christmas, and companies like FedEx, UPS, the Postal Service and even Amazon are feeling the stress.

Online spending is expected to rise at least 15 percent over last year's record holiday season, according to Adobe Analytics.

Long before you click "buy" and type in that shipping address, most e-retailers have already anticipated your order.

In some cases, that item you just bought is already sitting in a nearby warehouse or fulfillment center and could be delivered in a couple of hours.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Turns out Kathy Ann Paul – aka Sweet Hand Kathy – is as capable a DJ as she is a baker.

Right now, when you walk into her Miami Gardens restaurant – called, of course, Sweet Hand Kathy – you’re likely to be regaled with “parang,” a festive blend of music like Trinidadian calypso and Venezuelan gaita. That’s because parang season means Christmas season in Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean island country where Paul grew up.

Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

It may cost a little more this year to get into the holiday spirit. But don’t blame the Grinch; the U.S. is suffering from a national Christmas tree shortage.

Think of it as a hangover from the Great Recession. Even though it struck a full decade ago, the 2008 downturn and a concurrent glut of yuletide firs and spruces drove many growers out of business. The supply is now tight — and replenishing it takes time, since a tree grows eight to 10 years before it’s ready for the tree lot.

christmas tree on curb
Ann Oro/Flickr / WLRN

The holidays are coming to a close, and most people have begun to set their browning Christmas trees on the curb for bulk rate pick up service. 

But Broward County’s park managers want them.  

 

Police in Byram, Miss. got a hot tip on a heist last week when 5-year-old TyLon Pittman called 911.

"I'm just trying to tell you something. Um, watch for the Grinch, 'cause the Grinch gonna steal Christmas, OK?" TyLon told the officer who called him back.

Yes, that's right. TyLon was trying to turn in the Grinch.

He'd been watching doctored YouTube videos of the classic Christmas tale, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and was getting pretty worried about it when Officer Lauren Develle heard about TyLon's call.

The first time I heard about Caga Tió, or Tió de Nadal, my family was getting settled into our life abroad in Barcelona this fall. A new friend's teenage daughter was telling us about the Catalan traditions she celebrates in school.

"During Christmas, there's a log that you feed scraps of food, and then he poops presents when you hit him with a stick and sing a song!"

Then she sang:

Children all over the United States will have a big decision to make on Christmas Eve: Would Santa Claus prefer a chocolate chip cookie for a snack or perhaps a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

This month, when you walk into a Colombian café in Kendall called La Candelaria, you’re met by música decembrina. December music. Meaning, Colombian Navidad or Christmas music. Old-time cumbia favorites like “El Año Viejo.”

Holidays mean one thing to many kids: presents. You've probably heard a parent of young children say something along the lines of: "It's all worth it to see their smiling faces."

There is an immediate reward to giving your kids what they want — shrieks of glee. But there is a downside to always saying "yes."

Parents have the conflicting desires of wanting to give their kids everything — but not raising them to be spoiled.

If you usually ring in the holiday with a freshly cut evergreen, your reality this Christmas could very well be a scrawny Charlie Brown tree instead — or you may wind up paying more for a lush Fraser fir.

This year, there is a tree shortage. Most growers blame the tightened supply on the Great Recession, says Valerie Bauerlein, who covered the story for The Wall Street Journal.

A skydiving Santa looking to make a grand entrance while taking an Elf on the Shelf to a 9-year-old girl crashed into a tree and light pole before hitting a beach in Gulfport and breaking his leg.

Then he got an idea, an awful idea. The Grinch got a wonderful, awful idea.

I know just what to do, the Grinch laughed in his throat. All it will take is a few keystrokes.

But of course he didn't actually muse. Because the Grinch in this case is a bot. It's automatic. It doesn't snooze.

Online scammers with an arsenal of cyberbots are stealing Christmas by buying up the most popular toys of the season and selling them for a hefty markup on third-party sites such as Amazon and eBay.

Updated at noon ET Monday

The time-honored tradition is as steeped in lore as Father Christmas himself: child nestles on Santa's knee, rattles off the coveted goodies, then a snap of the camera preserves the memory in all of its seasonal glory.

Or, this:

Interminable lines, artificial pine and a whiskered stranger decked in red. It's more than some kids and, yes, even parents, can take.

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