December 25, 2012

‘tis the 2012 season to be merry!



Monte and Carolyn Holland

Today is Christmas Day, 2012. The joyous celebration of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Eve is behind us. We need this annual reminder that God is ultimately in charge (who else can preside over a virgin birth?).
Families gathered today and exchanged gifts (and probably lots of them will be exchanged again beginning tomorrow or regifted at a later time).

We had some wonderful days leading up to Christmas. While Carolyn gathers sisters, those of you who know me know that Santa and I recently became at least brothers, although he is a little chunkier. And I have had holiday adventures as a result.
Heritage United Methodist Church in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, scheduled bell-ringing for the Salvation Army in front of the local Giant Eagle supermarket. On Tuesday, December 11, I signed up for the 1:00-2:00 p. m. slot. I arrived all decked out in my Santa suit.
What a fun time! I offered a lot of Merry Christmases, even to a number of folks who seemed to be too caught up in the season to see the merriness of it. Surprisingly many of those same folks came out with a smile and an offering for the kettle. There were a few women with children who approached me. The children weren’t quite certain how close to get to me.
“Do you want to pull my beard to see if it is real?” I asked.
Nobody took me up on that offer.
Lots of people seemed unable to pass Santa without making an offering. One man even said, “I can’t go by Santa without making a donation.”Another man said my suit must be old because it was somewhat faded.
“It’s because my wife made it for me in the 1970’s when our children were small,” I said.
By the time I left my post the kettle was considerably fuller, and I’d had a great time greeting folks, strangers and friends alike.

Santa enjoys a bear...

Santa enjoys a bear…

A week ago Carolyn and I had to go to Slippery Rock to prepare an apartment and show it to potential renters. On the way up we stopped at Creekside Restaurant just outside Apollo. It is a great little hometown-style diner. We sat down in a booth and awaited service.
A little further down the aisle a man and woman were finishing up their meals. She exclaimed THERE’S SANTA! (I did have a red shirt on, BUT NOT MY Santa hat.)
She proceeded up to our booth, telling me what she wanted for Christmas— that her boyfriend would love her forever. The conversation continued and Carolyn invited her to sit next to me in the booth. She did, having been reassured Carolyn wouldn’t be jealous. She noted that her name was Mary and that she was from Export.
“Is this really Santa Claus?” she asked her boyfriend, who by now was by our booth. He didn’t seem all that impressed.
She soon left, giving Carolyn a peck on the check and, finally, a peck on my cheek. When Carolyn told her she might write the meeting up on the computer, the woman said her name was Mary and she lived in Export. As she paid her bill she called out Ann, Mary Ann, and then she left the restaurant.
Thinking that they were locals, I asked the folks across the aisle if they knew the lady. They may not have been regulars because they didn’t know her, and were surprised that I didn’t know her.
The waitress took our order . Then she said You will not get a check because Mary Ann paid for your meals.
One woman said she supposed we’d ordered a steak dinner. Carolyn said Yes, I did, but I ordered it before I knew she was paying.
It seems that Mary Ann is a Sunday regular at the restaurant, and according to our waitress, a very nice lady.
What a surprising and wonderful act of kindness to “Santa.”


About twelve days ago an odd remark led to a wonderful Christmas morning adventure.
I called Chuck of Somerset Borough officially on business concerning his Somerset County borough and Laurel Mountain Borough.
“Chuck, this is Santa over in Laurel Mountain Borough,” I announced.
Chuck, knowing about my full white gray-streaked beard, said Tina and Dave Berkey, whose company also does work for our borough, were looking for a Santa on Christmas Day.
Santa’s Christmas mornings are usually calm. We spend Christmas Eve with our daughter…she and our son spend the day with their in-laws…and we all gather and celebrate together after Christmas day.
So Santa discussed the Berkey’s request with Mrs. Claus.
“What would you think if I played Santa for the Berkey family on Christmas morning?”
“Only if Mrs. Claus can join you,” Mrs. Claus said immediately.
Tina was delighted.
What a joyous affair! It was a good experience being with a large family whose members are rooted in the local area.
DSC01957EWe arrived, both in full costume, and empty bag. Tina quickly filled it and the Clauses officially arrived, bells jingling, to about nine children under eleven and a house full of adults. Each child, except for a reluctant one, took their place on my lap and answered obligatory questions of Santa (and Mrs. Claus) before receiving their “boy” or “girl” gift. I have never sat for so many photos as I did with the children and various family groupings. Cute little Kaitlin, seeming most taken by Santa, would venture nearby every once in a while to ask important questions such as Where are the elves?
“They have worked so hard that we gave them the day off, like the adults here today.” I replied.
The joy of Christmas morning and love of family was alive and well as we shared in a sumptuous breakfast feast before we headed back home over the mountain through the dense fog.

Dave Berkey tries to emulate Santa...

Dave Berkey tries to emulate Santa…


2012 Christmas Letter from Monte & Carolyn Holland

Is Each Snowflake Truly Unique?

Playing Santa’s Elf on My Birthday

Falalala Latkes



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