Monday, December 23, 2013


About twenty-five years ago I spent part of the winter in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. I lived with a family, and the older daughter asked me to play Santa Claus in a home for disabled children. I was happy to oblige. However, I was dismayed when she brought me the costume. Although I am of average height in the US, I was at least a head taller than most people in Guatemala.

The sleeves of the coat were about 5 inches too short, and the pants were half a foot too short. But the worst part was the boots. I pulled with all my might. I pushed the boot down onto the floor. My heel was jammed. Brenda and her boyfriend helped. Together we wrestled my feet into these several-sizes-too-small boots. My toes were scrunched up; my feet were hurting already.

When I looked down I realized the boots were on the wrong feet! But there was no way I was going to struggle with them any more. I decided to walk pigeon-toed!

Last week Carla, from La Isla Mexican Store in Spencer's Market, asked me to play Santa Claus for a gathering of Ocracoke's Hispanic community. My first question was, "Will your Santa Claus costume fit me?"

It did, and I had a great time greeting the children, and handing out small gifts!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a 1921 letter written by a former slave, Harrison Williams, to Ocracoke native, Martha Ann Howard Wahab. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous8:35 AM

    Is it me or are things backward? When Dec 25 arrives does not the 12 days of Christmas begin-- I mean all the stress that can lead up to the "deadline" celebrating a Birth, I mean gee whiz it is the mass marketing retailers that have this point on their total sales chart that are group thinking everyone to buy before the deadline, --- Dec 25 comes and goes, you can still send presents, bake cookies post greeting cards in the mail I mean what the heck else is there to do in the dead of winter. the music stops in the stores I suppose but on your cd player --probably not-- and now I understand the neighbors that leave their tree up til Feb..... either they are exhausted, they forget it is there or they are some folk that get it. Sure there is Advent but how the organized religions deal with the the weeks following 12/25 escape me right now .or is it they are too busy preparing for Easter to let us contemplate the holy spirit

      by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

      When and how long is Christmas?

      Christmas Day, liturgically called "The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord" in the Catholic Church, technically includes both Christmas Eve (Dec. 24, after sunset) and Christmas Day (Dec. 25) itself. For religiously observant Christians, however, Christmas is not just one day, but an entire season, lasting anywhere from 12 days to 40 days in different ecclesial traditions.
      In the modern secular world, Dec. 26 already begins the "after-Christmas" sales, and Christmas decorations are often removed before New Year's Day! The "Christmas Season" (for shopping, decorating, parties, music, etc.) used to begin just after Thanksgiving Day (in the United States), but now seems to begin just after Halloween (Oct. 31), if not before! When people hear about the "Twelve Days of Christmas" (or sing the song by that title), they might think it refers to the last 12 shopping days before Christmas.
      In most Christian traditions, however, the "Christmas Season" properly begins with Christmas Eve (after sunset on Dec. 24), while the "Twelve Days of Christmas" refers to the period from Dec. 25 to Jan. 5.
      In different Churches, the Christmas Season might end on Jan. 6 (the traditional date of the Feast of the Epiphany), or might last until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (usually the Sunday after Epiphany), or might even last all the way to Feb. 2 (the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, 40 days after Dec. 25).

  2. Bear MacDonald3:35 PM

    Thank you for the reference to the length of the Christmas season. I have always considered the week before through the week after.

    However I have been trying to find an historical reference to the tradition of burning a bird's nest to no avail. I did discover a recipe for a yule log cake called a Buche de Noel. It looks good and easy enough that I just might try it for a New Year's get together. It'll be fun to try.

    1. Burning a Bird's Nest on the Winter Solstice is a Pahl family tradition, but one that just might become an Ocracoke Island tradition, and from here.....who knows!