• Although usually joyous, Christmas can be a stressful time. In Philadelphia, the Old First Reformed Church, United Church of Christ, always has a Christmas crèche (a representation of the Christmas story with Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus lying in a manger) with live animals. One year, the crèche featured a couple of kids (baby goats). The kids were a big attraction, as they were lively and would sometimes climb up on the back of the cow and walk around. One night, however, they wrecked the crèche — the mannequins representing Joseph and Mary were toppled over, and some of the mannequins representing the shepherds even had their heads knocked off. The pastor of the church, Geneva M. Butz, surveyed the wreckage, then told a passerby, “Isn’t this how many of us feel on Christmas morning?”
• Sculptor Louise Nevelson once saw a patch of very bright yellow in a snowstorm. Intrigued, she followed the yellow, which turned out to be a shoeshine box. Impressed by the brightness of the shoeshine box, she offered to buy it from the elderly man who was carrying it, but the man declined, offering instead to show her “the most beautiful shoeshine box in the world.” Ms. Nevelson went with the man, who showed her a shoeshine box that he had created and decorated with flowers, beads, costume jewelry, buckles, bells, and even pretty doorknobs. She was dazzled by it, and so she took the man and his homemade shoeshine box to the Museum of Modern Art. Officials there were also dazzled by the work of art, and they displayed it as a Christmas exhibit in the museum lobby.
• Enrico Caruso enjoyed giving gifts. One day, Aimé Gerber, paymaster of the Metropolitan Opera Association, left a prized pair of cuff links on his desk. Unfortunately, they turned up missing. Fortunately, a few days later, on Christmas Eve, Mr. Caruso brought him two packages. In one package were the missing cuff links. In the other was a matching stickpin. Mr. Caruso explained, “I want to make sure I get the pattern right, so I swipe cuffs and all while you were away, to show to the jeweler!”
• In the old West, a man named Uncle Smokey Brown was having some Christmas fun and decided that he wanted to be hitched to a one-horse buggy. After inviting a few friends to ride in the buggy, he pulled it gently for a while, but then he ran away with it, smashing it against the corner of the court house, capsizing it, and dumping his friends on the ground. He paid the damages for the buggy, but explained that it was his first time being hitched to a buggy and so of course he was skittish.
• During the holiday season, the American Civil Liberties Union tends to make itself unpopular by insisting on a separation of church and state in such things as Christmas decorations. At a time when the ACLU was insisting on the removal of a large star at the top of the Texas state capitol, governor Ann Richards said, “Oh, I’d hate to see that happen. This could be the only time we’ll ever have to get three wise men in that building.”
• During a children’s Christmas pageant, a small Joseph carrying a staff led the way down the center aisle of the church. Suddenly, the young Joseph stopped and used the staff to whack one of the parishioners on the head, then he continued down the aisle. Afterward, his horrified mother asked him why he had used the staff to hit the man. The young Joseph replied, “He was making funny faces at me.”
• In Vienna, opera singer Leo Slezak’s wife once was excited to see a piece of circa 1740 French rococo vitrine in a store window. Her husband told her to go ahead and buy it, but she worried that it was too expensive. Soon afterward, the piece disappeared from the shop window. That Christmas, she received the piece as a gift — Mr. Slezak had purchased it the day after she had mentioned it to him.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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