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We’ve all heard the stories how early Christians picked pagan celebrations and replaced them with Christian holy days.

This Christmas, let’s celebrate the birth of Truth and Light with some truth as we shed some light on the birthday of Our Lord.

 

Have a merry Christmas and a joyous new year!

James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, ‘Twas, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL! To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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Recently, for a press interview, I was asked to list my five favorite Christmas movies. My first thought was: Is Ben Hur a Christmas movie? After I concluded that it was not, I began my list.

  1. Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer
  2. Charlie Brown’s Christmas
  3. Fred Claus
  4. Elf
  5. The Little Drummer Boy

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is simply a classic. It has everything. Drama. Comic relief. Great music — and an Abominable snowman.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas is almost prophetic with it’s counter-cultural message. Plus, it has a killer soundtrack. Also, Snoopy rocks!

I believe if Fred Claus was edited to be a G-rated film, it would be an all-time classic! Regardless, the opening scene lays down a great foundation, while the Christmas morning scenes are some of the best Christmas scenes, cinematically, ever made.

Elf is just a laugh-out-loud funny film with a heart-warming message.

Finally, there’s The Little Drummer Boy. It’s a timeless faith-based film before movies about faith were placed in an alternative category with an all-time best theme song.

I know what you’re thinking…

Fred Claus? Where’s Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life?

My criteria was simple: Movies watched over-and-over again as a family from the start of Advent to Christmas Eve. Though It’s A Wonderful Life is a classic, it’s not a timeless classic in our household — not yet, anyway.

Just this year, we kicked off the holiday season as we did when I was a kid growing up on Long Island, with Laurel & Hardy’s Babes In Toyland also known as The March of the Wooden Soldiers. So, maybe it will one day make this list. However, I have my reservations that it’ll land in the top four with my boys — and I control number five, so it’s chances are far-from-good.

Other honorable mentions would be: The original How the Grinch Stole Christmas (No, not the one with Jim Carrey); Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone 2, followed by the first Home Alone, Bill Murray’s Scrooged and The Santa Clause.

I’d also have to include two family movies that came out in 2018 that may one day be Holiday classics would be The Grinch and Netflix’s Christmas Chronicles.

Finally, two classics that fall into the category of “Christmas Movies that Everyone Forgets Were Christmas Movies” are Die Hard and Trading Places.

Hopefully, two movies I collaborated on with John “Rusty” Proctor may make the list one day. They are the faith-based film Faith Ties and the family film Kwanzaa Klaus.

I’m sure you have your own favorites. Feel free to share in the comments here or on Facebook.

Have a merry Christmas and a joyous new year!

James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, ‘Twas, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL! To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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There’s been much to do about the recent poll which suggested that Santa needs a brand new brand.

Twenty-seven percent of those polled, in fact, suggested that there needs to be gender-neutral Santa in the mix — which may work well with the gender neutral moniker Kris Kringle.

As I tell my boys, we don’t really know much about Santa Claus, except that his real name is Nicholas; that he lived in Turkey in the 4th century; and today lives forever in Heaven.  No one has ever truly seen the venerated saint who today honors Jesus on Christmas Eve, interceding for people of goodwill by spreading joy and glad tidings too all.

All the stories we hear about the Santa Claus, I further explain, be it stories by Clement Clarke Moore, L. Frank Baum, or Rankin/Bass, are just that … stories — stories of who we think this secret gift-giver was and is.

One of the first true rebrandings of Santa Claus came in the 1600’s.

According to Christianity Today, Martin Luther replaced Saint Nicholas with the Christ Child, or, in German, Christkindl.  To commemorate this, Luther gave his children toys and honey cakes at Christmas.

And so, the tradition of rebranding Santa began … and continues on to this day.

The truth is that the image of Santa Claus has been changing ever since 4th century sailors from Italy brought the relics of a Middle Eastern saint named Nicholas back home with them to Europe.

Since, every culture has embraced a Yuletide gift-giver who looks and sounds like the people he — or she — visits.

Yes, SHE!

Throughout Italy, the home of Rome, arguably the epicenter of Christianity, the gift-giver to children on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany (Little Christmas or the 12th Day of Christmas) is a woman named Befana.

Ever suggest to a child that they were going to receive coal in their stocking for being bad?  Well, that comes straight from Befana’s playbook.

Sadly, if any Christmas gift-giver could use a 21st century rebranding, it may be Befana.

So, should Santa be rebranded?

Well, using centuries of tradition as a guide, every home should follow their heart during the holiday season, and introduce a spirit of service and giving into their homes with a gift-giver that not only matches their own culture, but also reflects the diversity of those bearing gifts on the very first Christmas.

This theme runs through my books “Kwanzaa Klaus” and “Klaus – The Gift-giver to All!

 

 

So, it seems to me, when it comes to the uproar about rebranding Santa Claus, there’s much to do about nothing.

James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, Kwanzaa KlausHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL! To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

Corny (C) 2017 Corporation YOU

As a parent, you try, from-time-to-time, to take a quality photo of your kid or kids.

Maybe you’re planning a Christmas card or want to create a nice memory. Often, frustration brews — and sometimes, the mood is totally ruined.

Well, I want to tell you: Embrace the corny!

Since my computer was running slow, I went through my photo files to see what jpegs I could delete or place on a thumb-drive.  As I scrolled through the over 4000 photos I have taken over the years, the ones which brought a smile to my face and made me literally LOL, were the corny pix.

The cornier the photo, the broader my smile grew and the louder I laughed.

More than the pleasantly posed pictures, the corny pix brought me back to that moment in time. Even more so, these corny photos captured the personality of each of my boys and act as a time-capsule of memories.

So, this Christmas chill — and embrace the corny.

 

James DobkowskiJames Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, Kwanzaa KlausHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL! To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

Santa's Bag

My youngest son is, as we say in New York, “a piece of work” — or what my neighbor Norma Cornelia would lovingly call “a little scooch.”

Just the other day, we were strolling through the Mall, going from store to store, trying to find a nice white dress shirt and black pants for his brother’s upcoming school concert, and behold, there was Santa, in full regalia, posing for pictures with good little boys and girls.

“That’s not the real Santa,” my five-year-old growled, somewhat audibly.

I quickly hushed him as daggers flew at me from the eyes of the parents and grandparents of the little ones waiting on line for a photo-op with Santa.

“It’s not him,” he quietly said in self-defense, realizing that I was not happy with his actions. “He’s not the real Santa”.

It’s not that he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus.  He does.  He just believes in the real Santa Claus: Saint Nicholas.

Maybe, my wife and I are to blame.

We are raising our boys in a household which includes teaching them about the real reason behind the season.  

So, that includes traditions beyond a Christmas tree and outdoor lights, such as: setting up a nativity set; lighting the Advent wreath nightly; recognizing Hanukkah with a menorah, because we believe The Reason most likely celebrated the Festival of Lights in his youth; and learning about Nicholas, the 4th century Bishop of Myra, the saintly gift-giver now recognized almost universally as Santa Claus — which encompasses the lesson of giving to others.

I’m probably more to blame for my five-year-old’s misbehavior more so than my wife.  You see, I’m a storyteller — and who better than Jolly ole St. Nick to tell stories about?

In this global society, I had to get pretty creative to expand the image of Santa Claus beyond the jolly ole elf who first appeared in “The Night Before Christmas” on the pages of the Troy Sentinel in 1823.

Thanks to the internet and some thoughtful teachers, my boys know that the spirited gift-giver looks different in every culture.  They also discovered, after a poorly thought-out Christmas homily,  that in Italy, the Yuletide gift-giver is a woman!

So, over the years, my Santa Claus stories have been evolving as my children get older, and I have decided to compile some of these stories in an illustrated children’s book: Klaus: The Gift-giver to All!

Klaus - Gift-Giver (Cover)It’s a story about a father and child who explore the origin of Santa Claus and begin to unravel the saintly legend of Nicholas, the international Yuletide gift-giver. 

Soon, a well-guarded secret about the kindhearted figure is revealed: Nicholas’ appearance changes as he completes his nightly deliveries, depending on the region of the world he appears and reappears! 

It also doesn’t matter if your family doesn’t celebrate Christmas; or if your family, like so many, celebrates more than one holiday during the season. As long as one holds the spirit-of-giving in one’s heart, be it during Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, there’s a Klaus for you, earning him the title: THE GIFT-GIVER TO ALL!

Combine that story with tales of helpful elves and the immoral souls of a caring communion of saints in Heaven (of which Nicholas belongs), and you can see why my five-year-old wasn’t believing in the real presence of Santa Claus in a local suburban mall.

It’s not that I’m re-branding Santa, which seems to be a trend this holiday season.  I’m just revealing the true multicultural acceptance of the spirit of this saintly gift-giver.

As we were leaving the Mall, I decided to test my five-year-old’s innocence.

“So, Bean, would you like to take a picture with Santa?” I asked as we approach Santa and his helpers.

“Yes,” he beamed and quickly join the others on line to get is picture taken with Santa Claus.

Like I said.  He’s “a little scooch.”

You can now buy Klaus: The Gift-giver to All!  on Amazon or in Kindle Edition.

James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, Kwanzaa KlausHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL! To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Father and Son (Source: Unsplash | Pixabay)

We are all too familiar with The Parable of the Prodigal Son.

This moral lesson is known by many names: The Lost Son, Running Son, Loving Father, Lovesick Father. Every time a priest, pastor or minister reads Luke 15:11-32, the focus of the sermon is often us, the congregant faithful and metaphorical Prodigal Son.

he parable is about a father and two sons — even though we rarely hear much about the other son..  

Most who explore Luke’s Gospel (Luke 15:11-32) focus on the many ways of God’s forgiveness.  

The metaphors are clear.  We, the many, are the lost son and God is the father who welcomes us home into His open arms.

But much like I did in The brother of the Prodigal Son, I’d like to give another take on the timeless parable.

I’d like to put parents in the place of the father and make our children the two brothers. Finally, instead of making the father’s home symbolically God’s open arms, let’s keep it simple and make it literally “home”!

As parents, we must continue to work hard to establish and maintain a reverent household and raise faithful children.  That includes nightly prayers and giving “thanks” before means — even when you’re eating out. 

Every home should be a display of our love of Our Lord; a miniature Church

Besides a small silver crucifix in our living room, the walls of our dining room are subtly decorated with a Celtic cross on one side and the Cross of Saint Brigid on the other.   

Every room, in fact, has something that reflects our devotion to Jesus and His Church.

When in the car, we often put on Christian radio or have a CD from Lighthouse media and other outlets. Grace before meals, is a staple part of our diet — whether we’re at home or out.

We talk about Jesus, as if he is part of our family — because he is.  

I’m certain that the father in Luke’s Gospel did the same.  It anchored his one son.  However, temptation still drew his other son away. 

Likewise, our sons and daughters may one day stray and may unfortunately get lost no matter how hard we tried.   We even, sadly, may, be powerless, at the time, to protect them from this fall. 

Not to make like of a horrible situation, but heck … even God, the first parent, couldn’t prevent the first two children from falling for the lies of the serpent. 

But, if a strong enough foundation is built under them during their childhood, they will one day, be able to rebuilt their lives on that foundation.

And, like the prodigal son, they will be come home and be welcomed back with open arms.

As Thomas Aquinas so eloquently wrote:

For the first man sinned by seeking knowledge, as is plain from the words of the serpent, promising to man the knowledge of good and evil.  Hence it was fitting that by the Word of true knowledge man might be led back to God, having wandered from God through an inordinate thirst for knowledge.

 

 

James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, ‘TwasHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL! To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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Source: Cbdlq on Pixabay

“Not unless there was an Immaculate Conception….”

It’s a punchline I hear from time-to-time.  Most often the jokester is implying that something or someone was (or was not) “conceived without sex … like Jesus.”

I usually bite my lip and say nothing.  Often, I’ll wait until the joke-teller is alone; I’ll then try to quietly approach him or her and usually privately say something like this:

“I know you’re an intelligent person and wouldn’t want to tell someone something that isn’t true, but a virgin birth …. ummm … sorry … that’s not the Immaculate Conception.”

Few people are immuned from this dogmatic faux pas.

Religious affiliation doesn’t inoculate one from error.  Unfortunately, Catholics often have to be corrected on this infallible teaching in Catholicism.

Intelligence doesn’t spare one either.

After the 2016 Presidential election, Secretary Hillary Clinton joked, “The things that come out of some of these men’s mouths …  maybe you (these men) were dropped by immaculate conception.”

According to the article, her joke was received with “rousing applause from the audience.”

Reading this truly made me sad.

Not only did the audience, the news reporter, and the editorial team not know the true meaning of the Immaculate Conception, but the woman telling the joke — who is arguably the most prominent woman in the United States, if not the world — didn’t even know that the truth of the Immaculate Conception.

This isn’t a political statement against Mrs. Clinton.  I’m sure I can find plenty of theological faux pas on her opponent’s Twitter account.  The point of reference here is the Immaculate Conception.

The Immaculate Conception is not an it.  The Immaculate Conception is a who.  

The Immaculate Conception is actually a woman!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that this woman was “redeemed in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son” (CCC 492).

She was a woman full of grace, kecharitomeneA woman blessed above all woman.  A holy woman who became the Mother of God.

She was conceived just like you and me.  However, when she was conceived, she became and forever remained Kecharitomene.  Immaculate! 

So, it’s not Jesus who was conceived “immaculately”.  His mother, Mary, was!

Sorry for ruining future punchlines.

To learn more about the Immaculate Conception, go to Catholic Answers.  You may also like to the The Science of the Immaculate Conception.

 

James Dobkowski

James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, ‘TwasHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL! To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639 0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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