Entries in Holidays (8)


NORAD Santa Tracker: A Christmas Eve Tradition

NORAD/Facebook(PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.) -- On Christmas Eve, children all around the world will lie awake wondering if, at any moment, Santa Claus will slide down their chimneys and leave the presents of their dreams. But all they really have to do is call in or go online to find out where Santa and his team of reindeers are at any given moment.

Every year, the North American Aerospace Defense Command tracks Santa’s journey around the world, using radar, satellite, fighter aircraft and, of course, a “Santa Cam.”

The tradition began as so many do -- by accident. In 1955, a little girl who saw a Sears and Roebuck ad called in to what she thought was a Talk-to-Santa hotline. But she did not hear Santa Claus on the other end of the line.

Instead, she heard Col. Harry Shoup. He was working in the CONAD ops center (NORAD’s predecessor) and was shocked to hear a child’s voice. According to a NORAD spokesperson, John Cornelio, only two people had the number for that line -- the president and the four-star  commander.

As it turned out, the department store had printed the wrong number in the ad and alas, a tradition was born.

“It’s the innocence of the story that makes it so special,” Cornelio said. And Harry Shoup was given a new title -- he is known as  Santa Colonel.

Since that innocent phone call more than 50 years ago, NORAD tracks Santa’s progress around the globe, year after year.

To track his journey this Christmas Eve, you can visit the NORAD website, or call in to 877-HI-NORAD.

The NORAD Santa Tracker also uses social media to connect with Santa enthusiasts. NORAD has Facebook and Twitter pages, and a YouTube channel. And this year, for the first time, NORAD has a smart phone application for Andriod and iPhone users.

NORAD expects more than 80,000 phone calls and 20 million people using its website to track Santa this year.

So come Christmas Eve, when not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse, break the silence and see just how close Santa is to bringing joy to your area.

Copyright 2011 ABC News


Holiday Grinches Steal Christmas in Massachusetts

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Looking for those last-minute Christmas gifts? Why not just steal them.  That seems to be the trend of the moment in Massachusetts, with no less than four separate Grinch-like thefts of Christmas gifts and decorations hitting families right before the holidays.

A Lawrence, Mass., mother, 41-year-old Zaida Ramirez, came home to find her apartment vandalized and most of her carefully wrapped Christmas gifts -- including Barbie dolls and a pair of coveted sneakers -- stolen.

A host of electronics equipment was also taken, including a television and several digital cameras, but it was the theft of the gifts that really broke Ramirez’s heart “I can’t believe it. It’s just like the Grinch. They stole our gifts and we don’t have the money to replace them. I have nothing for my family,” Ramirez told ABC News.

The family is managing to get by on a single salary in this tough economy.  Ramirez’s husband works in construction and has seen his hours cut back. After basic expenses there isn’t a lot left over for food, never mind gift-giving, so Ramirez isn’t sure what her kids will open on Christmas Day. “There is nothing left, I just don’t know what we’re going to do.”

But as sad as Ramirez’s story is, coming just days before Christmas, it isn’t unique. Thieves have made off with everything from Christmas lights to those gigantic festive inflatables that dot New England lawns at this time of year.

A father-daughter theft team even got in on the act in Quincy, Mass., where police have charged 58-year-old Michael Ritchie and his daughter, 19-year-old Jennifer Ritchie, with larceny after a neighbor spotted the duo stealing packages .

It turns out that Christmas is the time of year that the criminal mind gets inventive. Thieves have taken to following delivery trucks, like UPS and Federal Express, and grabbing boxes from doorsteps before the intended recipient makes it home, said Quincy Police Captain John Dougan.

In this case, the police report states that Michael Ritchie was found with a set of speakers and a series of CDs. Later police found baby clothes and Hello Kitty items,  intended as gifts -- inside Jennifer Ritchie’s home.

Federal Express is even warning their drivers to be cautious if they think they are being followed. And with more than 100 million packages being delivered this week alone, that’s a lot of potential boxes for Grinch-wannabes.

A Somerville, Mass., couple was also arrested for stealing more than 100 packages from doorsteps in their neighborhood and in nearby towns. Most of the swiped items seemed intended as gifts, such as fruit baskets, clothing and children’s toys.  It seems, though, like the Grinch, even the thieves are feeling badly about their pre-Noel pilfering. Kristen Casey burst into tears after she was arrested and her boyfriend Manuel Sheehan reportedly told police, “I feel like such a scumbag.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mom Who Put Gifts in Wrong Car Says Someone Tried to Cash In

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(YPSILANTI, Mich.) -- A Michigan mom who was hoping for a Christmas miracle after she placed $700 worth of gifts in the wrong car was heartbroken when a store informed her that someone had tried to cash in on her mistake.

Linda Gipson, of Ypsilanti, accidentally placed boxes and bags of gifts in the wrong Ford Focus parked at a mall on Dec. 15.

The mom of five said she'd put the presents in the car and then returned to shop for another hour, only to emerge and realize she had made a terrible mistake.

"I parked in aisle 10, and the car wasn't there, so I turned around and saw a similar silver Ford Focus and realized that I must have used my key to open the trunk of the wrong car, because the car I put the gifts in was gone and my car was still in the lot," Gipson said. She was shocked to realize that her car key could work on the trunk of another car.

Now Gipson said she has little hope of recovering the gifts, especially after a store called her to report that a young woman had tried to exchange two of Gipson's gifts for cash. Gipson, who'd immediately notified all the stores of the mix-up, said the store manager at Arden B recognized the items and put a stop on the return. Gipson said the manager even noticed that the items were linked to the name of Gipson's daughter, who has a frequent shopper card at Arden B.

Gipson and police were stunned to realize that her car key had successfully worked to open the trunk of an identical car, which Gipson said led to the mix-up in the first place.

"I'm not an expert on keys and how many different combinations they have but -- it's a one in a million chance that this could happen. It's possible the trunk she went up to wasn't closed all the way. There are so many different possibilities but all of them remote," said Novi Assistant Police Chief Tom Lindberg.

ABC News checked with a variety of Ford dealers and locksmiths across the country, all of who said the same thing: Car keys are unique -- one of a kind -- and it would be virtually impossible for one car key to open a different car's door or trunk, even a car of the same year and model.

Gipson said she still had some presents for her children, ages 11 through 24, tucked away for Christmas morning, and had received donations from people who heard her story, although she insisted to the donors she was not asking for help.

"I don't know what else to say. It's sad," Gipson said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Marines Apologize for Sending Christmas Ornaments to Deceased

US Marines(QUANTICO, Va.) -- The Marines are apologizing for a well-intentioned Christmas gift gone wrong that has upset the families of about 1,150 fallen Marines and sailors who received a Purple Heart Christmas tree ornament in the mail addressed to their deceased loved one.

Late last week the Marine’s Wounded Warrior Regiment mailed about 9,000 Christmas ornaments donated by the Semper Fi Fund, a charitable organization.  The ornaments were intended for post 9/11 living Marine recipients of the Purple Heart, which is the award given to service members wounded in combat.  Sailors awarded the Purple Heart while attached to or serving in support of Marine Corps units were to also receive the brass ornaments that contain an image of the Purple Heart in the center.

However, the regiment’s list of Purple Heart recipients did not distinguish between the names of living and deceased recipients of the medal. That meant about 1,150 families of fallen Marines and sailors also received the ornament in packages addressed to their deceased loved one.

The regiment apologized to the families Tuesday after it began to receive calls Monday night from family members distressed about how the packages had been addressed.

“There are no words to express how very sorry we are for the hurt such a mistake has caused the families of our fallen warriors,” Col. John L. Mayer, the regiment’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “We always strive to honor the sacrifices these Marines, sailors and their families gave to this country.

“There is no excuse for why this happened,” he said. “We accept full responsibility for this error and are moving quickly to reach out to the families we have affected.”

“The intention was to thank Purple Heart recipients for their service,” said Capt. Jill Wolf, a spokeswoman for the Wounded Warrior Regiment, which assists non-medical care to injured Marines, sailors and their families as they return to duty or transition to civilian life.

The regiment is sending letters of apology to the families of fallen Marines and sailors included in the mailing and Mayer is personally calling the families who contacted the regiment.

Wolf said that the Marine Corps began to receive calls from the families of fallen Marines on Monday as the packages began to arrive in the mail. By Tuesday evening, 35 families had contacted the Marines, with the majority expressing shock that the packages had been addressed to their loved ones and asking to be removed from the list.

She said there had also been some positive feedback from some families who wanted the Marines to know how much the ornament had meant to them, but who also asked to be removed from the list.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


The First Lady and Santa Visit Children’s Hospital

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy(WASHINGTON) -- Michelle Obama, with Santa and the family dog Bo as an entourage, visited the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Monday to read the Christmas classic Twas the Night Before Christmas to a crowd of children and their families, continuing a tradition that dates back more than 60 years.

“Christmas is coming,” Obama said as she took her seat. “Is everyone excited?”

Throughout the poem, the first lady interjected her own commentary. As she read aloud, “He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot/ And his clothes were all tarnished/ with ashes and soot,” she looked over at Santa and told the kids, “He cleaned up for you guys.”

After story time, the children asked the first lady about Obama family traditions. She used the opportunity to remind the kids that vegetables can be a healthy holiday tradition.

“We have steak,” she told the kids. “We have lots of vegetables. String beans, carrots, broccoli -- that’s our favorite. We have lots of vegetables that go with our food. With your dinner -- having a little meat and vegetables can be a good thing.”

One child exclaimed “Ewww” when Obama said the family has steak on Christmas. “Ewwwww?” she quickly replied.

The president loves pie, she added.

She told the children that her favorite Christmas movie is the Jimmy Stewart classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.

“It’s an old black-and-white movie, I know,” she said. “It’s about a man who thinks he’s not useful in the world … He wishes he weren’t there and a little angel comes down and grants his wish. And he sees what would happen in the world if he wasn’t there. Even though he thinks his life isn’t significant, he sees that the whole town falls apart. And then he wakes up and realizes that he’s got a wonderful life. My favorite story.”

The first lady said she has not had a moment to tell Santa what she wants for Christmas, so she told him as he sat next to her.

“I really want all kids to grow up with the chance for a good life and to be healthy,” she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hanukkah at the White House

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Celebrating Hanukkah at the White House Thursday night, President Obama said the holiday is one that celebrates “faith over doubt” and reminds us that “miracles come in all shapes and sizes.”

“This Hanukkah season, we remember a story so powerful that we all know it by heart -- even us Gentiles,” the president said with the first lady, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden at his side.

“It’s a story of right over might, of faith over doubt, of a band of believers who rose up and freed their people and discovered that the oil left in their desecrated temple -- which should have lasted only one night -- ended up lasting eight,” he said. “It’s a timeless story. And for 2,000 years, it has given hope to Jews everywhere who are struggling. And today, it reminds us that miracles come in all shapes and sizes.”

The president said Hanukkah is also a time to be grateful for friendships, with each other and between nations.

“And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel,” he said.

Thursday night’s celebration comes a bit early: Hanukkah begins at sunset on Dec. 20.

“We’re jumping the gun just a little bit,” Obama joked. “The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We’re stretching it out. But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight. That will cause some problems.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Christmas At The White House: ‘Where’s Bo?’

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While the official theme of this year’s White House Christmas is “Shine, Give, Share,” the real star of the Obama’s third holiday season at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is first dog Bo.

“It’s sort of a ‘where’s Bo?’” first lady Michelle Obama explained at a White House holiday event with military families Wednesday. “You’ve got to find the Bo in every room, because he’s hidden everywhere.”

The famous Portuguese water dog is depicted in 1,911 pieces of licorice, in pom-poms and even in trash bags (6,850 feet worth, to be exact). There’s a four-and-a-half foot tall Bo made from felt. Another, just nine-and-a-half inches tall, is made of 318 buttons.

“Trust me, our dog has been a little confused walking around the house for the last couple of weeks, seeing himself in gigantic form,” the first lady said.

Then there’s the real Bo, who met with military kids at the White House Wednesday. The dog made a surprise appearance as the children were decorating ornaments and cookies in Bo’s likeness with the first lady. Needless to say, he was a big hit. While Bo did try to sneak a cookie at one point, he generally behaved himself and let the children pet and adore him.

Created with the help of 136 volunteers, this year’s winter wonderland includes four hundred pounds of gingerbread, 37 trees and, of course, the five topiaries of Bo.

The official “Shine, Give, Share” theme is intended to highlight the nation’s troops and celebrate the “countless ways we can lift up those around us, put our best self forward in the spirit of the season… and share our blessings with all,” according to the White House.

Tributes to America’s service members can be found throughout the White House. There’s a special Christmas tree to honor the nation’s Gold Star families, decorated with the names of loved ones lost while serving. Another tree in the Blue Room has been decorated with letters from the country’s military children.

As the 85,000 visitors expected this holiday season enter the White House, they will also have the opportunity to send handwritten notes to troops stationed around the world.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama, First Lady Greet Troops on Christmas

Photo Courtesy - SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii) -- The Obamas spent part of their Christmas Day at their beachfront rental home in Kailua, Hawaii, enjoying “their traditional Christmas Day activities and taking in a little NBA basketball,” said Bill Burton, a deputy White House press secretary.

The president and first lady in the afternoon visited the Marine Corps Base in Hawaii to visit with troops, in what has turned into an annual tradition for the couple, this being their third visit on Christmas Day in as many years. A few hundred Marines and their families were having a traditional Christmas dinner in the hall, when the first couple walked in. Mr. and Mrs. Obama posed for group pictures and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.

President Obama asked a young girl if she got everything she wanted for Christmas. The girl said that she did and showed the president a new bracelet on her wrist. The president then pointed to his wife’s wrist, indicating that she, too, had a new bracelet on.

The first couple then returned to their rental home where they enjoyed their own Christmas dinner – with steak, roasted potatoes, green beans, and pie on the menu.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio