Entries in Christmas (11)


Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas Message to Be Broadcast in 3D

Alastair Grant - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Queen Elizabeth’s annual royal Christmas message has become as traditional as Christmas itself, with families huddling around their TV sets, awaiting what her majesty has to say as she reflects on the year.

But this year is a first for the 86-year-old monarch as her Christmas day message has been filmed in 3D.  The queen watched a sneak peak preview of her broadcast wearing dark glasses complete with a Q made out of glittering Swarovski glasses worthy of a rock star.

This year, the message contains the impact of the London 2012 Olympic Games, saying “all those who saw the achievement and courage at the Olympic and Paralympic Games were further inspired by the skill, dedication, training and teamwork of our athletes.”

Just like every other Christmas, her majesty is at her Sandringham Estate with husband Prince Philip and other members of the royal family where they usually spend Christmas.  But breaking with tradition this year is Prince William and his wife Catherine, who will not be spending the festive day with them.  Instead, they’ll be at home with the prince’s in-laws, the Middleton’s, at their home in Bucklebury.

In a statement, the palace said the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge plan to attend Sandringham at some point in the Christmas period.

Meanwhile, the queen is said to be recovering from a cold and was forced to miss the Sunday church service, disappointing dozens of well wishers who had gathered outside the church to catch a glimpse of her.

Prince Philip did attend the service along with some members of the royal family, including Prince Andrew, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rival Monks Brawl While Cleaning Bethlehem Church

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BETHLEHEM, Israel) -- An annual Christmas cleaning ritual in Jesus’s hometown of Bethlehem deteriorated into a mass brawl Wednesday when rival monks began attacking each other with broomsticks, shouts and fists.

The fight, among priests and monks from the Greek Orthodox and Armenian denominations, took place at the Church of the Nativity, one of Christianity’s holiest churches. The monks were preparing the church for the upcoming Orthodox Christmas celebrations, celebrated in early January, and cleaning up from the Western Christian Christmas, celebrated on Dec. 25.

The Orthodox and Armenian denominations, along with the Latin denomination, jointly administer the church that was built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago in a manger, after Mary and Joseph were turned away at an inn.

The church’s strong religious and historical significance have created tension among the three sects as they each closely guard their own holy turf.

Their tenuous shareholder agreement dictates that each sect must approve any changes, no matter how minor, made to the holy site.

Renovations tentatively planned for next year to replace the church’s leaky roof will mark the first major repairs in 150 years. Negotiations for those repairs have gone on for years, long delayed by disagreement over who would pay.

The brawl that erupted on Wednesday ended when club-wielding Palestinian police stormed into the church.

No one was seriously injured in the fight, and it remains to be seen what exactly sparked this particular outburst.

“No one was arrested because all those involved were men of God,” said Bethlehem police Lt. Col. Khaled al-Tamimi, who also noted that order was quickly restored.

This year’s cleaning ritual at the church is not the first that has gone off with incident.  In 2007, seven priests were injured in a post-Christmas cleaning fight.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Prince Philip Leaves Hospital After Heart Surgery

Paul Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- After missing the traditional Boxing Day shooting party on Monday, Britain's Prince Philip has finally been given the green light to join the royal family at Sandringham.

Queen Elizabeth II's husband was released from the hospital on Tuesday after being held under observation for four nights following a successful coronary stent procedure.  He was brought to Papworth, a specialist heart hospital in Cambridgeshire, after suffering chest pains last Friday.

This health setback is believed to be the most serious of Philip's life and doctors wanted to make sure that his stent, which unblocks a coronary artery, was working properly before they released him.

Due to the hospitalization, the prince was also forced to miss the traditional Christmas morning service at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham for the first time.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Prince Philip Remains Hospitalized, Expected to Miss Boxing Day Shoot

Paul Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The royal Christmas at Sandringham went on as planned without Prince Philip, who remains in the hospital and is expected to miss the traditional Boxing Day pheasant shoot.  But the royal family wanted everything to remain as normal as possible despite the health scare.

The queen’s Christmas message to the country, which the family traditionally views together, seemed to take on special significance this year.

“The importance of family has, of course, come home to Prince Philip and me personally this year with the marriages of two of our grandchildren, each in their own way a celebration of the God given love that binds a family together,” she said in the message, which was recorded Dec. 9.

In addition to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips married rugby player Mike Tindall in August.

Prince Philip, 90, spent a third night in the hospital after undergoing emergency surgery Friday at Papworth Hospital to repair a blocked coronary artery. He was admitted with chest pain, and doctors have kept him for observation after inserting a stent. The length of his expected stay is still unknown.

The royal Christmas includes the exchange of gifts on Christmas Eve and a lunchtime feast on Christmas Day. The Duchess of Cambridge celebrated her first Christmas with the family, and was reportedly a natural in her role. Prince William seemed genuinely surprised to find his new wife entertaining the record crowds who had come out early to catch a glimpse of her outside St. Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk.  The duchess stunned in a plum coat and hat, one of five outfits she was set to wear on Christmas Day.

After the traditional lunch, William, Harry and four of the queen’s other grandchildren made the 50-mile trek to the hospital in Cambridgeshire to bring their grandfather some Christmas cheer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pope Prays for Peace, End to Bloodshed in Christmas Message

TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace in the Middle East in his traditional Christmas message, calling for an end to the bloodshed in Syria, where thousands have reportedly been killed in an anti-government uprising. The pope also urged Israeli and Palestinian officials to come together and resume talks for peace.

“May the Prince of Peace grant peace and stability to that Land where he chose to come into the world, and encourage the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians,” the leader of the Catholic Church said in his "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas Day message. “May he bring an end to the violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed. May he foster full reconciliation and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. May he grant renewed vigour to all elements of society in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East as they strive to advance the common good.”

Thousands of Roman Catholics gathered in St. Peter's Square to hear the pope’s message, which was delivered in dozens of languages. The 84-year-old religious leader also prayed for an end to hardships suffered by refugees around the world.

“May the Lord grant comfort to the peoples of South-East Asia, particularly Thailand and the Philippines, who are still enduring grave hardships as a result of the recent floods,” the pope said from his balcony above Saint Peter's Square.

The pope earlier presided over Christmas Eve Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica, where he decried the commercialization of Christmas.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Swedish Police Follow Snow Imprints to Christmas Tree Thieves

Flickr Open/Getty Images(STOCKHOLM, Sweden) -- It wasn't too difficult for police in Sweden to track down two people who stole Christmas trees from a seller in the European country.

According to Swedish reports, police say someone told them that a man and a woman were nosing around a tarpaulin under which the seller was keeping trees.

The two dragged away three trees, but police noticed the tree's imprints in the snow and followed the tracks straight to the thieves.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Britain’s Royal Family Prepares for Biggest Christmas in Years

Hemera/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- It may be the most wonderful time of year, but for the newest royal, Kate Middleton, it is also the busiest.

The Duchess of Cambridge has been out and about this week, as she prepares to spend her first Christmas with Britain’s royal family. All eyes were on her at the Sun Military Awards in London on Monday night as she stood beside her husband, Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge. Just hours earlier, the couple attended a more traditional Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace. It all leads up to the big Christmas weekend.

In keeping with tradition, the royal family will gather at Sandringham house, a country estate that sits on 20,000 acres of land in Eastern England. The festivities begin with high tea on Christmas Eve, followed by a formal dinner and the official opening of gifts.

It is said that 27 royals are expected to gather for the holiday weekend. It reportedly would be the biggest British royal Christmas gathering in years.

People magazine has reported that the Queen has invited Kate’s younger sister Pippa, 27, to join the family for their traditional Boxing Day pheasant shoot on Dec. 26, an event normally reserved for royals only. And a source told US magazine that Kate, William and Pippa, “will all travel together back to Bucklebury and spend the remaining days of Christmas with the other Middleton family members,” following their attendance at the Boxing Day shoot.

Adding to the holiday buzz surrounding the couple is growing speculation that Middleton is pregnant with the couple’s first child. The rumors have swirled since she first refused to eat a product containing peanuts -- which is considered off-limits for expectant mothers -- at a charity event in Denmark, and then appeared to conspicuously hide her belly with her purse while attending a charity concert earlier this month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Despite Obama Pledge, Thousands of US Troops in Iraq Won't Be Home for the Holidays

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama made bold statements in his Iraq withdrawal announcement on Oct. 21: “So today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year.” And: “Today, I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays.”

The reality is not every U.S. troop from Iraq will be home for the holidays. ABC News’ Martha Raddatz reports there is a good chance the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division based in Ft. Hood, Texas will have to stay in Kuwait for a few more months.

Some of the forces still in Iraq will go to Kuwait and then transition back home; some will stick around in Kuwait for a period of time, a senior defense official said. “The vast majority by far will be home by the holidays,” another official said.

One official said that some troops – numbering “something less than a brigade” – will remain in Kuwait for a certain period of time.  The official referenced possibly 3,000 to 4,000 troops, and then acknowledged that the details have not been worked out with the Kuwaitis.

“A very small percentage,” will stay behind in Kuwait, the official said, adding that those who have only served part of their deployments in Iraq by Dec. 31 will likely be the ones who stay behind in Kuwait.

The final withdrawal from Iraq has been precipitous.  There were more than 39,000 American service members in Iraq on Oct. 21, when the president announced the troops would be coming home. The last American troop associated with the war in Iraq will be out of the country this month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


33-Foot-Tall LEGO Christmas Tree Decorates London Train Station 

Vladimir Weiss/Bloomberg via Getty Images(LONDON) -- Even the merriest of Christmas celebrators can turn grumpy when it comes to the annual holiday rite of putting up the Christmas tree.

But the task of decorating a nine-foot spruce or even untangling an artificial tree pulled from the closet is nothing when compared against the latest in ultimate Christmas trees: a 33-foot-tall tree constructed entirely of LEGOs.

The tree, now on display at the St. Pancras International train station in London, is the tallest LEGO Christmas tree ever constructed.

Each of the tree’s 600,000 LEGO bricks, 172 Lego branches and 1,200 LEGO baubles were assembled by hand by just two men, Duncan Titmarsh, England’s only certified LEGO professional, and his business partner, Ed Diment.

The two men spent two months assembling the tree off-site, followed by two more weeks working at St. Pancras station to add the finishing touches to the tree.

Titmarsh and Diment completed their work Nov. 24, just as Americans celebrated Thanksgiving Day, and just in time for the holiday rush.

“Live builds are always fantastic fun as it always captures the public’s imagination and stops them in their tracks,” Titmarsh told the UK’s Surrey Advertiser.  “This tree has certainly created a lot of interest among visitors to St. Pancras.”

The tree’s 172 LEGO branches are decorated with 1,000 ornaments and a garland of LED lights.

Lego creations constructed by Titmarsh before the tree, his biggest task to date, include a LEGO greenhouse, a giant handbag for a British shopping outlet, a giant toothbrush and a map of the London Underground.

The LEGO Christmas tree will remain on display at St. Pancras International through January 3, when it will be taken down, piece by piece.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pope Calls for Peace, Coexistence in Christmas Mass

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(VATICAN CITY) -- Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Christmas at the Vatican on Saturday, where he conducted Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.

He called on Catholics to remember that Christmas marks the birth of Christ, and urged peace around the world, particularly in the Middle East.

"May the light of Christmas shine forth anew in the Land where Jesus was born, and inspire Israelis and Palestinians to strive for a just and peaceful co-existence," Benedict said.

He also hoped this season would bring consolation to Christians in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

The pope criticized China for imposing limits on religious freedom among Catholics in the country.

He greeted the thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square, before dining at the Vatican with some of Rome's homeless.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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