Christmas

North Miami’s Enchanted Place Is South Florida’s Best Kept Holiday Secret

What’s News With This Story: 

–Enchanted Place is one of South Florida’s most unique community traditions. 

-A group of around 30 houses on North Miami’s NE 137th Terrace go all out each December by putting up thousands of lights and holiday decorations. 

-Tens of thousands of people travel from around the area to drive down the street and take a picture with Santa Claus. 

-The tradition started in the late 1980s as a neighborly rivalry between Ken DiGenova and a few of his friends. It quickly grew to the entire street and has lasted 29 years. 

-DiGenova puts many of the lights up himself and he organizes the effort each year. 

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WATCH: 

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If You Go: 

Location: 1600 NE 137th Terrace, North Miami

Time: Sunset to 11:00 PM

Cost: Free (Voluntary donations to a local charity are collected if you want to give) 

-Santa Claus will be on the street to take pictures every night until Christmas. 

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WATCH ANOTHER STORY: The World’s Greatest Sign Spinners Live In South Florida. Seriously. 

 

People Shouldn’t Be Going Into Debt Because Of Christmas Shopping

By Thomas Seibold

In his bestselling new book Hillbilly Elegy, author J.D. Vance paints a vivid picture of the Appalachian culture he grew up in, including its attitudes toward earning and spending. While recounting an unpredictable childhood marked by broken marriages, violence, and addictions among the adults who were supposed to be caring for him, he singles out the custom of free-spending, debt-incurring Christmas shopping as one of his community’s least-defensible traditions.

Sporadic employment and reliance on anticipated income-tax refunds that didn’t always come through tinged the year-end shopping spree with a distinct sense of anxiety.

Unfortunately, the desire for a “nice Christmas” defined by the price, size, and status of gifts piled beneath the tree is not limited to those in Appalachia who can least afford it. It is part of the American psyche from coast to coast.

Gallup’s annual survey on gift-giving in the US, released on October 17, says that American adults each plan to spend an average of $785 on gifts this Christmas season.

Gallup says, “This is consistent with the range in October spending estimates since 2013,” though “still not as high as the $900 averages recorded just prior to the recession.”

And that’s just the average. Fully 31% of survey takers said they’d be spending $1000 or more per person, while 23% plan to shell out $500 – $999.

Can we afford this? A May 2016 story reporting on a poll conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicates that “Two-thirds of Americans would have difficulty coming up with the money to cover a $1,000 emergency.” Surprisingly, this lack of savings covers all income levels!

Even among “the country’s wealthiest 20 percent — households making more than $100,000 a year — 38 percent say they would have at least some difficulty coming up with $1,000.”

Perhaps Christmas should be renamed “Creditmas.”

After all, a survey by Magnify Money found that Christmas in 2015 added an average of $986 (most of it on credit cards) to the debt of American households with holiday debt.

Our Christmas-celebrating family has always found the annual surveys on Christmas spending surprising and puzzling.

While we look like middle-class suburbanites with a house, cars, lawnmower, white-collar jobs, and two kids, we’ve come to realize that we apparently don’t financially observe the holidays like most Americans.

Christmas for us has never been a flurry of credit-driven gift-buying, elaborate preparations, or guilt-laden obligations.

And yet it has always been a season of magic, anticipation, togetherness, and enough toys to make Christmas eve and morning a typical scene of surprise, delight, and amusement for our kids.

The first principle of Christmas spending in our home is that it’s about making the holiday a source of anticipation and enjoyment for the little people in the house–not a chance for the adults to splurge on things they wouldn’t normally buy.

The conversation that includes “My husband asked me to buy him a . . .” or “She said this year I had to get her a . . .” in reference to big-ticket spouse-directed purchases has never been spoken with our friends, because we don’t view Christmas-time spending as a chance to fast-track the purchase of overpriced baubles that our normal spending standards wouldn’t permit at other times of the year. While we work together to determine and agree on large purchases as our respective needs and wants arise throughout the year, we view Christmas a time for extra restraint–not the moment to throw off our usual financial inhibitions.

The second idea that permeates our Christmas spending is not following toy fads! From what we’ve seen, it’s the adults more than the kids who get worked up over the “hot” gift of the year, whether it’s a new gadget for themselves or some TV or movie character-of-the-moment licensed product for the kids.

In fact, J.D. Vance references just this tendency in Hillbilly Elegy, recalling how his mother ran all over town trying to find the then-hot “Teddy Ruxpin” talking bear that was sold out in stores, ultimately prompting her to buy one from a toy scalper at a substantial markup.

Finding the worn-out bear in his childhood home years later, Vance laments the effort and expense his mother went to since he was just a toddler, too young to even realize or care what kind of toy he got.

Third, our family buys Christmas gifts all year long for a fraction of what they cost new! For my wife, that meant regular trips to thrift stores in our affluent county, where the cast-offs of those who buy everything new ends up, often barely worn and sometimes with the tags still on.

For example, our daughter liked miniatures more than Disney princesses or fashion dolls, and Sheri spent years methodically gathering and re-gifting like-new “Polly Pockets” sets that were a recurring highlight of our girl’s lower-grades Christmases.

Occasionally, there would be missing pieces, but pooled together the sets gave her plenty of “play value,” and as a working professional she now jokes that the one Polly Pocket figure missing its legs gave her an early acceptance of those with physical handicaps.

Does such a Christmas sound sparse, sad, or “poor?” It was not. Our tree was piled with a combination of thoughtful pre-owned gifts and typically less than $100 in new items from local or online stores (an amount putting us, by Gallup’s estimate, in a group representing 3% of the population).

For several years my corporate employer gave each employee a hundred-dollar Amazon credit, and it was a joy for each family member to pick around $25 worth of brand-new books or toys to be wrapped in vintage wrapping paper (also obtained from thrift stores and estate sales at a fraction of the new, seasonal price).

Our kids never looked, or felt, or played, deprived. In fact, at the end of Christmas day, when the boxes and wrapping paper got thrown away, our kids’ annual “haul” looked pretty much like every other kid’s in middle-class America.

And they were no less delighted with their little treasures than children whose parents each spent $785.

Of course, striving to live below such “normal” averages is a year-round endeavor, one that paid long-term dividends as we saved for college and worked to pay off the mortgage early.

No, we never measured Christmas by the number or size or momentary hotness of our gifts.

Instead, we made the Christmas season a time for putting up treasured holiday decor, raising sparkling lights in the darkness, playing music, baking cookies, reading Christmas stories, watching Christmas movies, and going sledding and skating together.

For as every child knows, the anticipation of Christmas is a sweet and enduring gift of its own.

To many modern Americans, anything less than a full-fledged holiday spending spree sounds like the pioneers in wagons, the Waltons, or “Little House on the Prairie.”

Yet this was, and still is, our sort of suburban-Amish “normal” for Christmas, one whose traditions and memories remain full of delight and family pride.

In fact, the greatest tribute and reward for our “bottom three-percenter” way of spending at Christmas is seeing our college-educated, professionally employed daughter, and her husband, adopting such spending habits and Christmas traditions for their own new home.

No gift is better than seeing how “below-average” they really are–giving thoughtfully and wisely without waking up with a financial hangover in January.

Tom Seibold is author of The 12 Joys of Christmas, a book for children illustrated by his wife, artist Sheri McCulley Seibold.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Eden, Janine and Jim/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Previewing The Warriors/Cavs Finals Rematch On Christmas Day

By Nick Hickman

Once again it seems that the NBA has assumed the roll of Ol’ Saint Nick this holiday season. The league is scheduled to deliver five premier matchups split between ESPN and ABC. Highlighting the showcase this year will be the game at Oakland’s Oracle Arena in which LeBron James and his finally healthy squad seek revenge.

The game at 5 p.m. ET on ABC is the first rematch of the Cavaliers and Warriors since last year’s NBA Finals, a series that ended in a 4-2 Warriors victory.

WATCH: A recap of the 2015 NBA finals

It was also a series heavily plagued with injuries. The ‘Big 3’ that was formed only months earlier first lost Kevin Love in a series against the Celtics and then Kyrie Irving in Game 1 of the Finals. The blows only served to heighten the workload for LeBron James, a factor that became increasingly apparent as the series wore on. LeBron averaged 35.8 points and 8.8 assists but it wasn’t enough against the high-powered and fast paced Golden State Warriors.

This year’s matchup promises dynamics far different. While Kevin Love has steadily averaged 23 points per game this season, last Sunday marked the highly anticipated return of Kyrie Irving in a 108-86 win against the 76ers- which is nothing really to boast about. Still, it would appear that the Cavalier machine that we’ve all been waiting for is finally back, oiled up and ready to go.

Eagerly awaiting them at Oracle Arena will be the team that hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy last year, the Golden State Warriors, a 26-1 team who also wields the leagues reigning MVP in Steph Curry. While the Cavaliers have been focused on getting healthy and restoring their roster, Curry hasn’t missed a beat.

Instead, the sharp shooter is making an enticing argument for this year’s MVP while leading the league in scoring at 31.8 per game. Additionally, the Warriors have watched as forward Draymond Green has propelled himself into the conversations of the league’s elite. Green is averaging a near triple double this season with 14.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game.

However, while Cleveland has illustrated the types of struggles associated with injuries, this time around it may actually be Golden State who is burdened by the injury bug. Warriors forward Harrison Barnes has been out with a sprained ankle since November 27 and will not play on Christmas.

Golden State will miss Barnes who up until his injury had been averaging 13.4 points and 5 rebounds a game. More importantly, however, is the reality that Barnes averaged 30.1 minuets for the Warriors and was a key staple on the defensive side of the floor. The injury will force Golden State to make adjustments, in turn exposing potential opportunities to the Cavaliers.

Regardless of whatever circumstances are at play, the Warriors and Cavaliers are sure to offer up a Christmas treat. Despite injuries, the Warriors have eleven players that have played in at least twenty games already this season and will have no problem with mixing and matching to find the right formula.

On the other side sits James and a Cavalier team that wants nothing more than to assert their dominance on the hottest team in sports. The result will be a showdown appropriate for next year’s wish list.

Cover Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Here’s The 10 Best Christmas Movies From The Past 30 Years

By Tyler Wilson

Christmas is one of the best times of the year to snuggle up and watch a good movie. Here’s a list of the 10 best Christmas movies of the past 30 years (or so).

  1. A Christmas Story’ (1983)

This family classic will bring joy and laughter to everyone in your house, regardless of age. It is a movie about a young boy by the name of “Ralphie” who “convinces his parents, his teacher and santa that a Red Ryder BB gun really is the perfect gift for the 1940’s.

  1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ (1989)

Also a classic, National Lampoon’s family is anything from ordinary. This comedy is full of jokes, gags and tons of humor. The main character “Clark” is set on an adventure preparing his house for his arrival of his large family.

  1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ (2000)

Just because this movie was made by Disney doesn’t mean those over the age of 8 can’t enjoy it! The Grinch (played by Jim Carrey) is sure to make anyone chuckle, it is about a green “Grinch” who is very determined to steal christmas from a small village. Although his fate gets changed along the way.

  1. Santa Clause 3’ (2006)

Although this is the 3rd installment of the series, this is the one that truly gave everyone the warm feeling of Christmas. When Jack Frost attempts to steal Christmas from Santa Claus (played by Tim Allen) he must fight through time in order to save Christmas for kids all over the world.

  1. Elf (2003)

When an unorthodox Elf (played by Will Ferrell) is sent to New York to find out who he really is, he’s sent on an adventure through modern technology. This is a must-watch, the humor and jokes in this movie are promised to make the whole family laugh.

  1. Home Alone’ (1990)

When 8 year old Kevin (played by  Macaulay Culkin) is accidentally left at home while his parents go on vacation, he protects his house while two men attempt to break in. This is a very funny and great movie to watch with the family and has a nice “kid-like” point of view on things.

  1. The Polar Express’ (2004)

When a young boy is awakened by the sounds of a train late at night, he is greeted by a very exciting adventure to the North Pole. This is a thrilling family movie and will be guaranteed to make you feel like a part of the ride!

  1. Gremlins’ (1984)

This thriller is about the darker side of christmas. When a man gets an interesting pet called a “Mogwai” he’s given very strict rules. When these rules are broken he is sent on a very hair raising adventure. This movie would be better without the kids but it is still a very good classic and is a must see.

  1. A Nightmare Before Christmas’ (1993)

When Jack Skellington (The king of Halloweentown) gets bored with his repeating lifestyle, he demands a change. When he accidentally stumbles into Christmas Town, he is greeted with an entirely new lifestyle. When he gets back he attempts to bring the idea to Halloweentown. Its is a great family movie and will make everyone feel good.

  1. Scrooged’ (1988)

When Frank Cross (played by Bill Murray) resents the idea of Christmas, he is greeted by the ghosts of Christmas past to get him in the “Christmas Spirit.” It will make everyone in your family get in the Christmas mood and will be sure to put a smile on everyone’s face.

Cover Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

New Jersey Councilwoman Quits Over “Christmas” Tree Lighting Ceremony

 It all came down to the addition of a single word at a tree lighting ceremony, but that word carried enough significance for borough Councilwoman Charlene Storey to resign. Minutes after the council voted 4-2 Thursday night to change the name of the ceremony from A Tree Lighting to A Christmas Tree… Read More
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