For those of you celebrating: Merry Christmas!
With that, we’ll leave you with four stories and a video that are worth a bit of time as you settle in this Christmas Eve.
— Christmas At Ellis Island: Atlas Obscura penned the story we found the most interesting. It takes us back to 1931 as thousands of immigrants arrived at Ellis Island. As Atlas Obscura explains, Ellis Island has a complicated history — both as a symbol of America’s grace and of discrimination and arbitrary decision-making — but at Christmastime, Ellis Island received great press. It was a time when the United States delighted new immigrants with generosity. Here’s a little bit of Atlas Obscura’s lengthy report:
” ‘Everyone from the tiniest baby to the oldest man received a gift, candy, oranges, toys, soap, handkerchiefs, etc. Not one was overlooked or passed by,’ journalists glowed.
“The Ellis Island Christmas parties often incorporated a range of cultures; one particularly extravagant event in 1931 included a Hungarian dance, Russian Gypsy songs, Italian folk songs, a Japanese xylophonist, a Spanish tenor, and a German Christmas Carol. The day concluded with ‘Holy Night’ sung in every language spoken at the island—a reporter wrote that since the Chinese did not have words for the tune, they ‘assisted by humming.’ Annual yuletide festivities became an opportunity for the United States to present an idealized vision of American inclusivity—one that celebrated diverse traditions and warmly welcomed newcomers into the fold. Yet organizers of these celebrations also saw the holidays as a means to introduce the new arrivals to the middle class, Protestant customs and character of the United States—bibles, tracts, and American flags were frequently given as gifts and religious hymns rung through the vaunted halls each December.”
— A Christmas Without Gifts: Over at the Guardian, June Eric Udorie remembers the Christmas she decided to forgo presents to give them to children at an orphanage. At first, filled with feelings of jealousy, she thought she had made a mistake. The story has a happy ending:
“As the aunties in the orphanage handed out presents, the atmosphere in the room changed. I could see the excitement build in the eyes of the children, and their bodies fill with hope. I stopped feeling so powerless. A little girl, Daniella, ran up to me and hugged my legs. I carried a little boy in my arms and he kissed me on the nose before lying gently against my shoulder. I didn’t know I was crying until Ugochuwku asked me, ‘Auntie, why are you crying?’ This only made me cry more.”
— Careful With Those Christmas Decorations: FiveThirtyEight looks at all the ways that Christmas tries to kill you. In 2014, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System reported 446 injuries related to “holiday decorations.” Artificial trees accounted for 14 percent of those injuries.
— The Joy And Sorrow Of The Reindeer Business: The New York Times‘ business section takes a close look at the reindeer business, which it finds out has more to do with love than money for many. The Times reports:
“Heartbreak is an inevitable part of the business. After a lifelong fascination with reindeer, [Mark] Sopko, a veterinary dental technician, bought his first pair in 2012. Mr. Sopko calls the night they arrived — right before Christmas, naturally — the most magical day of his life. Rocket earned his name by tearing around his home field, while Fetch loved to carry around sticks to chase and chew.
“Mr. Sopko booked holiday events to offset the cost of keeping them, but this fall, both reindeer succumbed to a tick-borne disease. Devastated by their deaths, Mr. Sopko considered giving up on his tiny reindeer farm, but in the end, the allure of the creatures won out. He is starting over with two new reindeer, including a 6-month-old calf, who likes to kick soccer balls.”
— We’ll leave you with a wonderful video via NBC Philadelphia. It shows the lunch lady at Pennsylvania’s Souderton High School singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas to a loud group of students at the cafeteria. Her performance was so stunning that when she hit the first big note, the cafeteria went quiet and then erupted in applause. Here’s the video: