Home Eclectic Stuff Kids’ Letters to Santa, Jewish Festival of Lights

Kids’ Letters to Santa, Jewish Festival of Lights

Curated by Ed Boitano

Letters to Santa Reveal the Toll the Pandemic is Taking on Kids

Courtesy Faith Karimi, CNN

Jonah's Letter

Jonah wants nothing from Santa this year except for a cure for coronavirus.

Anthony told Santa he wants a magical button he could press to transport him away from the weary reality of the pandemic.

Jasmyne’s Christmas list is short and to the point. “This year, I would like end of Covid-19, world peace, climate control, new Xbox,” it reads.

In their letters to Santa Claus, kids across the US are still asking for toys, clothes, Legos and video games. But in a year filled with illness and uncertainty, a review of letters addressed to the North Pole and collected through the Post Office’s Operation Santa program reveals the pandemic is weighing heavily on children.

Some are imploring Santa to make coronavirus go away. Others are asking for masks for Christmas. Still others write about the challenges of going to school online or how their parents can’t afford to buy presents this year because they lost their jobs.

“Dear Santa,” Jonah wrote. “I don’t want anything for Christmas, but I would like to ask you if you can do me a favor: Can you please find a cure for Covid-19 and give it to us to save the world. Thank you.”


Eight Elaborate Christmas Displays Across America — And the People Behind Them

Christmas Displays
From Left: Dave Rezendes, Livermore, California; The Kielawa Family, Huntington Station, New York. PHOTOS COURTESY OF DANELLE MANTHEY.

In her new book, photographer Danelle Manthey captures a distinct type of American folk art: Christmas light decoration.


Happy Holidays and a Good and Healthy New Year to Us All

By Susanne Servin of Herzerl Tours

Advent wreathADVENT – is the quietest time of the year (line of an Austrian poem).

Advent time (which is usually the four weeks in December and translates to expectant waiting) in a non- religious way is very meaningful for all us right now – as we are expectantly waiting for a relief of this awful pandemic that ravages our country and the world – for a vaccine to come.

But there is HOPE!!!

And to cheer us all up or to take our mind of things – lets bake!

My most favorite Christmas cookie recipe is Vanille Kipferl (vanilla crescents) – it’s a family recipe going back to my great grandmother, Emilie Zimmermann.

I have featured it on my website but let me send it to you again.


Best Cities for New Year’s

Courtesy Diana Polk, WalletHub Communications Manager

New Year's Eve

With New Year’s around the corner but the scale of celebrations limited by the COVID-19 pandemic, the personal-finance website WalletHub released its report on 2020’s Best Cities for New Year’s.


Dublin & Galway Selected Friendliest Cities in Europe

Grafton St., Dublin

It’s travel award season on the island of Ireland! In recent weeks, the island has been awarded a number of exciting accolades. Both Dublin and Galway have topped the Condé Nast friendliest cities in Europe list, while EPIC The Irish Immigration Museum has been awarded Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction by the World Travel Awards for the second year running.

Meanwhile, Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel experts were wowed by the Burren Ecotourism Network’s community effort, naming them one of ten winners in the new ‘Community’ category of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2021. Ireland’s Burren Ecotourism Network has been named one of ten winners in the new ‘Community’ category of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2021.

8 Immune-Boosting Smoothies We Want to Sip All Day Long

Courtesy Mary Nunes


Whether it’s flu season, allergy season, or you’re just in the mood for a refreshing, flavorful drink, an immune-boosting smoothie is always a good idea. By snacking on something as easy and convenient as a smoothie, you can jam-pack your body with antioxidants, vitamins, and more superfoods that kick-start your immune system into gear. Smoothies are (rightfully) all the rage these days, as they are easy to make, totally filling, and can give your body a plethora of health benefits.


You Might be an American Traveling Abroad if…

Inspired by Jeff Foxworthy with assistance from the Alot Travel Team

If you wear a Baseball Cap while traveling abroad you might be an American tourist.

tourist with baseball cap

Baseball is the American pastime, right? At least, it was at one point, and it’s still thought of that way, even though we watch more pro football than baseball at this point.

Still, we love the caps, and we carry them around with us everywhere — including overseas, where they immediately mark us as Americans.


5 Things Science Says Will Make You Happier

Research-backed habits that will improve your outlook and positive attitude

By Nataly Kogan
Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD

happy friends

It’s easy to assume that things like money and a luxurious lifestyle lead to happiness, but research shows that it’s the more simple experiences — like practicing gratitude or spending time with friends — that promote a sunny outlook.

Whether you need to shift from negative thoughts or want to continue a streak of positivity, here are five ways to boost happiness every day.


The Pentagon is Missing the Big Picture on “Stars and Stripes”

By Mark T. Hauser

The Pentagon’s plan to scrap funding for the Stars and Stripes newspaper isn’t just an attack on a historic military institution. It’s ignoring the lessons the paper’s history offers for efficient operation and integrating military operations with the economic life of the nation.

copies of the Stars and Stripes being delivered to Marines of Task Force Tarawa
Copies of the Stars and Stripes being delivered to Marines of Task Force Tarawa during Operation Iraqi Freedom, April, 2003. U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO BY 1ST SERGEANT DAVID K. DISMUKES, PUBLIC DOMAIN, via WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.


Ireland’s Voices Stream Christmas Hope to the World

The home of Guinness in Dublin will be the location for a unique Christmas concert that will connect the heart of Ireland with the world.

One of Ireland’s most respected musical events, Other Voices, is staging a special Christmas show in the Guinness Storehouse, which will be live streamed around the world on 16 December.

gravity bar

Featuring a wide range of Irish talent, ‘Other Voices: Home at the Guinness Storehouse’ will see this iconic building in the heart of Dublin come alive with an eclectic programme of Irish music, stories and songs.


How an Ancient Revolt Sparked the Festival of Lights

By Amy Briggs

lights from colorful menorah Jerusalem
On the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, a colorful menorah lights up the night during Hanukkah. PHOTO BY YONATAN SINDEL, FLASH90/REDUX.

It’s time to celebrate Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights that lasts for eight days and nights. This year Hanukkah starts on Thursday, December 10, and ends Friday, December 18. The holiday’s popularity has surged in modern times, but its origins date back to the turbulent centuries following the death of Alexander the Great, the ancient Macedonian leader who conquered the Persian Empire.


The Grinch That Keeps on Grinching

A new television special hearkens back to the nearly 50 years of Christmas thievery from the Dr. Seuss classic

Courtesy Patrick Sauer, SMITHSONIANMAG.COM

Grinch sand sculpture

The first time readers young and old laid their eyes on the Grinch, he wasn’t green. He wasn’t on television, on stage, or even in a book. He didn’t even debut amidst the Jing-Tinglers of the season, but rather during the dog days of summer. In 1955, a 33-line illustrated poem “The Hoobub and the Grinch” ran in Redbook magazine. In it, Dr. Seuss introduces the Grinch as a con artist selling a piece of string for 98 cents to a yellow-furred galoot out catching some rays. It’s “worth a lot more than that old-fashioned sun,” says the Grinch. (A scam to be sure, but the Grinch is right about the broiling damage that can be done without proper UV skin care.)


No Two Alike: The First Photos of Snowflakes

Courtesy of Brian Clark Howard, National Geographic

Published in 1923, these vintage images highlight the beauty and mystery of snow crystals.

In the late 1800s, a self-educated Vermont farmer by the name of Wilson Bentley made the first successful image, or “photomicrograph,” of a single snowflake. He used a bellows camera attached to a microscope.

Here are some of the very first photos of snowflakes.


WNPA Recently Announced the Recipients of its Annual Awards

national parks

Western National Parks Association (WNPA), a nonprofit education partner of the National Park Service (NPS) since 1938, recently announced the recipients of its annual awards. For over 30 years, WNPA has recognized individuals and organizations who make exceptional contributions to national parks and increase awareness of WNPA’s mission.


What Americans Abroad Should Not Expect



The fluffy flour-based pancakes that American’s have come to love at breakfast time (or for brinner) just aren’t found abroad. French crêpes are too thin. The Japanese version (okonomiyaki) is too thick and most often topped with savory things like meat, seafood, and cabbage. Australian-style pancakes are too eggy and have sugar in the dough.


The Radical History of Corporate Sensitivity Training

By Beth Blum

Don Draper at the Esalen Institute, Big Sur
The modern-day human-resources practice is embodied by the Esalen Institute, in Big Sur, which is best known today as where “Mad Men’s” Don Draper ends up. PHOTOGRAPH BY JUSTINA MINTZ / AMC.

During these turbulent months, American corporations have responded to demands for racial justice by straining to showcase their sensitive sides. They’ve pledged, like Quaker Oats, to change offensive product names; they’ve scrambled, like Pradanascar, and Delta, to implement emergency sensitivity workshops; and they’ve opted, like most of the major publishing houses, to hire sensitivity readers to vet new manuscripts for racist representations. Not so at the Donald Trump White House.


The Future of History in the Pandemic Age

By Michael Creswell

Historians need to consider and prepare for changes to the profession that will follow the COVID-19 pandemic.

reading room of the Maritime Research Center, San Francisco
Reading Room of the Maritime Research Center, San Francisco. (NPS PHOTO/K. KVAM)

Attempting to predict the future is always perilous, and events frequently humble those who dare to try. Making predictions is especially hazardous for historians, who often struggle to explain the past. Peering into the future is not part of their professional training, and their efforts to do so are likely to fail.


“Heroes of Our America”: Reading a “Patriotic” History of the United States

By Alan J. Singer

Not long ago, history textbooks were written as patriotic fables. Examining one offers a warning about the cost of putting mythmaking ahead of historical learning

Heroes of Our America

Heroes of Our America (1952) was a history book for fourth graders published by the Iroquois Publishing Company of Syracuse, New York. Its co-authors were Gertrude and John Van Duyn Southworth. John Southworth, with Harvard and Columbia University degrees, taught at a number of schools in the New York metropolitan area and was president of the publishing company. Gertrude Southworth, his frequent co-author, was also his mother.

I picked it off my office shelf after Donald Trump called for teaching “patriotic history” in American schools as a defense against a mythical radical “left” conspiracy and to ensure that  “our youth will be taught to love America.” Heroes of Our America is an example of the kind of “patriotic history” Donald and I were both exposed to as children in the 1950s. I grabbed the book when it was discarded from the Hofstra University Curriculum Materials Center only a couple of years ago.

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