The straw would give way to the cross
Infant Jesus with Mary
By Lakshman de Silva
Christmas of 2008 began with the lighting of
crackers from midnight of December 1till
dawn. This happy season would prevail till
January 6, the feast of the three wise men,
who came to see baby Jesus from the East.
Christmas is the season of profession of
faith everywhere by overt signs and
utterances, prayers and songs so that the
whole world may know that December 25, is
the birthday of Jesus Christ, God and man.
This God-man, whose body was made from the
flesh and blood of Mary, came to Earth to
offer satisfaction to God the Father and to
redeem man for the sin of Adam.
The Church celebrates Christmas with the
preceding season of Advent of four weeks
before Christmas, by way of prayer and
penance on the spiritual level. On the
material level the people also shop to buy
clothes, shoes, toys and firecrackers. The
making of the Christmas cake is also a
specialty in many homes.
When Christmas nears, the making of the crib
takes prominence in homes. The children
especially take delight in seeing the Baby
Jesus with his mother and foster father in
the midst of cattle, sheep and the three
The straw in the crib which kept the babe
warm in this temporary home would make way
33 years later to a cross on which he would
suffer and hang for three hours. Then the
cross would be a suffering home to him to
offer satisfaction to his Heavenly Father
and also redeem humanity. He came to this
Earth for this.
The sign of this suffering would go on till
the end of the world, by the holy sacrifice
of the mass celebrated by priests every
Saint (Padre) Pio who was a stigmatic for
50 years, and died in 1968 said, "the world
needs the Holy Mass more than the Sun."
Even though Adam's sin was an offence to
God, God draws greater good from the bad.
With his redemption he brought this sinful
humanity to a greater good by giving his
beatific vision - being immersed in God -
after death making it the reward for those
who save themselves with sincere repentance,
and a life lived in prayer.
Unless we become as little children we shall
never know the story of the world. Parents
who have sent their sons and daughters to
colleges in the world know how the minds of
those sons and daughters have been warped
and darkened by the skeptical teaching of
unbelieving professors who think the Bible
is an unimportant book and that their own
publications are the last word on the
mystery of human life and indeed the
The entire set up of the Roman Empire was
changed - and eventually Christianised - not
because Jesus was reputed to be a deity, for
the Romans had plenty of gods. What changed
the Roman Empire was the news that the one
Almighty and Eternal God had become man in
the womb of Mary of Nazareth and had
suffered and died on the cross. This caused
the conversion of pagan
A sign in the sky
Constantine the great Emperor of Rome, was
not converted to the faith by discussing
Christianity with a philosopher. He was
converted by seeing a sign in the sky. It
was a cross he saw, such as the one Jesus
died on for the love of us. The message was
"In this sign thou shall conquer."
The childlike quality which the eternal word
was to take as the child of the Virgin Mary
is the secret of Christianity. The Bible is
the universal depository of medicine for the
cure of all souls. The Old Testament is the
Gospel veiled. The New Testament is the
prophesy of the Old Testament unveiled.
A long wait for Santa: It's been four
By Ranee Mohamed
Christmas four years ago was their last
Christmas. For the very next day after
Christmas came the wave of anguish. Ever
since, the tsunami these children and their
parents have only lived with the memory of
their last Christmas, year after year.
And this year too as Christmas dawns, they
have no Christmas clothes, no Santa Claus
and no Christmas cake.
"There are 52 families here and few of us
have just managed a piece of bread," said
Jayalath, wearing his silver cross
prominently around his neck. "I am a good
Christian, but my pocket is empty and there
is no way in which I can have a meal on
Christmas Day," said Jayalath.
"For us Christmas Day will be a difficult
day for all the shops will be closed and
there will be no way for us to buy a loaf of
bread. People will be at home celebrating
this great holiday and there will be no one
to throw us a few rupees," said Ranjani,
holding close her three children.
"I do not think anyone has endured such
suffering as we have. We have no food and we
have no clothes, but the most painful of
them all is to watch the way our children
suffer. They don't have proper clothes,
meals. They have not tasted milk in months,"
said Manel Lakmali.
"I am 74 years old. I have no income and no
food," said Somawathi, helplessness written
all over her face as she clutched an empty
bag. "I wish I had some food and some malted
milk to drink. Look at my wounds, I have
fallen down so many times I can't place from
which fall I got these wounds," said
Somawathi showing deep scars that stood out
in her ageing skin.
"I wish I had the means to give my children
a meal on Christmas Day," said Premawathi,
another mother of three.
Heenmenika walks very slowly. The cancer in
her stomach is causing her pain, but the
pain of hunger is greater, she insists. "I
am helpless. I am without any money and any
kind of income," says Heenmenika, tears
welling up in her eyes at the thought of her
There are two Jacinthas here and both of
them are equally helpless, Jacintha Fernando
has malnourishment written all over her
face. "I am struggling to give a better life
to my two grandchildren. I wish I had some
gifts and good food to give them on
Christmas Day," she wished.
There was anguish written over the faces of
the mothers as they wondered with their
chins buried in their palms.
Without an income and with so many mouths to
feed, the mothers in this tsunami camp,
called Karmanthapura sitting in the middle
of Galle Road in Golu Madama, Ratmalana is
hardly ever noticed. The ramshackle grey
building has a colour combination to suit
the mood and the lives of the people living
The darkness and gloom at mid day makes this
building a part of hell on earth. Here is a
place no one would want to step in to. A
little boutique with a few small onions,
some turmeric and chillie powder and a few
small sweets in dirty little bottles is
their supermarket. But there is hardly
anyone here to shop.
Torn, damp clothing hung out to dry also
serves the double purpose of separating out
each one's space from the other.
Pregnant women and new borns clinging on to
their emaciated mothers, all take shelter
here in this dark, dirty building.
"We have no electricity since January and at
night-time swarms of mosquitoes take over.
We have no money to buy mosquito coils. Our
children are ill everyday and we have to
watch them suffer," said a group of people
here who say that they are trying their best
to look into the welfare of those living
here, but have little or no power to change
New houses promised
"We have been told that we will be given
alternative places to live. We are being
told that houses will be given, today,
tomorrow, next week, next month...and so on.
But nothing has ever happened," they cried.
The rainy days and nights together with the
mosquitoes makes this hell-hole an
unforgettable nightmare for the little ones.
As the water floods their sleeping places,
their parents are unable to see where the
water is coming from and where the escape
route lies. Such is the darkness that fills
There is darkness during the day and there
is no way out of the gloom that fills it at
nightfall. Without money to light their
bottle lamps, there is hopelessness all
The laughter of children is the only sound
of happiness here. Yet by evening the
laughter turns to cries as the hunger grips
their little stomachs.
Despite the pain of hunger, their request is
for Santa Claus and for toys. So many
children, yet not a single toy in their
hands, is a difficult state to understand
given the colour and prosperity around us.
"Can we write a letter to Santa Claus," they
ask us. The doubt and uncertainty in their
voices tell us that Santa has never turned
up in the last four years - and it unlikely
that he will on this Christmas Day in 2008.
Save the animals from
crackers this season
By Risidra Mendis
It is once again the time of year when most
people are getting ready to celebrate the
festivi-ties of the season and their long
awaited holidays. It is also the time of the
year when many people give and receive gifts
from their friends and loved ones as it is
the Christmas and New Year season.
For others it is a celebration of saying
good-bye to the old year and ushering in the
New Year. The dawn of the New Year is most
often celebrated with the lighting of fire
crackers, and December 31 dinners, dances
and parties. Religious institutions also
celebrate the dawn of the New Year by
conducting religious observances.
But while all this merry making and
religious observances go on the stray dogs
and cats on the streets all over the country
are most often forgotten. These strays who
are known to survive on the left over food
thrown in garbage dumps have to fend for
themselves as almost all shops and offices
are closed for Christmas and New Year.
Some strays however are more fortunate than
others, because they are regularly fed by
kind animal lovers who are concerned about
Fend for themselves
But during the holiday season in some cases
even the strays who are regularly fed have
to fend for themselves as people go on long
vacations. The lighting of fire crackers on
roads and by lanes has also resulted in
traumatising many strays and even house dogs
whose owners most often are out celebrating
the dawn of the New Year.
Careless lighting of crackers in public
places such as on roads and by lanes has
resulted in not only stray dogs and cats but
also household animals being traumatised.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader President,
Sathva Mithra, Sargarica Rajakarunanayake
said the holiday season is a tough time for
the strays. "We all know that community
people feed the strays in their areas. But
during this time of the year when these
people go home to their villages the poor
strays have no food. Females that have
recently littered can be seen on the roads
in their skeleton forms roaming the streets
in search of food. Our only hope as animal
lovers is that other people in these areas
take the initiative to give these strays
some food until those who regularly feed
them return," Rajakarunanayake said.
Make sure animals are fed
Another animal lover Udayangani Jayawardene
said when she gets holidays from her office
during the festive season she makes sure
that somebody else feeds the animals.
"I feed the dogs in the office and the stray
dogs on the roads close by. When the office
is closed during the Christmas and New Year
holidays I give the security officers money
to buy some food for these animals. In some
cases I ask the security officers to feed
the animals while I'm on holiday. What
people don't understand is that once you
start feeding a stray dog or cat that animal
expects you to feed it everyday,"
Commenting on the lighting of crackers
during the festive season Rajakarunanayake
said people should be cautious when lighting
crackers to celebrate Christmas and the New
Year. "Children should be taught to be
careful when lighting crackers especially in
areas where there are stray dogs and cats on
the roads. Just like the house dog the stray
dog and cat are also afraid of the loud
sound of crackers," Rajakarunanayake said.
She went on to say that there are incidents
where house dogs have run away from homes
for the loud sounds of crackers. "Some of
these dogs even get lost and cannot find
their way back home. Stray dogs and cats on
the other hand hide in drains to avoid the
crackers during this time of the year,"
Fun for some
Lighting of fire crackers maybe fun for some
but for the innocent strays it is a
traumatic experience that may not be
forgotten for some time. "Dog owners should
know to take precautionary measures during
the festive season. If you have a dog that
is kept outside you should make sure that
the animal is kept in a cage during this
time of the year. The cage should be secure
where the dog cannot escape. It is also
important that you remove all chains from
dogs that are kept in gardens. Dogs when
frightened can break their chains and run
away," Jayawardene said.
She added that in some cases when the dogs
break the chains part of the chain still
remains on the animal. "If these dogs are
running along the road and are not used to
the road their chains can get tangled with
vehicles and the animals could die. Even
without a chain house dogs who are not used
to the roads can get knocked down by passing
vehicles," Jayawardene explained.
Rajakarunanayake and Jayawardene are of the
view that all pet owners should take
responsibility towards their pets and ensure
that during the festive season the animals
are well protected and secure from fire
Of yule logs and other
story of the yule log is a significant part
of Christmas traditions. Yule log is a large
log burned in the hearth of the house. It is
a symbol of prosperity and luck. It is
believed, if the tradition is followed with
sincerity and devotion, it would bring good
health, wealth and productivity in the year
The story of yule log
The tradition is practiced in many countries
and hence several legends are associated
with its origin. The most popular story of
the yule log dates back to the 12th century.
During this period in most of the European
countries, the winter festival was
celebrated by burning wood and drinking
wine. The Solstice festival was Jol (Yule)
which was celebrated throughout Northern
Europe and Scandinavia.
It was a feast to honour the Norse God, Odin
who was the God of Intoxicating Drink. The
custom of the yule log emerged from Europe's
Tradition of yule log
Burning the yule log is a crucial Christmas
tradition today. The custom of yule log
varies from region to region. It was
originally a large tree brought to the house
with great ceremony. On Christmas day,
people light the yule log placed in the
hearth and wish that it burns for longer.
As per the belief, all the family members
must sit on it before it is burnt. It is
also customary to say prayers and sing
Christmas songs while performing the
In some families, young girls and mothers
take the privilege to light the log. The
burning of the yule log brings in good
fortune for the family and friends and
scares off the evil spirits. After the
Christmas celebrations, a piece of the yule
log is kept to relight next year's log.
The custom of yule log is performed with
high spirits and sanctity. Different
countries have different ways of performing
this tradition. Even different kinds of wood
are used today to keep alive the spirit of
the tradition. Here are some of the examples
of the tradition of yule log performed in
In the UK, the log is called 'The Mock.'
Here the log is dried out and taken into the
house when its bark is taken out. Oak is the
traditional wood used at this time. At some
places, oak is replaced with a large bunch
of ash twigs. This comes from the legend
that the shepherds burned the bunches of
twigs to keep Joseph, Mary and their son
In France, the whole family gets engaged in
the process of cutting the log. Small pieces
of the log are burnt each night of the 12
days of Christmas celebrations. People in
France use the cherry tree as the
traditional yule log.
Holland follows the same process of burning
the log as does France but here the log is
stored under a bed. Today, the yule log has
become an important part of televising
Moreover, the yule log has also become a
traditional delicacy. Yule log cakes have
become an essential part of the Christmas
feast. People get chocolate log cakes at the
time of Christmas.
is for the Chocolate Peanut Butter
Fudge you make while wrapping gifts.
is for the Hazelnuts Amaretto Cream
Filled Cake, a great dessert to serve to
is for Raspberry Chocolate Trifle a
dessert you don't have to share with
is for Royal Vanilla Ice Cream
that's never too cold to eat.
is for Sugar Cookies you make with
is for Tiramisu; you know, that
dessert Tom Hanks' character in Sleepless
thought was some new romantic manoeuvre.
is for Maple Walnut Bread, which is
made in your bread machine.
is for the AHs you get when you
make a White Chocolate Macadamia Nut
is for Strawberry French Toast, the
perfect company breakfast.
Put it together the night before.)
'Tis the season to be jolly
My Beautiful Dreamer has just returned after
going out carol-ling to some elders' homes.
Apparently, at one place, Santa's pants had
descended further than it should have, and
his very green undies could be spotted.
Never mind, I'm sure the little old ladies
won't hold that against him.
At another place, a little fellow had
started singing "Happy Birthday To You!" in
a very loud voice to everyone's amusement,
obviously got the occasion wrong in his
excitement. One of B.D.'s friends said, "But
I can't sing in tune!" when she was asked to
join them. The cheeky things said, "Never
mind, half of them will be hard of hearing
anyway, so they won't notice!"
I remember how we would go around the
neighbourhood at night, lustily singing
Christmas carols. At every household, we
would be offered cake, Christmas goodies,
wine and sometimes even money. After a
couple of houses, some of the gents would be
quite 'high' and want to end the evening,
but we would continue.
It was all good fun, and we could pick
houses that we wouldn't normally go to, like
a house of one of the boys we fancied. There
would be much giggling and whispering, more
than singing going on there! There would be
several groups like us going around, but in
those days, huge trays of cakes etc. were
made, so there was plenty available. Maybe
we could get one-tenth of this quantity at
the current prices of ingredients.
One Christmas, the school wanted the choir
to go to the mental asylum to sing carols.
It looked grim and forbidding then, more
like a prison, with lots of barred windows.
We were all rather nervous, none of us
having been there before.
Anyway, we were shown around a ward with the
more docile patients. Some of them thought
we were relatives and some kept coming and
giving us messages to give their families.
One lady thought she was a queen and had
even fashioned a cloak around her shoulders!
She had heavy make-up on and lots of fake
jewellery. It was all rather sad.
Then we were ushered into a hall with a
stage. There was pin drop silence. It was
all quite unnerving, since none of them even
smiled at us, they seemed to be glaring. So
we launched into our repertoire, but they
didn't seem impressed at all.
The nun who accompanied us hissed from the
wings of the stage, "Sing the more popular
ones, like "Rudolph!" We were still met with
this deadpan silence and not a single clap.
Then some of us walked off stage and said,
"Sister, they aren't responding at all!
Shall we stop?" She said, "Shall we try some
"You!" (Pointing at me, the class clown)
"You can get them going, can't you?" When I
protested I didn't know the words but would
horse around and clap, she said, "Okay,
those who know the words sing along, we have
to find something they like." So off we
went, with me, shouting, "Hai! Hoi!"etc.
Used to lunatics
Whilst stomping my feet and clapping and
generally making a huge noise, lo and
behold, suddenly some of them charged onto
the stage and started dancing near us. Some
girls were terrified and were not singing
properly, but as for me, I had grown up
amidst lunatics, my dad's family members
were all eccentric, so I was quite used to
So, we kept on with the baila, and the
noisier it became, the more they seemed to
enjoy themselves. This was one carol singing
experience I will never forget.
We had a party to go to immediately
afterwards, I must say we were all rather
subdued in the school bus on the way back;
we had seen much to ponder about. There
wasn't the usual breathless chatter about
which boys were coming and what we were
going to wear etc.
Our church choir went carolling once with
the purpose of collecting funds for a
children's home. The leader had arranged for
us to visit some ambassadorial residencies
and places like that. We were given much
more than we bargained for and had quite a
collection at the end of it all.
Then, (of course!) the boys wanted to spend
part of it on a party for us. The girls
fiercely objected. Then they wanted to buy
something for the Youth Club, which we also
vehemently rejected. I'm glad to say the
money was used for the original purpose.
Hooray for girls!
- Honky Tonk Woman
The guy in the suit
Q: Why is Christmas just like a day at the
A: You do all the work and the fat guy in
the suit gets all the credit.
How do you know Santa has to be a man?
No woman is going to wear the same outfit
year after year.
The three stages of man:
1) He believes in Santa Claus.
2) He doesn't believe in Santa Claus.
3) He is Santa Claus.
It was just before Christmas and the
magistrate was in a happy mood. He asked the
prisoner who was in the dock, 'What are you
The prisoner replied, 'Doing my Christmas
shopping too early.'
'That's no crime,' said the magistrate.
'Just how early were you doing this
'Before the shop opened,' answered the
A car for Christmas
Danny had recently passed his driving test
and decided to ask his clergyman father if
there was any chance of him getting a car
for Christmas, which was yet some months
'Okay.' Said his father "I tell you what
I'll do. If you can get your 'A' level
grades up to 'A's and 'B's, study your Bible
and get your hair cut, I'll consider the
matter very seriously."
A couple of months later Danny went back to
his father who said 'I'm really impressed by
your commitment to your studies. Your grades
are excellent and the work you have put into
your Bible studies is very encouraging.
However, I have to say I'm very disappointed
that you haven't had your hair cut yet.
Danny was a smart young man who was never
lost for an answer. 'Look dad, in the course
of my Bible studies I've noticed in the
illustrations that Moses, John the Baptist,
Samson and even Jesus had long hair.' 'Yes.
I'm aware of that...' Replied his father
'... but did you also notice they walked
wherever they went?'
Looking for Harry
As soon as Mrs. Jones arrived at the gates
of Heaven she sought her husband, who had
died several years before.
"Excuse me," she said, approaching the
gatekeeper, "but I'm looking for my husband.
I wonder if you can help me."
"What is his name?" the gatekeeper inquired.
"Harry ... Harry Jones," she replied.
The gatekeeper stroked his chin. "There are
many here who have that name. What else can
you tell me about him?"
Blurting out the first thing that came to
mind, she said, "Well, the last thing he
said before he died was that if I were ever
unfaithful to him, he would turn in his
"Ah!" said the gatekeeper, "you're looking
for Pin-Wheel Harry.
Simple home remedies
1. If you're choking on an ice cube, simply
pour a cup of boiling water down your
throat. Presto! The blockage will instantly
2. Avoid cutting yourself when slicing
vegetables by getting someone else to hold
the vegetables while you chop.
3. Avoid arguments with the females about
lifting the toilet seat by using the sink.
4. For high blood pressure sufferers, simply
cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes,
thus reducing the pressure on your veins.
Remember to use a timer.
5. A mouse trap placed on top of your alarm
clock will prevent you from rolling over and
going back to sleep after you hit the snooze
6. If you have a bad cough, take a large
dose of laxatives. Then you'll be afraid to
7. You only need two tools in life - WD40
and duct tape. If it doesn't move and
should, use the WD40. If it shouldn't move
and does, use the duct tape.
8. Remember - everyone seems normal until
you get to know them.
9. If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've
got an electrical problem.
Some people are like slinkies - not really
good for anything but they bring a smile to
your face when pushed down the stairs
Q: What do elves learn in school?
A: The Elf-abet!
Q: If athletes get athletes foot, what do
Q: What do you get when you cross a snowman
with a vampire?
Q: Why was Santa's little helper depressed?
A: Because he had low elf esteem.
Q: Where do polar bears vote?
A: The North Poll.
Q: What do you get when you cross an archer
with a gift-wrapper?
A: Ribbon hood.
Q: What was wrong with the boy's brand new
toy electric train set he received for
A: Forty feet of track - all straight!
Q: How does Al Gore's household keep
Christmas politically correct?
A: On Christmas morning, they give the
presents TO the tree.
Q: How do sheep in Mexico say Merry
A: Fleece Navidad!
Q: What nationality is Santa Claus?
A: North Polish.
Q: Why does Santa's sled get such good
A: Because it has long-distance runners on
Q: What do you call a bunch of grandmasters
of chess bragging about their games in a
A: Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer!
Q: What did the ghosts say to Santa Claus?
A: We'll have a boo Christmas without you.
Q: Why does Santa Claus go down the chimney
on Christmas Eve?
A: Because it " soots " him!
Q: What do you call people who are afraid of
Q: Why does Scrooge love Rudolph the
A: Because every buck is dear to him.