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30 x December 21, 2017 - January 3, 2018 x www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com CONTINUED FROM PAGE 29 Let me begin with how we were given this sweet and loving gift: a puppy! Both of my parents supposedly had some “errands” to run and were gone for almost four hours on Christmas Eve. I felt confused, and, to be honest, a little worried about where they went. As the hours went by, they finally pulled into the driveway. However, only my mom got out of the car and approached the front door. She told my brothers and me to head into her room while we waited for my dad. After a long period of impatiently waiting, we were eventually able to leave the bedroom and were soon sitting in front of a huge box in our living room. I was anxious to see what was inside the box but was also a little overwhelmed by all the chaos occurring during those first few minutes. Once we settled down, the box was opened, and there he was. A small ball of fur with giant paws and floppy ears. We were so shocked, we did not have as big a reaction as you would expect. Not too long after the big reveal, we were crowding around and admiring the newest member of the family. That cheerful evening showed me what the Christmas season is truly about, and that is family. I have realized how much my furry friend brought us closer together as a family. It showed me that we can enjoy things together and should show our gratitude for the gifts we are given throughout the entire year. I was quickly able to notice the love our family had for this creature of God and realized how much happier our lives became after that Christmas season. Not only has this gift brought an abundance of great joy, but it has shown me that Christmas is so much more than what you want on your Christmas list. It has shown me that this time of year is about sharing time with friends and family and trying new things. For example, taking care of a puppy! I feared that I would not be able to take care of our new pet, but with the help of my family, our puppy has now grown to be a huge, healthy and loving delight to my day. This was truly the most memorable Christmas that I will not forget. Even though I truly enjoy spending time with family, I also need to make time for Christ. As a Catholic, I have made it a priority to keep Christ in Christmas and to make the Advent season an important event in my life, as well. Christ should be a significant part of Christmas and should be a time of preparing ourselves through prayer. Christmas truly means something much more to me now that I have set apart time for family and time for Christ. Honorable Mention The Family of Christmas by Mia Appleby Windermere We are the family of Christmas. When I say everyone is there, everyone is there! Nanny, Bop, Poppy and Nani are my grandparents. Then everyone from my mom’s two sisters to my six boy cousins, uncles, siblings and parents. We are the family that starts to decorate our home before the scary costumes ring at our front door. I guess you could say we have a slight Christmas obsession; yet, we wait until the day before Christmas to get our presents. We celebrate Christmas like many families around the world, but what makes us different is that we have literally celebrated Christmas around the world. What most people love about the holidays is the cooler weather, warm fireplaces and hot cookies right out of the oven. Lucky for you, we are not like most people. Our Christmases growing up took place on the other side of the world. Literally. We have spent many Christmas holidays “down under.” My dad was born and raised in Ka Huna, Australia. He grew up on a farm, where he and my grandparents lived the life of diary farmers. When we would go visit for Christmas, we would spend our days playing on the farm and learning the importance of taking care of animals and the farm. Unlike in the U.S., the weather in Australia during this time of year can get up to 118 degrees. The days of Christmas plaid and scarves were long gone. Although the weather was much different than here, we could not make it through the holiday season without making Christmas cookies. This is one of my favorite memories growing up. Nani was always in charge of baking duty. We would spend the day decorating with Aunt Kozzi and my cousins. Even here, I can close my eyes and smell those cookies baking in Nani’s kitchen. We would feel so accomplished later that night when everyone would come over for Christmas Eve dinner. Another one of my favorite memories always took place on Christmas Eve. My dad, brothers and I would set out to make the best possible Santa trap in town. This would include string from Poppy’s workshop, bells from Nani’s craft bucket, and of course, those delicious ginger bread cookies that we baked earlier in the day. We would spend hours coming up with what we thought was the perfect plan. We would go to bed that night in hopes that our trap would be successful the next morning. These memories are of things I hope to share with my kids someday. Spending Christmas on the other side of the world while growing up is not something that many kids could say they have been able to do. The journey to get there sure is tough, but

definitely worth it. Christmas is not defined only by cold weather and warm cookies. It is not defined by being in your own home or waking up in your own bed. Christmas to me means much more than that. Christmas to me will always be special memories of spending time on Poppy’s farm, baking ginger bread cookies with Nani and cousins, and coming up with the perfect plan to catch Santa in action. I truly believe that we are indeed the family of Christmas. One that could never let a jet plane and thousands of miles take away the true meaning of Christmas. Honorable Mention Christmas Dinner Goes to the Dog by Garret Milhausen Summerport Once upon a time, a family was preparing for Christmas. This family had a dog. He wasn’t really a mean dog, it was just that whenever his nose caught scent of something he wanted, he got it. And this is the story of how the Johnsons ended up eating out on Christmas. It started when Mr. Johnson was stringing the lights. The dog, Sully, was outside when Mr. Johnson climbed up on the ladder. In his pocket was some beef jerky that he planned to eat later. Once Sully caught whiff of this, the game was on. When Mr. Johnson had his back turned, Sully went to work. He was a very large dog, more than 100 pounds. Sully took a step back and charged the ladder, which wobbled briefly and fell. Luckily, Mr. Johnson landed in the hedge. Sully then went over and briskly ate the beef jerky out of his pocket. Later that day, just as dinner finished cooking, Sully found another interesting scent and immediately put his plan into action. Mrs. Johnson always made a tenderloin on holidays. When she was about to take it to the dinner table, Sully retrieved his favorite toy, a very realistic rat. Positioned right outside the kitchen door, Sully lay in wait. As Mrs. Johnson walked out of the kitchen carrying the tenderloin, Sully dropped the “rat” at her feet. She freaked out and dropped the tenderloin, which Sully instantly picked up and took outside to gorge himself. Feeling pretty low, the Johnsons turned on the television. On came a Christmas miracle: an ad for a Cracker Barrel Christmas buffet. The Johnsons had a wonderful Christmas night after dinner, which was spent at the vet getting Sully’s stomach pumped. Honorable Mention Christmas Traditions by Antonio Adornetto Bay Springs Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. All the memories, traditions, time with family and Jesus’ birth are what make this holiday so unforgettable. There are happy, sad, joyous and new and enduring remembrances made each year. Traditions are at the heart of what makes all holidays special. They are what makes your family and anyone you celebrate with unique. Some of my favorite family traditions surround decorating the Christmas tree, attending special Christmas programs, choosing ways to give Jesus a special birthday gift of helping and being kind to others, and celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. During the beginning of December, we decorate our Christmas tree. We have a large collection of ornaments that all have a special story behind them. There are ornaments from my great grandfather, grandparents, parents and special ones to commemorate all our family vacations and special events throughout our lives. This gives us a wonderful chance to look back at many wonderful memories. We always attend at least one special Christmas program or event each year. In the past, we have gone to Epcot and visited the countries in World Showcase and learned about all the different Christmas and holiday traditions around the world. We even adopted the tradition of hiding a pickle ornament and giving the one who finds it a special gift after we learned about it in the German pavilion. We have also seen SeaWorld’s holiday celebration, The Nutcracker ballet and the lights at Disney Studios. These all create fantastic memories to look back on. Every year, we have chosen a special way to give back to Jesus during the holidays. When I was very little, www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com x December 21, 2017 - January 3, 2018 x 31 my mom would fill a specially wrapped box with good deeds that I would do throughout the holidays. We would open it on Christmas morning for Baby Jesus and read to him all the positive ways his spirit had guided me during that time. Now, we try to volunteer at different places. We also look to pay it forward to others whenever possible and give to those in need to show the spirit of caring and love that Jesus teaches us truly lives in us every day and especially during the holidays. On Christmas Eve every year, my grandmother comes to our house for a special steak dinner, and we open our presents from the family. We put on a Johnny Mathis Christmas CD, which is my dad’s favorite, and I hand out presents to everyone. It is always a quiet night with no TV. Christmas morning is just my mom, dad and me, opening gifts from Santa and special presents that were not opened the night before. We then attend Mass. For the past two years, I have served Mass, which is a very special honor. This is a special chance to thank God for giving us the ultimate gift of his Son to save us. After Mass, my aunt and uncle host the family for the day, which includes dinner at their house with extended family and my great grandmother. Spending time with people you care about is what family is all about and what creating special memories really means to me. All of these traditions we create together show how important family is and remind us of the special bond Mary, Joseph and Jesus had as the Holy Family as we celebrate His birth every year. Honorable Mention Christmas Is Back! by Zach Wolsonovich Lake Roberts Landing It’s November, and signs of Christmas are beginning to show up. Lowe’s is drowning in poinsettias, and the peppermint mocha, a Starbucks classic, has returned. The Christmas spirit has arrived with a bang and has no signs of leaving. It’s Black Friday, and the world seems to have exploded. Yesterday the world-famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade should’ve been called the Macy’s We Love to Celebrate Christmas Early Parade. I score some great gifts, as well as some things for myself, from Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. My favorite Christmas tradition is decorating the house, inside and out. I enjoy the struggle of trying to find lights that work and figuring out how to attach them to the house. It is always funny when we lose the remotes for the timers or step back to admire our work at night and see entire sections of lights out. The tree is another story. Being the owner of a dog is amazing, but it comes with its struggles. It seems that year after year, we lose more and more ornaments. One of the things I love about Christmas is giving back to those less fortunate. Last Christmas, my friends and I helped with a toy drive at our school for the children at Nemours Children's Hospital. Seeing how happy all of the people who worked at the hospital were about this act of kindness was a wonderful sight. As Christmas approaches, I hope that we can give back to those who need it. Around two weeks from Christmas, one of my favorite Christmas traditions is baking cookies with my mom. Also, around this time, we begin to watch Christmas movies with the whole family. Our favorites include Elf and Christmas Vacation. I personally feel that Christmas movies are some of the best in the world. When break finally arrives, it is nearly Christmas. Everyone in my family is hustling and bustling, trying to get lastminute preparations done, and finally it’s here. Christmas Eve is one of the most anxiety-filled days of the year. You cannot wait to wake up the next morning to see all of your presents. Finally, after you finish dinner and leave cookies out, you slowly drift to sleep. It’s here, Christmas! I always run downstairs to find presents waiting for my family and me. My youngest sister sleeps in for what seems like forever until finally, she awakes, and we can begin the festivities. As we open presents and enjoy Christmas festivities, I remember to be thankful for the gifts I have received, not just material things. I thank God for my family, friends CONTINUED ON PAGE 32