Christmas news and notes from all over collected from the Internet and local media but mostly my own dogged research:
•In Australia, David Richards and his family strung more than half a million bulbs around their house in the capital city of Canberra to reclaim the Guinness Book of Records title for lights on a residential property. That’s 31 miles of lights.
Richards has been the champ before. He set the world record in 2011 with 331,038 lights, but decided not to do it again because the display took months of effort, according to published reports.
In 2012, the Gay family in Lagrangeville, N.Y., snatched away the title with a display of 346,283 lights.
Richard rose to the challenge. He not only wanted to take back the record, he wanted to “smash it” so it would stand for a long time.
This time, the number was 502,165 bulbs.
Left unreported was how many of his neighbors fled town for the holidays.
•Speaking of smashing things, the number of holiday injuries has increased for the fourth year in a row, according to a government report.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said there were about 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating between November and December.
“There are about 250 injuries a day during the holiday season. Adding safety to your checklist can keep a holiday tradition from becoming a holiday tragedy,” CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler said in a press release.
The most common injuries included falls (34 percent), followed by lacerations (11 percent) and back strains (10 percent).
Actually, I suffered all three of those injuries while assembling a bike one Christmas eve.
•Meanwhile, the folks in Great Britain are taking no chances when it comes to holiday safety. In Wales, a girl playing Mary in a re-enactment of the Christmas story will have to wear a helmet when she parades through her town on a donkey.
“We’ve got to consider that Mary will be riding a donkey on a public highway,” said Mark Barrett, 44, a youth worker at The Bridge Church in Neath, who has organized the performance.
“If she is going on a public highway, then she has to wear a riding hat,” he said.
Since solemnity and tradition are not a consideration, maybe they should dress her in bubble wrap just to be on the safe side.
•Also in Merry Olde England, a British tabloid is reporting that several department stores are offering polygraph (lie detector) tests to determine if your little angel has been naughty or nice this year. Prison sentences are optional.
•Odd, yes, but nothing says odd like California. Here, some churches are offering drive-through nativity displays this year featuring angels, shepherds, wise men and, of course, Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
Said one church: “Guests view the scenes from the comfort of their own cars while listening to scene narratives through their car radios.”
You want fries with your scripture?
•In the gift-that-keeps-on-giving department, a 1941 fruitcake has sold for $525 to an Arizona man in an Ohio company’s online auction.
Elite Estate Group sold the cake in an auction on its website. Company owner Larry Chaney says the man, who wanted to remain anonymous, probably bought the cake as an investment.
Chaney says he doubts anyone would eat a 71-year-old fruitcake even though it was vacuum packed and contained rum that probably helped preserve it.
The cake was made in 1941 by The Kroger Co. It was returned unopened to a Kroger store in 1971. The manager took it home and kept it until recently, when his son was helping him get rid of some things and gave the cake to Chaney.
•Finally, there is always one feel-good story that surfaces each year during the holidays. This one, which combines elements of tragedy and triumph, will be hard to beat:
A young Northern California woman recently posted an ad on Craigslist, asking to rent a family for Christmas.
Jackie Turner is a college student in Rocklin, near Sacramento. “On the outside, it looks like I’m the American dream kid,” she said. “But I have a back story that most people wouldn’t believe if they looked at me today.”
The 26-year-old says she comes from a broken home, where she had been abused. To escape it, she spent years living on the streets, which created even more problems.
“I was in gang life, on the streets, fighting, doing drugs, just making a mess of my life,” Turner said.
She was eventually arrested for grand theft and spent close to a year in jail. When she got out, she went to a camp for troubled young adults in Grass Valley called Christian Encounter Ministries. Now she’s a student with a 4.0 grade-point average at William Jessup University on scholarship.
But her past lingers on.
“There’s still something deep inside of me,” Turner said. “There’s this void, my biological parents aren’t here, and it’s kept this hole inside of me.”
So she turned to Craigslist.
Her ad read, “I am looking to rent a mom and dad who can give me attention and make me feel like the light of their life just for a couple of days because I really need it.” The ad offered to pay $8 an hour.
Many families contacted her, saying they would take her in for free, according to media reports. However, she also received responses from people with similar stories of traumatic childhoods.
Turner said she was touched.
“When you speak up, people start learning that they’re not by themselves. Often we lock things inside of ourselves, like a lockbox of our secrets. But then you let one out and realize, ‘I’m not by myself after all, am I?’ ”
So, rather than renting a family, Turner has decided to form one by getting all of the people who contacted her together for the holidays.
May their celebration last a lifetime.