Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How one grinch honors Christmas

This first published December 20, 2007 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

I received an anonymous phone message from a woman wondering why I’m so anti-Christmas. She may have been referring to my Thanksgiving column, where I mentioned the possibility of the Christmas shopping season being slow. By the way, I was wrong about that. It was the same column in which I sounded like an ingrate because of an editing mistake and in my haste to leave town, I did not recheck my work.
It’s funny how a single word added to a sentence can change its entire meaning. I wrote, “... because household income is flat and not keeping up with inflation no matter how hard we work our money.” The edited version came out, “... no matter how hard we work for our money,” sounding as though I didn’t appreciate my paycheck every two weeks. I’m glad that is cleared up!
Well, let’s set the other record straight: I am not anti-Christmas! Quite the opposite if you ask me!
One needs to look at it from another perspective and the traditions of the Western Christian church.
First of all, in those traditions, Christmas doesn’t start until the end of Christmas Eve. The period roughly between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the Advent season, beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ending Christmas Eve at midnight. Advent is a time of waiting, reconciliation, reflection and preparation for the coming of the Messiah. You may be wondering if I have my Holy Days confused, and the answer is no. Both Advent and Lent have similarities. Both are periods of time to right oneself with others, bringing one into favor with God. At one time fasting was a significant ritual during Advent, a ritual rooted in our Judaic foundation.
Christmas Day is indeed a joyful celebration, and the following 12 days
leading to the Epiphany traditionally are the days of buying earthly goods and creating merriment, hence the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Somehow over time, these Holy Days have become less significant and changed into something completely different.
Personally, I dread what I call the X-mas prep days, the commercialization of Christmas during Advent, which literally starts the day after Thanksgiving. One day it may even start the day after Halloween. My family can attest to my pre-Christmas testiness as they gear up – scratch that – let’s say stress out over the holiday spirit while I’m dragging my holiday spiritedness trying to reflect upon my worthiness to be in the presence of the Lord.
These are the days I realize my many shortcomings. Perhaps one I should work on is my lack of patience while driving my bride from store to store, but then I find myself realizing just how patient she is putting up with my impatience. She is the Christmas angel in our home, without a doubt.
Really, I do have an appreciation for the secular Christmas celebration, because it is a bridge between faiths that is a glue in American society. The jolly Santa Claus is an iconic symbol of hope, peace, love and giving that stretches across religious diversity to bring joy to the world.
My adoration for Jesus and my inner child’s love for Santa Claus are in a delicate balance and that is more than likely the reason I wait until the very last minute to Christmas shop trying to preserve the real meaning of the season for myself.
What I wish for during Advent and what I would like to give and receive for Christmas can’t be bought with money at the mall.
My wish is for peace, both on earth and in the hearts of every member of our human family. These are times of war for this country ‹ whether it be the “War on Terror,” the “War on the Border” or a war of words. What this country needs is a little peace, because if we can find peace in our own country, we will be able to show the world what peace is.
It certainly is a gooey wish in terms of what most American men would ever admit to wishing for, even in the intimacy of their own hearts, but it is what I wish for you this Christmas.
From our house to yours, we wish you the Happiest of Holidays, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
– – –
If you need a Christmas spirit boost, take the family to the ”Magical
Forest” at Opportunity Village. Maybe you’re feeling a little bit like the
Grinch with a secret urge to give something back. Then join this Grinch and volunteer at the “Magical Forest” it’s easy. Just call 225-9627 and set up a time.
The Magical Forest will be open until Dec. 30, and there are hundreds of trees frosted with millions of lights to brighten your holiday nights. There are many incredible holiday displays brought to life by many of the Las Vegas Valley’s generous corporate sponsors.
Take a ride on one of two “Forest Express” passenger trains, or on both.
Stop and warm up with hot cocoa and funnel cakes, the Las Vegas holiday classic. Then take a spin on an antique carousel, make a wish with Santa and top it off with windswept trip down the Alpine Slide. According to the elves at Opportunity Village, “Every year The Magical Forest reinvents itself with something new just around the next turn on the Forest path, and this year is no exception. The elves toil all year long to create this Winter Wonderland in the Desert, which in 2006 was attended by over 150,000 visitors from Las Vegas and all over the world.”
The Magical Forest
WHEN: Nightly 5:30-10 p.m. through Dec. 30
WHERE: 6300 W. Oakey Blvd, Las
Vegas, NV 89146
COST: Adults $9, children 12 and under $7. Passports good
for admission and unlimited rides available for $14 for adults and $12 for children.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the News, can be reached at 990-2656 or

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

RED means STOP

This first published December 6, 2007 in the Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

One of the first topics to arise with new residents is how much their car
insurance rates have gone up.
Maybe you’ve heard the Las Vegas mantra, “Green means Go,’ yellow means Gas it’ and red means 'Proceed if you can follow the vehicle in front of you.’” OK, that isn’t an exact quote, but it certainly is a fair description of how we drive in the Las Vegas Valley.
Here at the Home News we recognize the seriousness of the problem.
Therefore, last August we teamed up with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Henderson Police Department, Boulder City Police Department, North Las Vegas Police Department, Nevada Highway Patrol and Las Vegas Department of Detention and Enforcement to start a new mantra for Southern Nevada: “RED MEANS STOP.”
Have you ever witnessed an accident caused by a driver who ran a red light? Perhaps you are the unfortunate victim of such an accident. I’ve had a few close encounters with careless drivers in the past couple of weeks.
Last week, while driving north on Grand Canyon Drive, clearly having the right of way, I was preparing to turn left on Patrick Lane when another driver was attempting to turn left from Patrick north onto Grand Canyon. The problem was she was too busy watching the southbound traffic to notice I had entered the intersection to make the left-hand turn. She didn’t take her eyes off the southbound traffic until I honked my horn, and when she looked my way, she slammed on the brakes and shook her hands at me as though it were my fault she was stuck in the lane.
Another annoyance I’ve noticed is the California rolling stop, which isn’t a stop at all. In Nevada it’s considered disregard of a control device or a moving violation. It’s particularly bothersome when the driver is approaching a stop sign, notices you’re in the crosswalk and doesn’t want to wait for you to finish crossing ‹ so he slows, maybe stops, then gases it before you step in front of the vehicle.
These two examples are just irritating to me; however, there are more serious incidences that result in needless death, dismemberment, disability or serious injury.
As of Nov. 1 of this year Metro reports 24,539 collisions, of those 9,843 or 40 percent resulted in injuries. Of those, 1,325 were DUI-related ‹ attributed to alcohol, illegal drugs or even prescription drugs.
So far this year there have been more than 106 fatal collisions reported by Metro Police: 35 were alcohol related. The fatalities included 41 automobile drivers, 15 motorcycle or scooter drivers, 19 passengers, 31 pedestrians and six bicyclists.
Incidentally, 28 of those fatalities were NOT wearing seat belts.
The No. 1 factor in the fatalities, present in 22.3 percent of the deadly crashes, was failure to yield the right of way. The other factors were excessive speed, 17.9 percent; pedestrian error, 17.9 percent; disregard of a control device (stop sign, signal or other sign), 13.4 percent; failure to maintain lane, 13.4 percent; and bicyclist error 1.8 percent.
Now you have an idea of why your car insurance went through the roof when you moved here.
The next time you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, you could literally be dying to get there ‹ or worse killing someone along the way.
Take your time getting home. It will be time worth waiting, not only for you but your family and someone else’s family, too.
One last piece of advice is to wait a second or two before entering an intersection and look both ways even though the light is green. Some people don’t get that “RED MEANS STOP.”

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the News, can be reached at 702-990-2656 or