Season of good cheer across the country |

Season of good cheer across the country

For Peter Deng and Clement Garang, Christmas this year had an extra special element: snow.

The teen-age refugees from Sudan, two of 3,600 the U.S. State Department hopes to settle in America within a year, say they’re fascinated by the almost mythical wet, white stuff.

”It’s wonderful,” said Deng, 17, flashing a grin. ”In Africa, we’ve only seen it on top of mountains or in storybooks.”

”You would think these boys were born right here,” said Valerie Smiley, their foster mother in Lansing, Mich.

Across the country, Christmas Day was celebrated with memories, traditions and acts of kindness.

In Los Angeles, celebrities lent a hand at the Midnight Mission Christmas dinner and toy giveaway for about 2,500 of the city’s needy.

”I don’t think Christmas is necessarily about things. It’s about being good to one another, it’s about the Christian ethic, it’s about kindness,” said actress Carrie Fisher, who was joined by her mother, Debbie Reynolds, and Dick Van Dyke.

Mike DeRosa, whose family owns 18 Burger King restaurants in the Eau Claire, Wis., area, served breakfast to several hundred people at one location.

”Whether you got money in your pocket or don’t is irrelevant to us. Nobody should be alone on Christmas,” DeRosa said.

The Roeder family of Tampa, Fla., visited the intensive care unit at Tampa General Hospital where they delivered gifts and treats to children as part of ”Bubbie’s Buddies,” named for their 9-year-old son.

Three years ago, doctors found a baseball-sized tumor on Bubbie Roeder’s brain stem and the first of many surgeries was scheduled for the day after Christmas. The tumor turned out to be benign. Today, Bubbie is back at school in third-grade.

”I told my mom, ‘We’ve got to go back and see these babies.’ So come Christmas Eve, that’s where we were,” Bubbie said.

At New York’s Grand Central Terminal, about 60 people gathered with candles in the train station’s cavernous waiting room for an annual commemoration service for a homeless woman who died in 1985. A group of formerly homeless men sang Christmas carols in honor of ”Mama Doe,” 61, who had been found dead on a bench in the station.

In Chandler, Ariz., a barber annually marks the holiday in his own distinctive way: he cuts Christmas trees into his customer’s hair for free.

”I’ve been doing this for 15 years,” said Joseph Lazzara, 60, who calls himself a ”barber-artist.” He fills in the lines on his customers’ heads with green and red poster colors, which fade in three days.

Skywatchers in much of North America were treated to a partial solar eclipse, but the weather wreaked havoc for some parts of the country. Sleet and freezing rain fell across much of Arkansas causing several crashes; Oklahoma, which was expecting a major storm, had roads glossed with ice.

”People are running off the road everywhere,” said Arkansas state police dispatcher Karen Boyer.

The cold and ice in southeastern Pennsylvania stopped a group that had planned to re-enact George Washington’s 1776 Christmas night crossing of the Delaware River. Officials at Washington Crossing State Park called off the re-enactment because of the 21-degree temperature, stiff winds and ice that prevented police safety vessels from getting into the chilly water.

The conditions weren’t much different from the original event, said park spokesman Pat Patrizio.

Washington ”crossed under conditions of darkness, so that would have been even more dangerous,” Patrizio said. ”Our re-enactors are prepared for the cold, but in the 1700s, a lot of gentlemen didn’t have the luxury of fur hats and wool socks. Some of the people who crossed the river didn’t even have shoes.”

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