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Written by Paul and Shelia Race for Family Christmas OnlineTM

The Christmas TimesTM, the Official E-Mail Newsletter of Family Christmas OnlineTM and Affiliated Sites

This newsletter is for people who like celebrating holidays, especially Christmas. It is produced in conjunction with the following web sites.

Family Christmas OnlineTMGo to Family Christmas Online.com
Cardboard ChristmasTMLearn about collecting, restoring, and reproducing vintage cardboard Christmas houses.
Old Christmas Tree LightsTMLearn the history of Christmas tree lighting.

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In this Issue

Welcome to the November, 2013 issue of The Christmas TimesTM.

We're trying to get this out before Thanksgiving for a number of reasons. One is that we wanted to wish you a great Thanksgiving holiday. Another is that we have another tinplate-inspired building project that should look nice on your mantel, putz, or Christmas railroad, and we wanted to give you time to start early.

We also wanted to let you know about two new resources we've discovered for information about Christmas tree lights and mid-century Christmas ornaments.

On a personal note, I've been concerned with the increasingly callous nature of our national discourse - especially people born with every advantage who keep making up reasons why people born into poverty deserve to stay there.

Today I know countless parents working multiple jobs - all without benefits - just to keep food on the table and a roof overhead. And my stomach turns when my more gullible acquaintances express certain TV announcers' ideology that it's somehow worse to help one family that "doesn't deserve it," than to neglect millions of families who do. Worse yet, such sentiments cut down on giving to truly helpful organizations like the Salvation Army because "they're probably helping people who don't deserve it."

Fortunately, Shelia and I have always lived frugally, so we're not hurting (despite fourteen layoffs in my 34-year career as a technical writer), but we're not going to be retiring to a house on an island in the near future either. We do help out in various ways, but this year I've volunteered to help in a way that I've never tried before - playing saxophone at Salvation Army kettles.

Okay, you didn't see that one coming, but my sister used to organize choirs to sing at kettles, so I have some idea of what I'm getting into. The local Captain seemed excited, because donations rise dramatically when there's something besides bellringing going on (even saxophone playing, apparently). If it works out, I'll report on it next month. If nothing else, it will be an adventure. And maybe a chance to see if I could make it as a busker the next time I get laid off. :-)

In the meantime, of course, I'll try to remember that Thanksgiving is not about planning a "Black Friday" campaign, but about being grateful for the blessings we have and building bridges to people who are not like us.

As I write this introduction, the timer in my back yard is turning on the Christmas lights on my garden railroad - think of it as a very large Christmas village that has real trees and gets real snow. We've already entertained dozens of friends with colored lights, Christmas music and running trains, and we expect to do so again in a few days. Okay, not everybody can do that, or, say, play saxophone. But the holiday season is the perfect time to learn how to show hospitality or generousity or graciousness in general - virtues that are useful all year around. ,

Finally, please accept our wishes for a blessed and joyous 2013 holiday season. And please enjoy any time you can spend with your family in the coming months.

Topics discussed in this update include:

Thanksgiving Then, and Then, and Now (Updated for 2013)

We've updated our article about the origins of Thanksgiving and similar harvest festivals. This year I've become aware of several attempts to rewrite history, including false claims that the 1621 feast at Plymouth never happened at all. So I did a little digging and added an update and some additional resources, in case any of our readers have been confronted with the same "urban legends" (to use a euphemism). The short version is that the surviving Mayflower colonists did have a feast in 1621, to which the Wampanoag were belatedly invited. Unfortunately, that seems to be one bright spot in a dark history. Many ill-informed bloggers would like to eliminate even that bright spot. I would prefer to let it serve as an example of how we should treat people who aren't like us. It's also worth noting that the Wampanoag and every other culture that ever depended on agriculture had also thanked their Deities for good harvests for millennia, so the "Pilgrims" were just following a tradition as old as civilization.

To jump to the article, please click the following link:

Preparing for 2013 Christmas Train DayPreparing for the 2013 Christmas Train Day

We've been running trains outside in November for six years now, adding things like Christmas lights on all the little trees, trains for kids to run, and lots of Christmas music. For many of our friend and family, it's become a "jump start" to the holiday season. By the time you get this newsletter, we'll have already held the event, but the report on it will come in the next newsletter.

To see our preparations for the 2013 Christmas Train Day, please click on the following link:

To see information about Southwest Ohio and Greater Cincinnati Christmas-themed open railroads that have yet to happen, please click the following link:

Tinplate-Inspired, Christmas Themed StorefrontsNew Tinplate-Inspired Christmas Storefront Project

From BigIndoorTrains.com and BigChristmasTrains.com - Paul Race and Howard Lamey's "Tribute to Tinplate" allow anyone with a color printer and access to cardboard to make authentic reproductions of vintage lithographed buildings - the kind made a century ago to go with that era's tinplate trains. This project, based on century-old designs, has been "tweaked" for Christmas with holiday colors and seasonal business names. If you've already done the Halloween, Beachfront, and Patriotic versions of these, you have just about everything you need to justify leaving your "holiday village" up year-round.

To see the new Tinplate-Inspired Christmas-Themed storefront building project, click on the following link:

Click to jump to our Hawthorne Train and Village review and index pages.Hawthorne Village Update

Last month we published a long explanation for why Hawthorne Village's heirloom quality On30 trains are going fast. What we didn't cover was the villages. The good news is over half of the Hawthorne village collections that were available at the beginning of November are still available. The bad news is that exactly one half of the Thomas Kinkade-inspired village collections that were available on November first are no longer available. Several other popular villages have sold out as well. Most of the trains associated with those villages are still available at this posting.

I know this must seem like a hard sell. But every year we get e-mails from folks who waited too long to order a Hathorne Village collection and tell me that if I don't locate a set for them somewhere I will have ruined their Christmas. (It doesn't help when I try to point out that Christmas is about more than buying stuff for people.) But "unavailable" means you can't get them any more. It also means that I can't get them for you.

By the way, we have never gotten an e-mail from a customer who is disappointed with the product. I know I'm happy with the pieces I own. And, no, they're not for sale.

For more information on featured trains and towns, with links to other Hawthorne Village products, please, click on the following link:

To jump directly to the Thomas Kinkade-inspired villages and towns, click the following link:

To jump directly to the Coca Cola-themed trains, which are also going fast, click the following link:

And for the sports fan in your family, you can always start an NFL, MLB, or NASCAR collection by clicking on the following link:

Related Links from Other Sites

One fun side-effect about running so many Christmas-themed sites is meeting like-minded people. Here are two folks who've contacted us recently, who also maintain resources about Christmas decorating topics.

Christmas Lights Facebook Page - David "Storko," a new reader from our OldChristmasTreeLights.com page, runs a page on Facebook that includes discussions about various lights. Click the following link to check it out:

ChristmasNostalgia.com - Includes a chain of real stores in Tennessee, but also has some links to informative articles.

The link to ChrismasNostalgia.com is listed below

To read an article on mid-century Russian "New Year" ornaments (because they weren't allowed to say Christmas) click on the following link:

To read an article on mid-century Japanese Christmas decorations, especially figurines, click the following link:

To read an article on US-made glass oraments, which became popular during and just after WWII, click on the following link:

Keep in Touch

Each month, we get more interest in this newsletter, in our Christmas sites, and in the Christmas traditions, ideas, and memories we discuss. We welcome your questions and comments as indicators of what we should be working on next (also, we always try to answer reader questions quickly). In addition, if you have any photos, tips, or articles you'd like to share with your fellow Christmas enthusiasts, please let us know.

Best Wishes!

As always, our hope is that we can continue helping you and your family (as Dickens said of Scrooge):

    Honor Christmas in your heart, and
    "try to keep it all the year."

In the meantime, please keep in touch, and let us know what you'd like to see added or changed.

May God grant you joy and wonder every season of this year,

Paul and Shelia Race




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Visit our affiliated sites:
- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -
Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site. Visit our collection of resources for collecting, restoring, and making your own cardboard Christmas houses. Return to the OldChristmasTreeLights Welcome page Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions. Visit Papa Ted Althof's extensive history and collection of putz houses, the largest and most complete such resource on the Internet. Craft and collectibles blog with local news of Croton NY.
- Family Activities and Crafts -
Click to see reviews of our favorite family-friendly Christmas movies. Free, Family-Friendly Christmas Stories Decorate your tree the old-fashioned way with these kid-friendly projects. Free plans and instructions for starting a hobby building vintage-style cardboard Christmas houses. Free building projects for your vintage railroad or Christmas village. Click to find free, family-friendly Christmas poems and - in some cases - their stories.
- Trains and Hobbies -
Visit the Internet's largest resource on choosing and displaying Christmas trains. Visit Lionel Trains. Click to see Thomas Kinkaded-inspired Holiday Trains and Villages.
Learn about backyard railroading with Family Garden Trains
Click to see HO scale trains with your favorite team's colors.
Resources for O gauge and On30 model railroading
- Music -
Carols of many countries, including music, lyrics, and the story behind the songs Wax recordings from the early 1900s, mostly collected by George Nelson.  Download them all for a 'period' album.
Best-loved railroad songs and the stories behind them.
Heartland-inspired music, history, and acoustic instrument tips. Own a guitar, banjo, or mandolin?  Want to play an instrument?  Tips to save you money and time, and keep your instrument playable.
The struggles and influences of early Jesus Musicians and others who laid the groundwork for the Christian music and worship that is part of our lives today.