Pope Francis celebrated his first Christmas Eve Mass since becoming pontiff St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
The pontiff once again preached the importance of acceptance and humility, qualities he has demonstrated continually in his first nine months as head of the Catholic Church.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” Pope Francis began, quoting from Isaiah, a book of the Bible that includes prophesies foretelling the birth of Jesus.
Pope Francis has sought to change the image of the Catholic Church as a judgmental, lavish, inflexible institution since his election in March.
On Monday, he made a Christmas visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict and asked him to pray for him.
In Christmas Eve’s Mass, Pope Francis reiterated the importance of reaching out to the downtrodden, using the shepherds who were the first to hear of Jesus’ birth as an example.
“They were the first because they were among the last, the outcast,” he said.
“We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable,” he said in thanks to God and also a clear indication of the humility he encourages his flock to emulate.
Before Christmas Eve Mass, Pope Francis personally placed a baby Jesus doll in a replica of a manger, a custom usually performed by an aid
In his address to Vatican administrators on Saturday, Pope Francis said holiness was a practice of “deep humility and fraternal charity in our relationships with our fellow workers,” as he urged the cardinals, bishops and priests to avoid gossip.
Before the Mass, Pope Francis further inspired meekness, when he personally placed a baby Jesus doll in a replica of a manger, a custom usually performed by an aid.
The 2 1/2-hour Mass was the first of many services Pope Francis will lead during the holidays. On Christmas Day, he will deliver a “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message from the basilica’s balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
Pope Francis will also hold mass on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and another on January 6, for the feast of the Epiphany or “Three Kings’ Day”, celebrating the Magi’s visit to the baby Jesus.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished the troops a merry Christmas with a visit to a U.S. Marine base in Hawaii on Tuesday.
Barack Obama’s appearance with servicemen at a Christmas ceremony was his last public stop in Hawaii before he cuts short his vacation and flies back to Washington to return to negotiations over the fiscal cliff.
The president is expected to arrive in Washington early Thursday, the White House said Tuesday night. Michelle Obama and the couple’s two daughters will remain in Hawaii.
In the past, Barack Obama’s end-of-the-year holiday in his native state had stretched into the new year. The first family had left Washington last Friday night.
Congress has been expected to return to Washington late Thursday. Before he departed for Hawaii, Barack Obama told reporters he expected to be back in the capital the following week.
Automatic budget cuts and tax increases are set to begin on January 1, which many economists say could send the country back into recession. So far, the president and congressional Republicans have been unable to reach agreement on any alternatives.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished the troops a merry Christmas with a visit to a Marine base in Hawaii on Tuesday
Lawmakers have expressed little but pessimism for the prospect of an agreement coming before the New Year. On Sunday, Sen Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, said she expects any action in the waning days of the year to be “a patch because in four days we can’t solve everything”.
The Obamas were spending the holiday at a rented home near Honolulu. On Christmas Day, the president and first lady visited with Marines to express thanks for their service.
“One of my favorite things is always coming to base on Christmas Day just to meet you and say thank you,” the president said at Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s Anderson Hall. He said that being commander in chief was his greatest honor as president.
Barack Obama took photos with individual service members and their families.
On Christmas Eve, Barack Obama called members of the military to thank them for serving the nation, then joined his family for dinner, the White House said. The Obamas opened gifts Christmas morning, ate breakfast and sang carols.
Friends were joining the Obamas for Christmas dinner Tuesday night, the White House said.
President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle celebrated Christmas from their tropical Hawaii getaway as they released a more festive looking picture of themselves onto their Twitter feed.
Despite leaving for Barack Obama’s home state of on Friday, the pair released the seasonal picture to the White House twitter feed today and spoke together during the weekly presidential address of how much they enjoy a White House Christmas.
Both the president and his wife spoke of the joy at spending the Holidays with loved ones and paid a special tribute to the men and women of the armed forces – serving abroad with their families in Afghanistan and in other deployments across the globe.
First Lady Michelle Obama recently read Twas The Night Before Christmas at a Washington area children’s hospital.
As she sat down on stage to begin reading the classic tale to the tiny tots, Bo the First Dog jumped right up on his mother’s lap.
He seemed quite comfy as well, since he didn’t move from the position throughout the seven minute session.
Bo is significantly larger than the former First Dog, Barney, who was a small Scottish terrier, and Portuguese Water Dogs can weigh up to 55 pounds.
That was no matter for Michelle Obama, however, as she gamefully played along and even jokingly held the book out so that the 4-year-old pup could “read” along.
Though the First Lady visited the Children’s National Medical Center on December 14, the video was not released until Christmas Eve, in keeping with the theme of the story.
Bo is a part of many of the White House traditions during the holidays, as he served as a sort of “Waldo” figure throughout the decorations, with mini figurines in his likeness scattered throughout the many displays and 54 live trees.
Michelle Obama reads Twas The Night Before Christmas to sick children in hospital but Bo steals the show
Michelle Obama explained the reason why they used Bo repeatedly is because it was an easy theme for young visitors to catch on to during their tours and they can be given the task of spotting Bo in each of the rooms.
He also kept up the tradition- started by President George Bush’s pet Barney- of doing a video tour of the decorations throughout the White House that is then posted online for people to view in case they are not among the lucky thousands who tour it in person.
This is definitely not the first year that the holiday spotlight turned to Bo, as he has been the sole subject of each of the first family’s Christmas cards since Barack Obama took office in 2009.
Macaulay Culkin proved that he was doing just fine as he hit the shops to get the last of his Christmas gifts on Saturday, despite starting the day by eating alone at Taco Bell.
The former child star cut a solitary figure as he wandered around New York, before stopping off at the Mexican restaurant to tuck into a tasty lunch.
While many people will be watching the festive Home Alone films over the holidays, in which Macaulay Culkin stars as a young boy accidentally left at home by himself, the star seemed quite happy to be spending his day alone, pounding the streets of SoHo.
Macaulay Culkin, 32, who dated Mila Kunis for nearly nine years, dispelled any rumors that he was undernourished by stopping off at the fast food restaurant as soon as he got into town, buying a hefty meal and sitting on his own to eat it.
After re-fueling, Macaulay Culkin set about hitting the shops, as did many other New Yorkers in the run up to Christmas Day.
Macaulay Culkin proved that he was doing just fine as he hit the shops to get the last of his Christmas gifts on Saturday, despite starting the day by eating alone at Taco Bell
Trying to go as incognito as possible, Macaulay Culkin wore a floppy grey hat over his blonde mop of hair, leaving just tuft of the trademark mane sticking out.
He also wore a pair of dark Ray Ban sunglasses and wrapped a stripy scarf tightly around his neck, pulling it up tight under his chin.
The sometimes eccentric-looking star could have passed for any other shopper in a pair of loose-fitting blue jeans and a buttoned-up black jacket.
With headphones in his ears, and puffing on a cigarette, the artist stopped by a number of high street shops, picking up some clothes in Banana Republic and a portable record player in Urban Outfitters.
Two competing Santa tracking devices are racing to track Father Christmas as he travels the globe tonight.
Volunteers have again been watching Santa’ progress from 5:00 a.m. EST as part of the annual NORAD Tracks Santa Programme.
The system, run by the North American Aerospace Defense Command located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is in its 57th year and allows children to follow the sleigh online.
But this year it has a competitor – using its Google Earth and Google Maps products, the internet search giant is tracking Santa on its own this year with a new algorithm.
“While we’ve been tracking Santa since 2004 with Google Earth, this year a team of dedicated Google Maps engineers built a new route algorithm to chart Santa’s journey around the world on Christmas Eve,” the vice-president of Google Maps and Google Earth, Brian McClendon, wrote on the Official Google blog this week.
Meanwhile, NORAD revealed it takes hundreds of calls from those eager to know Saint Nick’s precise location and uses radar and satellite and even fighter jets to keep a track of his route.
For the past two years even the First Lady, Michelle Obama, has lent a hand answering calls from concerned children keen to keep tabs on Santa and his nine reindeer.
As the site explains: “The moment that radar indicates Santa has lifted off, we use our second detection system.
“Satellites positioned in geo-synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles from the Earth’s surface are equipped with infrared sensors, which enable them to detect heat.
“Amazingly, Rudolph’s bright red nose gives off an infrared signature, which allows our satellites to detect Rudolph and Santa.
“The third tracking system is the Santa Cam network…Santa Cams are ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras that are pre-positioned at many locations around the world. NORAD only uses these cameras once a year.
“The cameras capture images and videos of Santa and his reindeer as they make their journey around the world.”
NORAD and Google Santa Tracker competition to follow Father Christmas as he travels the globe
By 1:00 p.m. EST the tracking site had followed Santa across Australia and Asia.
Santa was spotted passing landmarks such as the Great Wall of China and the Sydney Opera House.
He was most recently seen above the skies of Afghanistan.
Last year, Michelle Obama, said she was delighted to be part of the project.
In a statement, the First Lady said: “It is wonderful to be part of this holiday tradition. I love answering calls from children who were anxious to learn where Santa was and when he would arrive at their home.
“I passed on to each child the current location of Santa and reminded them that he would come to their house only after they were in bed sleeping.”
In 1955, a Colorado Springs newspaper advert invited children to talk to Santa on a hotline.
But the number had a typo, and dozens of children mistakenly dialed the Continental Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, the predecessor to NORAD.
The officers on duty sprang into action and began passing along reports on Santa’s progress – and the tradition was born.
More than 1500 volunteers will answer calls in shifts until 5:00 a.m. EST on Christmas morning.
Last year NORAD received more than 100,000 calls and 7,000 emails.
Meteorologists predict snowfall could blanket nearly half of the US on Tuesday – from Dallas to Maine – as a massive snowstorm moves from the Great Plains and up into the Northeast.
Accuweather is now predicting that “significant” snow will fall in Oklahoma and Arkansas, potentially giving Oklahoma City its first Christmas snowfall since 1914.
Little Rock Arkansas could get up to three inches. That last time more than an inch fell on Christmas Day was 1926.
Even Dallas, Texas, could see flurries for Christmas – though likely no accumulation. The last time Dallas saw snowfall on Christmas Day was 1997 – though a 2009 blizzard left several inches behind on Christmas Eve.
“Southern Oklahoma and Arkansas look like they’re going to get slammed with some serious snow, strong winds – four to eight inches in some places. It’s a pretty powerful storm system,” said Ted Ryan, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth, Texas.
Western California and the Pacific Northwest are due for snow on Christmas Day, as well.
While children everywhere, both young and young-at-heart, are likely to welcome the snow, the nation’s 87million holiday travelers will likely be less enthusiastic.
The damaging snow is supposed to start in the Rockie Mountains, gaining steam as it heads along the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles in the late afternoon to early evening of Tuesday.
Meteorologists predict snowfall could blanket nearly half of the US on Christmas Day
From there, it will head up towards the Great Lakes and move eastward throughout Wednesday. Once it reaches the East Coast, it will begin in the Washington, D.C. area before moving up towards the southern parts of the Northeast, potentially reaching New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and possibly Massachusetts.
By 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, the winter storm dubbed “Draco” had delayed 5,843 flights in the United States and canceled 131, leaving desperate holiday travellers scrambling to find alternative routes home. The high winds could threaten to delay even more flights at airports in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, meteorologists said.
Newark airport had the most cancellations, with 11 flights called off and O’Hare International Airport in Chicago still had the greatest number of delays, with 239 flights taking off later than scheduled.
The storm made travel difficult from Kansas to Wisconsin on Friday, forcing road closures, including a 120-mile stretch of Interstate 35 from Ames, Iowa, through Albert Lea, Minnesota.
Iowa and Wisconsin activated National Guard troops to help rescue stranded drivers. In Iowa, two people were killed and seven injured in a 25-vehicle pile-up.
Drivers were blinded by blowing snow and didn’t see vehicles that had slowed or stopped on Interstate 35 about 60 miles north of Des Moines, state police said. A chain reaction of crashes involving semitrailers and passenger cars closed down a section of the highway.
Three other states also had traffic deaths that were blamed on the storm. There were at least two deaths in each Nebraska and Wisconsin, and one in Kansas.
In southeastern Utah, a woman who tried to walk for help after her car became stuck in snow died on Tuesday night. Search and rescue crews on snowmobiles found her buried in the snow just a few miles from her car.
On the southern edge of the storm system, tornadoes destroyed several homes in Arkansas and peeled the roofs from buildings, toppled trucks and blew down oak trees and limbs in Alabama.
Preheat oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/ gas 6. Whizz the flour, butter and icing sugar in a food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and 2tbsp water. Whizz again to form a ball. Roll the pastry very thinly on a floured surface until it’s a little bigger than a 28 cm (11 in) diameter loose-bottomed tart tin. Line the tin with the pastry, letting the extra hang over the sides. Place on a baking tray and chill for 30 minutes. Place baking parchment over the pastry, cover with baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes until pale golden. Remove the beans and paper and trim the excess pastry. Return to the oven for 10-12 minutes; set aside to cool. Reduce oven to 160°C/ fan 140°C/gas 3. Whisk the filling ingredients in a bowl until smooth, then pour into the pastry. Bake for 40-45 minutes until just set. Cool completely. Remove from the tin, sprinkle with redcurrants and dust with icing sugar.
For thirty years, The Snowman by Raymond Briggs has become as much a part of Christmas as mince pies for many families in UK.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the film – featuring the iconic Walking In The Air flying sequence – the team behind it have made a sequel, The Snowman And The Snowdog, to be screened on Channel 4 on Christmas Eve.
The Snowman And The Snowdog will be screened on Channel 4 on Christmas Eve
Sinead O’Connor has announced on her official website that she ends her fourth marriage, which lasted just 16 days.
Sinead O’Connor, 45, wrote a lengthy and heartfelt message after fearing the news of her split from Barry Herridge, who she wed on December 8, was about to be leaked.
The Irish singer revealed that she and Barry Herridge actually lived together as husband and wife for just seven days before ending their relationship on Christmas Eve, 16 days after their Las Vegas union.
Sinead O’Connor blamed “intense pressure” placed on her husband from members of his circle following their sudden Las Vegas union, which she revealed ended in a “wild” journey to find marijuana.
The singer told her fans that the pair have parted amicably and said she still loves Barry Herridge “very much”, but that he was too nice “to trap”.
Sinead O’Connor wrote: “From the moment myself and my husband got together not long ago, there was intense pressure placed upon him by certain people in his life, not to be involved with me. These were people who had never met me but had formed opinions of me based on what they read about <<Sinead O’Connor>> in the media etc.
“Entitled as they are to their opinions about me many perhaps well deserved, there was no righteousness on anyone’s part to put my husband through what he was put through as a result of his desire to be with me and to marry me and as a result of his actually marrying me.
“Within 3 hours of the ceremony being over the marriage was kyboshed by the behavior of certain people in my husband’s life. And also by a bit of a wild ride I took us on looking for a bit of a smoke of weed for me wedding night as I don’t drink. My husband was enormously wounded and very badly effected by that experience and also by the attitude of those close to him toward our marriage.
“It became apparent to me that if he were to stay with me he would be losing too much to bear. And that being with me was not going to serve him positively, career wise or any other wise. I saw his life leave him because of how people close to him reacted. And I can’t take anyone’s life. And a woman wants to be a joy to her husband. So.. U love someone? Set them free.
Sinead O’Connor continued: “He is a wonderful man. I love him very much. I’m sorry I’m not a more regular woman. I truly believe though it is painful to admit, we made a mistake rushing into getting married, for altruistic reasons, and weren’t aware or prepared for the consequences on my husband’s life and the lives of those close to him. He has been terribly unhappy and I have therefore ended the marriage. I think he is too nice to do so. And too nice to trap.”
Sinead O'Connor has announced on her official website that she ends her fourth marriage with Barry Herridge, which lasted just 16 days
Sinead O’Connor asked for fans and media to respect her husband’s privacy, and added: “Meanwhile I intend to get on with being fully me. With never an apology for ANY part if being FULLY ME. No matter what.
“I am a 21st century full woman and proud of living it. I am in a very good and happy and strong place in life so I am doing fine. The marriage was 16 days. We lived together for 7 days only. Until Xmas eve. And we haven’t been awful to each other.
“So while I feel sad for my husband, and sad to be the cause of sorrow to yet another poor man, I’m also happy that I know we weren’t horrible to each other and he is better off free. And that I can be me. And that’s a freedom I can’t give up for anyone or anything.”
The Irish singer ended the announcement with “rock n roll”.
Sinead O’Connor and Barry Herridge wed at The Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas after just three months of dating.
After the ceremony, for which she wore a pretty strapless pink dress, Sinead O’Connor wrote on her blog: “Dear friends… amongst whom I include whomever may be reading this with a view to writing about the glorious marriage.
“Am blogging this cus media people are naturally seeking me. On Sunday I will put up a blog on whole day. Too glorious for words.”