How to add a posting below . . .

To add a new posting, send an email to me at with a comment, question, story, photo, observation, etc. It will be posted below, shortly after the email is received. To comment on an existing posting, click on the "comments" command below the posting and type your comment. Your comment will show up immediately.   Pete Stemmer

Friday, December 26, 2008

LEON and the real meaning of Christmas

Around the Christmas season, I often hear the phrase "Christmas is for kids." While I don't subscribe to that philosophy, I have to admit that some of my fondest Christmas memories are from my childhood.

I was blessed with loving parents who, during my early childhood, lived on the second floor of my great aunts' house on Wilson Avenue in North Brunswick. While some, today, might think the sharing of a house to be a disadvantage, I found it just the opposite. The love that I received from my aunts Julie and Elsie were a treasure that I hadn't realized I had received until later in life. As is often the case, it is the little things in life that reflect the love that we share with those around us. Such was the case with my Aunts Julie and Elsie and their annual Christmas guest, Leon.

As the Christmas holiday approached everyone in the house became busy with decorating and making preparations for Christmas Day. There was the tree to put up, holly and laurel to be spread, wreaths and stockings to be hung, cookies to be baked, presents to be wrapped, and . . . oh, yes . . . Leon to be unpacked. 

Part of my aunts' Christmas ritual was to place colorful ceramic letters on the mantle that read NOEL. Somehow that always seemed special to my aunts, and it was to become the center of a very special family Christmas tradition. One that we still keep to this day!

The day before Christmas my Aunt Julie would carefully arrange the four ceramic letters, N - O - E - L, just so, on the mantle. My cousin Wade, who often visited around the holidays, and I would look at each other with eager anticipation, surpressing a giggle. That evening, on Christmas Eve, we would sneak over to the mantle when no one was looking and quietly rearrange the ceramic letters to spell LEON.

On Christmas morning, we would all gather in my aunts' living room and, just before opening our presents, my Aunt Julie would look over toward the mantle and exclaim, in a loud exagerated voice, "LEON! OH, MY HEAVENS! NOW, WHO COULD HAVE DONE THAT?" as she rearranged the four ceramic letters back to NOEL. My cousin Wade and I would giggle and giggle, thinking we had pulled it off, again. Hollywood Oscar winners have nothing on my Aunt Julie.

LEON has a lot to teach us about Christmas. You see, the real lesson of LEON in our family is a lesson about the loving relationship that I had with my aunt and that we shared together as a family.  And that's what Christmas is really about . . . the loving relationship that we have with Jesus and that we share with those around us. It's the only path toward true peace in our lives and on earth that we so desire and sing about at Christmas-time.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when I drove down Route 9 the other day, I couldn't help but stop and take a picture of the sign that Naomi and Sharon Maurer place on their front lawn every Christmas season. It proclaims the true meaning of Christmas. I'm sure LEON would agree.


  1. Over the years, our nephews John & David have periodically changed the NOEL / LEON to LENO AND LONE. An attempt to turn the letter "N" sideways to create the letter "Z" resulted in the words Zole, and Loze, neither of which made any sense. In keeping with the spirit of letter shuffling, some of the variations they have come up with by re-arranging the letters on our "Merry Christmas" train are quite creative and amusing.