Tom Finneran: Christmas Day, Christmas Daily

Friday, December 27, 2013

When it comes to Christmas, it's all about message and meaning—not commercialism.
Thoughts on Christmas, the hustle and bustle of the prelude and of the day itself, abound.

It is of course for Christians a day and a season of enormous spiritual significance. Attendance at Mass spikes significantly and parish choirs create a heavenly chorus for the faithful. Families listen to the Gospels reciting the history of Mary and Joseph and the birth of the Son of God in the humble surroundings of a stable because there was no room for them at the inns of Bethlehem. That this baby, this vulnerable and innocent child, born in modest and mysterious circumstances, was destined to shake and shape the world strikes the human heart and stirs the human soul. The Christmas story of the Christ child, of Joseph’s confusion and his profound love of Mary, and of Mary pondering these divine mysteries is a moving story of human innocence. It is also a radical and revolutionary story for it embraces God’s love of faltering mankind and his forgiveness of sinners.

That a baby is at the center of Christmas celebrations seems perfect to the modern evolution of the day, for as the song says “Christmas is for kids”. The genuine excitement and innocence of children softens the hardest of human hearts. We might bemoan the material appetites and crass commercialism of the season and its emphasis on “getting things” from Santa Claus. Yet for many centuries now, parents have provided the context of this special day and its spiritual significance to their children. And I suspect that notwithstanding any “war on Christmas” raging in our midst, that future generations will continue to recognize and celebrate the spiritual dimension of the entire season. Indeed I am reminded that a Finneran family visit to Rome left all of us, three generations of Finnerans, in respectful awe and admiration that Europe’s celebration of the season is considerably more spiritual than commercial, considerably more religiously oriented than America’s version.

We were fortunate enough to attend the Christmas Midnight Mass at the Vatican, celebrated by the robust and dynamic Pope John Paul II. Today I find myself daydreaming about a return there, perhaps with the newest generation, our grandchildren, to celebrate a Midnight Mass with the humble and impressive Pope Francis.

Christmas hymns and songs are a wonderful part of the entire season. I know that people groan about store displays and shopping day countdowns which begin in October. While I can do without some of the real schmaltzy stuff that is played in malls, I happen to enjoy listening to Christmas music. In fact, I’ll put on a Christmas CD or two even in the midst of summer, sometimes while driving to the Cape. For me it’s a way to extend the season, and its meaning, beyond the bustle of those rapidly dwindling December days. Even the bridge traffic at Bourne and Sagamore becomes bearable while listening to Silent Night. Other favorites include What Child Is This, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Ave Maria, Mary Did You Know, Gesu Bambino, The First Nowell, Oh Holy Night, and Go Tell It on the Mountain. If you’re a country music fan listen to Kenny Chesney’s Thank God for Kids and Alan Jackson’s Let It Be Christmas.

Remember this—It’s all about the message and its meaning. It’s not about BMW ads. It’s not about silly stocking stuffers. And while a thoughtful gift is nice in either the giving or receiving, the Christmas message is paramount. The music carries the message. The message provokes your thinking. So that even in the midst of summer’s duties and distractions you can celebrate the day, over and over and over again. The story never gets tired. The story never grows old. Children’s eyes still grow wide at the telling and re-telling of Mary and Joseph and the baby. Yes, Christmas is for kids. It’s for us too. I call it Christmas Day, Christmas Daily. Try it. And Merry Christmas to all.

  • Salvation Army

    The Salvation Army’s traditional red kettle is an integral part of the Christmas scene, with millions of dollars donated each year to aid needy families, seniors, and the homeless. Donations provide and financial assistance provides Christmas dinners, clothing, and toys for families in need including families of prisoners. Simply make a donation wherever you see their trademark red kettle or do so online by clicking here.

  • Goodwill

    Goodwill Mass accepts donations of men's, women's or children's clothing and other textiles. Some of the clothing donations are provided to our clients who may need an outfit for an interview or a one week supply of clothing for a new job. Most is sold to neighboring Goodwills, or as salvage with all revenues raised going back into programs and services for Rhode islanders.

    You may drop off your old clothing at one of the many clothing donation bins throughout the state or at the drop-box located in 25 Park Avenue, Worcester.

    Click here for more information.

  • Operation Homefront

    Formed in 2002, Operation Homefront is a nonprofit organization developed to support military families. On December 14, Operation Homefront will host a “Holiday Toys for Military Kids” event in Wellesly Hills, Taunton, and Springfield from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Toys are limited and are on a first come, first serve registration process. Once your registration is complete you will receive a confirmation email. Please note that this program is for military dependent children only.

  • African Community Education Program

    Donate non-perishable food items such as rice, beans, and canned vegetables for Thanksgiving distribution by November 21. Donate new or gently used winter clothing such as boots, hats, scarves, and coats to be distributed to ACE families during the holiday season. Donations accepted November – January.

    Contact: Amy Connery (508) 799-3653

  • AIDS Project Worcester

    Donate gift cards, new toys, and new clothes; personal care items such as soap, shampoo, washcloths, toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine products, and disposable diapers; and canned goods for December holiday food baskets.

    Contact: Patricia Price (508) 755-3773

  • Alternatives Unlimited

    Donate tickets to sporting events, theatres, and movies; specialty food items, health and beauty items; kitchen essentials; gift baskets; and gift certificates to grocery stores, pharmacies, and department stores.

    Contact: Sandra Marquis (508) 266-6517

  • Auburn Youth and Family Services

    Donate new toys, games, and books for children of all ages; grocery store gift cards for holiday food baskets; gifts for teens such as movie passes, music, gaming gift cards, and personal care items; and gift cards to clothing and shoe stores to purchase gifts for children and teens. Adopt a family and provide gifts for Christmas. Call for details.

    Contact: Sheryl Spafford (508) 832-5707 ext. 10

  • Big Brother Big Sisters Central MA

    Donate gift cards to local grocery and discount stores; board games; craft supplies; sports equipment and balls; and other small gift items suitable for children.

    Contact: Melanie Perreault (508) 752-7868 ext. 14

  • Boys and Girls Club of Worcester

    Donate holiday gifts for children ages 5 – 18 including gift cards for teens to purchase items such as movies, music, and clothing; grocery store gift cards to purchase holiday meals for families in need; and wrapping paper and supplies such as bows and cards. Adopt a family for the holidays and provide gifts. Call for details.

    Contact: Liz Hamilton (508) 754-2686

  • Burncoat Family Center

    Donate new toys, books, clothes, outerwear, boots, and gift cards for boys and girls ages 4 – 18; gift certificates for movies, bowling, and other activities; non-religious holiday decorations and gift-wrap; and food for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.

    Contact: Anna Berin (508) 853-6988

  • Catholic Charities

    Donate new winter coats, gloves, mittens, and hats for adults and children; gift cards to pharmacies, grocery stores, and discount retail stores; and non-perishable food donations.

    Contact: Cynthia Taberner (508) 860-2206

  • Central MA Housing Alliance

    Donate gifts for homeless children of all ages and new household items for more than 80 homeless families including sheet sets, blankets, pots and pans, dishes, silverware, and gift cards to discount and grocery stores. Gifts for teens especially needed.

    Contact: Katherine Kerr (508) 791-7265

  • Children's Friend Inc

    Donate gift cards for discount and grocery stores that will be distributed to needy families during the holiday season to be used for food, clothes, and gifts.

    Contact: Karen Ludington (508) 459-6424

  • Community Healthlink - Homeless Outreach and Advocacy Program

    Donate winter hats and gloves and gift cards to discount stores, grocery stores, and fast food restaurants.

    Contact: Brian Bickford (508) 860-1139

  • Community Healthlink - Victim Services

    Donate new coats, hats, gloves, and mittens for children, adolescents, and adults of all sizes. Donate new board games and gift cards in denominations of $10 – $25.

    Contact: Amanda Atchue (508) 421-4501

  • Dare Family Services

    Donate toys and other items for children ages 10 – 18. Items for teens especially needed.

    Contact: Armida Martinez

    (508) 755-7100

  • Dismas House

    Donate gift cards for male residents: sheets and blankets, toiletries, hats, gloves, and pajamas.

    Contact: David McMahon

    (508) 799-9389

  • Family Health Center of Worcester

    Donate new items for newborns and mothers in need: baby blankets, toiletries, newborn undergarments, socks, bibs, infant equipment such as car seats, new maternity clothes, and gift cards for discount and grocery stores. Donate new items for immigrants/refugees such as gloves and mittens, hats, scarves, and home first aid kits. Donate new household items for homeless families including sheet sets, blankets, cooking utensils, pots and pans, and dishes.

    Contact: Georgianna Sgariglia

    (508) 860-7951

  • Elder Services of Worcester

    Donate small toiletries such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and shampoo to be used as gifts for Meals on Wheels recipients.

    Contact: Julia Martiros

    (508) 852-3205

  • Family Success Partnership

    Donate gift cards to grocery stores to purchase items for a holiday meal; gift cards to discount stores; and children’s winter clothing including gloves, socks, and small-sized winter coats.

    Contact: Courtney Hale

    (774) 245-5416

  • Frances Perkins and Foundations

    Donate educational toys for children ages 1 – 12; gift cards and gift certificates; and household items such as bedding, pots and pans; personal hygiene products, and diapers.

    Contact: Ivonne Suarez

    (508) 757-7506

  • YWCA of Central MA

    Donate coats for women, children, and teens; hats and gloves; books for all ages, journals, and gift cards to discount and grocery stores.

    Contact: Amarely Gutierrez

    (508) 755-5371 ext. 3014

  • Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital

    Donate men’s and women’s clothing in all sizes (especially XL and plus sizes) such as sweaters, sweatshirts, sweatpants, jeans, underwear, and t-shirts; toiletries such as hairbrushes, makeup, shampoo, body wash, and lotion; inexpensive male and female jewelry items such as crosses, watches, and rings; games, cards, word search books, and other small gift items.

    Contact: Sandy Epstein

    (508) 368-3524

  • Worcester Housing Authority

    Donate Christmas trees and decorations for use in resident community rooms; pie filling or grocery store gift cards for holiday food; and hats and gloves for children in all sizes.

    Contact: Lynn O’Toole

    (508) 635-3306

  • Worcester County Food Bank

    Donate non-perishable food for distribution to area emergency feeding programs. Drop off items Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 474 Boston Turnpike, Shrewsbury. Please call the office before dropping off. Please visit for more information.


    (508) 842-3663

  • Horace Mann Educational Associates

    Donate linens and blankets, craft supplies, gloves, hats, scarves, and gift cards to pharmacy and grocery stores. Items donated to individuals with developmental disabilities.

    Contact: Tracy Andryc

    (508) 298-1129

  • Key Program

    Donate small gifts for teenage girls in residential shelter such as warm socks, gloves, scarves, hats, journals, and hygiene products.

    Contact: Stephanie Towne

    (508) 852-6277

  • LUK

    Donate toys for children ages 2 and up including Disney toys, Dora, pretend food items, art supplies, model cars, blocks, and books; gift cards to toy and discount stores. Gift items for teenage boys especially needed.

    Contact: Melissa Murphy

    (508) 762-3205

  • Nativity School of Worcester

    Donate navy blue blazers, white button down shirts, khaki pants, belts, and dress shoes for boys in sizes from boys’ small to men’s medium; sports equipment such as baseballs, soccer balls, and related items; art supplies and music equipment such as instruments, scores, and songbooks.

    Contact: Patrick Maloney

    (508) 799-0100

  • American Red Cross of Central MA

    Join us for our annual “Holiday for Heroes” campaign. Assist by reviewing, categorizing, and bundling holiday cards that will be delivered to veterans in Central MA. You would need to dedicate about three hours for this one-time seasonal event in early December. Call to schedule date.

    Contact: Ray Duffy (508) 595-3762