CATCHING THE SPIRIT


CHRISTMAS BRINGS out the best in people — and the worst. In our rush to make one more holiday party or trip to the mall, we tend to forget our need for reflection. A wise man once said, “Peace on Earth comes from within.” We need those “Silent Nights” to remember why we celebrate this season.

So take some time to sit by the fire. Throw in a pine cone and watch it sizzle, or roast some chestnuts in a wire basket. Share an old-fashioned egg nog in Montclair’s cozy Malt Shop and stroll the sidewalks of our own holiday village. And whatever you do — stay away from the mall till the madness is over.

Playing Santa

By day, he’s the svelte owner of Continental Hearing Aid Center on Piedmont Avenue. But in the predawn hours of Christmas, Dick Stone dons his Santa suit and makes the rounds at Children’s Hospital Oakland.

Stone has been passing out toys to Oakland’s sick children for 26 years, with fellow Rockridge-Piedmont Lions Club member Joe Colaci. “I start eating Dec. 1,” he laughs, saying he needs to “bulk up” to play Santa. “When I’m done, I take off my beard and sit with my cat,” Stone says, adding that he enjoys a good brandy for his efforts.

Closer to home

The merchants on Leimert Boulevard have the right idea for bringing in new customers. They’ve coordinated one of the better light displays in Oakland — a marketing concept so simple it’s amazing that more business districts don’t do the same. So what if their PG&E bill could choke a reindeer? It’s a small price to pay for such high visibility.

Kids and Christmas

Kudos to the children in the Christmas Revels, Oakland’s wonderful holiday production that takes you back to the Renaissance era. The children in this production put in long rehearsal hours — sometimes until 11 p.m. on school nights. So if you see Elena Ash, Eliana Jacobs, Oliver Konkel, Simone Lawrence, Lili Miranda, Tyler Parrott, Neye Redmond or Liam Zarri, give them a pat on the back.

The 10 shows run through Dec. 21 at the Scottish Rite Theatre. For ticket information, call 510-452-9334.

Sugarplum treat

No Christmas is complete without seeing “The Nutcracker,” and what better version than the one produced by Oakland Ballet founder Ronn Guidi. Here, you see the dancers of tomorrow — young students enrolled in Guidi’s renowned East Bay Ballet School. The enchanting performances run tonight through Monday at the Regent’s Theater at Holy Names College. For ticket information, call 510-481-1156.

And the winner is

Congratulations to Lucille Bellucci, the Montclair writer who has just won a literary award from New Renaissance magazine. Her short story on cicadas, the insects that make that funny buzzing sound, won first place in the fictional short-story category. If Bellucci’s name sounds familiar, it may be because she’s already had three books reviewed in this very newspaper.

That’s life

For the person who has everything but time, how about this for a gift idea? Oakland’s Erin Cosgrove has gift certificates for life coaching sessions. Busy people use a life coach to help them set goals and keep their priorities straight. A good life coach is like a good athletic coach, helping a person reach new heights in happiness and performance. Cosgrove & Associates can be reached at 510-553-0727.

That’s the spirit

One of the Bay Area’s best holiday displays is at San Francisco’s Union Square, where merchants have really outdone themselves this year. Macy’s is bedecked with holiday wreaths glowing brightly at night. Saks Fifth Avenue has window after window of animated Christmas scenes, and the giant tree in Union Square glitters with thousands of twinkling lights.

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