Preparing for Christmas at the White House
December 25th, 2013
08:49 AM ET

Preparing for Christmas at the White House

Author Coleen Christian Burke shares facts from her book "Christmas With the First Ladies" on "New Day" Wednesday.

Discover past traditions from the White House in the video below:

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December 25th, 2013
08:47 AM ET

See Dazzling Holiday Light Displays

CNN's Indra Petersons brings you some of the most amazing holiday light displays from around the world.

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5 Things to Know for Your New Day – Christmas Day
December 25th, 2013
02:16 AM ET

5 Things to Know for Your New Day – Christmas Day

It’s Christmas. And whether you celebrate it or not, we’re sure you can get behind the spirit of the holiday – it’s about hope, about love, about believing in the impossible.

With that in mind, here are the “5 Things to Know for Your New Day."

1. When we pull together, wonderful things happen
Any other day, we'd talk about the partisan bickering in Washington, and how it’s at a fever pitch.

But today, let’s focus on how people with good intentions, a whole lotta heart and a can-do attitude can make a world of difference.

Take 8-year-old Laney Brown. She’ll never see Christmas again. Her doctors say leukemia will take her soon. As one of her dying wishes, she wanted some people to come by her house for a night of caroling. And boy, did they! At first it was hundreds of people, then thousands. Then it was 10,000!

2. The best presents aren’t under the Christmas tree
On this Christmas Day, about 150 Marines are standing by to fly into violence-wracked South Sudan to help evacuate Americans. Keep them in your thoughts.

But today, let's talk about military homecomings - those joyful reunions that make you reach for the box of Kleenex (or, if you're old-school, your hanky).

Take Air Force Maj. Jason Wood's middle-school daughter. She thought she was attending a pep rally when out he popped from a giant gift box.


3. Don't be a Grinch
Any other day, we'd tell you about the loud noise that was mistaken for gunshots inside a Long Island mall and triggered a brief lockdown - all apparently due to a clumsy shoplifter. Or the Washington Santa who was out delivering gifts to needy kids - when he was shot with a pellet gun. Or the UPS backlog that may mean missing gifts for you.

But today, let's not be a Grinch. Not even about the commercialization of Christmas, because  some of those commercials are pretty sweet.

By now, you've all seen the genius stunt by Canada's West Jet, where it  asked boarding passengers for their Christmas wishes - and then delivered the gifts at baggage claim. This Apple ad also does a nice job of tugging at ye olde heartstrings. It's about a teen who spends the entire holiday season playing on his iPhone, with a aww-inducing twist at the end.


4. Family comes first – always
We write about heartbreak every day. That's because we get our hearts broken every day by stories such as that of the volunteer firefighter who responded to a fatal car crash last night - only to find the victim was his daughter.

But today, let's focus on the mother who took to Facebook to have her son’s ashes scattered so he could "see the mountains that he never got to climb, see the vast oceans that he would have loved, see tropical beaches and lands far and away" and how strangers from India to Jamaica responded in droves.

Or on the little girl who used  sign language at her Christmas concert so her deaf parents didn't miss a thing.


Or on our very own Ed Payne a regular writer of this blog whose daughter flew home from Tanzania to surprise the family on Christmas Eve. “I picked her up at the airport unbeknownst to Laura and Corynne. I said I was going to work, but I lied. I hope she forgives me.

We’re thinking, Yes!


5. War is over if you want it
A brutal civil war in Syria. A near-genocide in South Sudan. Bloody attacks in Iraq. And on and on.

This Christmas, let’s borrow a page from John Lennon's songbook and save one wish for the world:
A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now