Holiday Guide 2014


Holiday Guide 2014

A look at the news, pictures and events surrounding the holiday season.

    NORAD tracks when Santa Claus is comin’ to town

    Volunteers at the North American Aerospace Defense Command are getting ready to monitor Santa Claus as he makes his storybook Christmas Eve flight.

    Technology and social media have become an important part of the U.S. and Canadian military tradition, and NORAD Tracks Santa has already attracted a record 1.5 million Facebook “likes.” The volunteers will spend Wednesday answering phone calls and emails from children wondering when Santa Claus is comin’ to town. The helpers also post updates on the fabled journey to Facebook, Twitter and



    Stores open Christmas Eve for the shopper who procrastinated

    WASHINGTON — Are you the ultimate procrastinator when it comes to holiday shopping?

    We say it lot, but now it’s real: Time is running out to get that Christmas shopping done.

    Read about which stores are open on Christmas Eve on

    VDOT to suspend highway work zones over Christmas

    RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Department of Transportation says it will suspend most highway work zones for several days over Christmas.

    VDOT says the goal is to limit congestion and provide as many travel lanes as possible.


    Western Md. students help recycle Christmas cards

    CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) — Allegany County public school students are learning to recycle Christmas cards in a charitable way.

    The school system said Tuesday that seventh-graders at Mount Savage Middle School have delivered to a Frostburg nursing home more than 100 cards refashioned into wreaths and ornaments.


    ‘Toys for Tots’ means Merry Christmas for local families

    LANDOVER, Md. — More than 15,000 Prince George’s County families will have presents under the Christmas tree this year, thanks to the annual Toys for Tots program.

    “It’s a blessing because we don’t know a lot of what’s happening with these families,” says Dawn Stem, who organized the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots event at the Prince George’s County Police headquarters. “These people are amazing people to me and that’s why I do it every year.

    Melissa Askew, a mother of eight, was among the first in line and waited 10 hours to get her bag filled with gifts.

    “The cost of trying to provide for the kids … it’s hard,” Askew says. She’s taking home a bicycle and some dolls, but says it’s not the specific toys that matter: “We’re grateful for anything. Anything can help. Just to see a smile on their faces.

    It takes a massive effort to distribute the toys every year. On Sunday, there were about 100 police officers and 100 volunteers on hand to help collect and bag thousands of items for needy families.

    “We all pull together from Thanksgiving to now, we do nothing but this,” Stem says. “I think we give [the families] just a little bit of spirit and it takes away a little bit of what they’re going through out there.


    WTOP/Jamie Forzato 

    Travel headaches for some into Christmas Day


    CHICAGO (AP) — Travelers setting out for the holidays could face trouble, with anticipated Christmas Eve snow around the Great Lakes states and heavy rain expected along the East Coast.

    National Weather Service meteorologists predicted rain that would turn into snow for some parts of Missouri to Michigan, with several inches expected Wednesday in portions of Illinois. Officials at both airport hubs in Chicago readied for the potential of holiday delays and cancellations, particularly with more people expected to fly this year.

    “I would definitely make plans about possibly staying put or doing something else,” said Chicago-area meteorologist Charles Mott. “Same for the roads. If you’re not going to fly, the roads are not going to be getting any better.


    Joseph proposes to Mary at Michigan Nativity scene

    BLUMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Joseph proposed marriage to Mary — in Michigan.

    Joe Maurer and Kate Heinlein became engaged during a break from portraying the parents of Jesus Christ. They were re-enacting the Nativity earlier this month for thousands of people at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Blumfield Township, near Saginaw.


    New Jersey Christmas tree controlled by tweets

    LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. (AP) — Twitter users anywhere in the world can control the lights on a holiday display in New Jersey.

    Tweets will turn on a 9-foot Christmas tree, menorah and over 1,000 LED lights at Oxford Communications in Lambertville and also turn them off.


    People share their Christmas traditions, WTOP's Kathy Stewart reports.

    Marion Barry’s son carries on father’s Christmas tradition

    The late Marion Barry years ago started a holiday tradition to help provide Christmas toys for kids in Ward 8 who might otherwise not get one. This Christmas, his son carried it on.


    Homeless for the holidays: Pet shelters see spike

    WTOP/Kate Ryan 

    WASHINGTON — It could be changing family situations. Sometimes there were financial troubles, or a just a spur of the moment decision by a pet owner:  In recent years, area animal shelters saw a sudden spike in the number of family pets who wound up homeless for the holidays.

    Something about the pressures of the holidays prompted the seasonal surge in pet give-ups.  “People were going out of town, just deciding they weren’t going to board the animal, and would give it up,” says  Rodney Taylor, associate director of the Prince George’s County Animal Management Division.

    Read more and see photos on

    WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck 

    Volunteer fire department Santa delivers hundreds of gifts to Maryland children

    BETHESDA, Md. — While the sleigh was in the shop prepping for the annual global trek, Santa got a lift from a fire engine to deliver hundreds of presents to kids at a local shelter.

    After two weeks of collecting gifts from the neighboring communities, the Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department made its annual stop at the National Center for Children and Families.

    “It is incredible,” says Meredith Rettner-Dayhoff, the director of the Greentree Shelter. “It’s something they would never have otherwise.


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