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Wallingford-Swarthmore Superintendent Walks Back Anti-Christmas Memo

After a DVJournal report on the district ordering school bus drivers to stop wearing Christmas-themed clothes or displaying Christmas decorations, the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District superintendent declared the story a misunderstanding.

Superintendent Wagner Marseille told the school board at a meeting on Monday that the memo obtained by DVJournal was actually a “significant breakdown in communications.” He said some parents claimed to be upset that a few of the decorations and music on some of the district buses were heavily focused on the religious aspects of Christmas.

In the district’s memo to bus drivers, Supervisor of Transportation Patti Diaferio mentioned the complaints referenced by Marseille.

“If you have decorated your buses with anything specific to the Christmas holiday or any other decorations relating to a specific religion, please remove them immediately. In addition, employees are instructed not to wear clothing related to Christmas or any other religious holiday,” Diaferio wrote.

Also, “District offices and schools buses are to refrain from playing Christmas music or any other music related to a specific religion…It applies to all district employees,” the memo read.

Now, Marseille claims he never intended to ban all Christmas music or decorations, just those with a more “religious” theme. Marseille told the board he sent a second memo the same day as Diaferio’s to clarify his views.

Marseille said he reminded Diaferio that “children of different faiths ride our buses” and “we are a district that prides ourselves on being inclusive.”

“I thought it was important to remind our drivers to be mindful that not every child celebrates Christmas,” said Marseille. “And to remind them that we strive to find balance in the way the holiday is celebrated.”

And, Marseille added, he never intended the restrictions on Christmas he imposed on the drivers to be perceived as a total ban.

“I do not intend in any way for the drivers to feel that they had to turn off their holiday music, take down all their decorations, and not wear any holiday clothing,” Marseille said. “There was a significant breakdown in communication between myself and the transportation supervisor who shared that memo to staff.”

“This matter has become extremely complex, confusing, and polarizing,” said Marseille. “And for that, I do apologize.”

Marseille did not define what he meant by “religious themes.” Neither he nor Diaferio responded to requests for comment from DVJournal.

Board President Kevin Henry said the board members and administrators “worked tirelessly” over the weekend to respond to people who were upset by the issue, and he thanked them for their time.

Marseille said the district follows the principle of separation of church and state “as a safeguard of religious freedom for all Americans” but also recognizes the importance of religion to many Americans.

He also sent a letter to the school community expressing those thoughts.

“I did want to be abundantly clear that we are not trying to remove all signs of Christmas from our school buses or our schools,” Marseille told the board. “In fact, many of our classrooms and hallways are currently filled with holiday decorations.”

Not everyone was satisfied.

“Public school superintendents and principals are paid with taxpayer dollars. These educators should be focused on teaching students, increasing educational abilities, and developing character in future leaders,” said Lower Moreland resident Dr. William Devlin, CEO of the charity Widows and Orphans. “They should not be wasting their time on trashing Christmas decorations on school buses. Ridiculousness gets an A+! Ebenezer Scrooge is a hero to no one.”

Wallingford-Swarthmore School District Bans Christmas

Bah, humbug!

The Wallingford-Swarthmore School District sent a memo on Friday to bus drivers and bus aides telling them not to decorate for Christmas or wear Christmas-themed clothing.

In the memo, Supervisor of Transportation Patti Diaferio said Superintendent Wagner Marseille “has been receiving complaints from parents concerning District employees displaying ‘Christmas’ themed decorations and wearing clothing of the same nature.”

“If you have decorated your buses with anything specific to the Christmas Holiday or any other decorations relating to a specific religion, please remove them immediately. In addition, employees are instructed not to wear clothing related to Christmas or any other religious holiday,” Diferio wrote.

Also, “District Offices and schools buses are to refrain from playing Christmas music or any other music related to a specific religion…It applies to all district employees.”

Diaferio confirmed to DVJournal that she sent the memo, saying Marseille had received complaints “from some community members about specific religious holidays, and he just asked that everybody stop decorating with the theme directly related to a certain holiday. In this case, it’s mainly a Christian holiday, but there are Jewish holidays, too, according to Diaferio. And it upsets people with different religious beliefs.

“That’s why I think we stopped calling it Christmas Break. We call it Winter Break now.”

Neither Marseille nor the district’s spokeswoman, Rachel Riley, responded to requests for additional comment.

Asked to react to the district’s policy, Frank Agovino, chair of the Delaware County Republican Committee, said, “It’s an example of the pendulum swinging too far.”

“I don’t know where it ends, really. I don’t know of any other school districts that are doing this. It seems like folks are picking winners and losers. That’s the society we’re living in. It’s no harm to anyone.”

Dave Galluch, a Delaware County resident who ran for Congress as a Republican, called Wallingford-Swarthmore’s ban on Christmas “an extreme step.”

“I really can’t imagine that anyone would concur with it,” said Galluch. “I don’t think anyone takes offense to hearing a Christmas carol like ‘Joy to the World’ or ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ on the radio, on a bus, and describes it as some sort of attempt of the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District to push Christianity on students.”

“But according to that memo, presumably a bus driver who doesn’t turn off ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ is in violation of the school district policy,” said Galluch. “I’m not a lawyer, but I think you could certainly argue First Amendment issues.”

“I think we’re reaching a point of peak departure from common sense,” Galluch added. “Christmas is a federally recognized holiday.”

And it’s just one of several winter holidays like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

“I would be surprised if any parents were complaining,” Galluch said. “There’s a small but loud minority that likes to try to weaponize everything, and unfortunately, it looks like Christmas is not immune either.”

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KING: Christmas Is the World’s Festival, Its Happy Place

I am an oddball. I like to work on Christmas.

I don’t know how it is now, but when I was younger and worked for newspapers, variously in Africa, Britain and the United States, I always volunteered to work over the holiday and loved it. There was a special Christmas camaraderie, often more than a little nipping at the eggnog, and the joy to know that senior staff weren’t around — and, especially, to know that they weren’t needed. We, the juniors, could do it.

When you were unimportant otherwise, being in charge of a daily newspaper was the kind of Christmas gift one savored. It was a case of being news editor, city editor or chief correspondent for a day.

The senior editors were gone, and the junior staff had the run of the proceedings. Lovely fun, it was.

But not every worker is happy to labor on the great day. Consider the parish priest.

Once, I stayed with my wife, Linda Gasparello, at The Homestead, the grand hotel in Hot Springs, Virginia, where Washingtonians have been spending Christmas since the 1800s.

Having feasted happily but unwisely on Christmas dinner in the hotel’s baronial dining room, we felt the need for a little drive and perhaps a walk. We fetched up at The Inn at Gristmill Square in Warm Springs. The town abuts the hotel’s 2,300 acres and is a delightful contrast, small and cozy.

At the bar was the local Episcopal priest. He was enjoying a little bottled Christmas cheer. Together, we had some more of what had brought him to his relaxed state and, looking dolefully at me, he said, “I love my job. I love my parishioners. But Christmas is so hard on a parish priest, that is why I am here with my friend,” he indicated the bartender.

He explained that apart from the additional services, he was expected to call on many families, attend many parties, eat lunches and dinners, and visit the sick and attend the everyday pastoral work of his office. The poor father was exhausted and enjoying Christmas in his private way, far from the madding crowd.

Clearly, this was nothing like the lark of working on newspapers at Christmas. But we shared more cheer, and he told me of how the real Christmas for him was in his daily pastoral work. He also liked working on Christmas, just that his lasted all year and got a bit hectic toward the 25th of December.

I marvel at Christmas. How it grips the whole world. How transcendental it is. How it sweeps up denominations. How Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and animists get into the spirit of it.

Also, I marvel at how Christmas has been modified globally to fit the Northern European tradition, with snow and mistletoe and songs that often have no religious relationship — like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “White Christmas.”

My mother — who, like me, grew up in Africa — was against what she saw as the cultural appropriation of Christmas by the snowy European influence. She insisted on covering the house in ferns and other greenery, which she cut and hung on the 24th of December. Not an hour earlier. The 12 days of Christmas began for her on Christmas Eve and extended to Twelfth Night. Decorating earlier was heresy.

In vain, I pleaded for cotton wool snow, even though there was no snow in Bethlehem, and told her there was no greenery in the desert.

“Good King Wenceslas” was, it is believed, the Duke of Bohemia, now the Czech Republic. But to us in Africa, in the summer in the Southern Hemisphere, the snow lay deep and crisp and even in our imaginations.

That is the miracle of Christmas. It is for everyone, celebrated in its own way across the continents, inside and outside of Christendom.

Christmas is the world’s happy place. Enjoy!

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PATTERSON: The Grinch Continues to Steal Hearts at Christmas

In December 1966, the CBS special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” premiered. At the time, it was “the most expensive half-hour ever put on TV” due to animation costs, music and narration.

It was inspired casting that Boris Karloff, star of 1931’s “Frankenstein,” would provide the voice of the Grinch. The artists may have also sketched features of Karloff’s face onto the Grinch’s face. There seems to be an odd resemblance.

What would the Grinch sound like? Boris Karloff, of course. A 1966 TV reviewer wrote: “Who is to doubt that a man so akin to the metaphysical world as Karloff knows what a Grinch’s voice is like?”

To the delight of fans, Karloff will forever be the face and voice of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster and Dr. Seuss’s Grinch. Karloff considered himself “lucky” that he had these roles.

For the last 57 years, the Grinch has continued to steal Christmas, to the delight of young and old. The Grinch returns for Christmas 2023!

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” tells the story of a mean green character with a tiny heart who does not want Christmas to arrive. He dresses as Santa and with a sled driven by his dog, steals Christmas presents and decorations from the Whos in Whoville. On Christmas morning, the Grinch marvels as the Whos still celebrate Christmas. It is a heart-changing experience for the Grinch. The program is a joyful annual holiday experience for all.

At the 1967 Grammy Awards, the Song and Record of the Year was “Up, Up, and Away” by the Fifth Dimension. The album of the year was “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles. The Grammy for Best Recording for Children went to 78-year-old Boris Karloff for narrating “Dr. Seuss: How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” Karloff died in 1969.

Karloff’s daughter Sara told me that the Grammy was the only major award that her father won. I suspect that if kids and adult fans were allowed to vote in the Emmys or Academy Awards, they would likely give both awards to Boris Karloff.

Karloff’s 1931 performance in “Frankenstein” made him internationally famous for the rest of his life. Halloween would not be the same without a screening of the film. Kids and adults wearing Frankenstein masks for Halloween is an American tradition. Karloff is with us every October.

In December, Karloff will also be with us as the Grinch. Christmas cards with images of the Grinch are popular with kids and adults. Sara Karloff said she has written “Merry Ginchmas” on innumerable holiday cards for kids and other lovers of her father’s Grammy Award-winning voice work. This Christmas will be no different, she said.

On a historical note, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was a 1966 CBS TV Special. It was initially broadcast on Sunday, December 18 at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. It pre-empted the popular audience favorite “Lassie.” The Grinch had fierce competition from ABC’s hourlong episode of underwater drama “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” That evening’s episode, “The Brand of the Beast,” had a werewolf onboard the submarine.

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Need a Little Christmas? Visit Bucks County’s New Hope

All aboard! If you’re heading for New Hope–named one of the country’s best towns for Christmas–you’re in for a treat.

According to, New Hope ranks as the fifth-best out of 152 Christmas towns in the nation. The ranking was measured based upon dining, festive activities, hotels, transport, weather, among other indicators of an enjoyable holiday experience.

One of the most famous attractions that bring many locals and visitors to Bucks County is the Santa’s Steam Train Ride on the New Hope Railroad. The hour-long round-trip from New Hope to Lahaska welcomes people of all ages to experience the scenic countryside of Bucks County.

Christmas in New Hope
by Anthony Sinagoga Courtesy of Visit Bucks County

Once passengers are comfortably settled in the railcars,  roaming musicians play Christmas carols while hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies are served. Children and adults are welcome to wear pajamas on the train setting up a familiar atmosphere toward the famous Christmas film The Polar Express. The attraction will begin running on Friday, Nov. 26.

Visitors can also stroll through the decorated railroad station and visit the 1891 Freight House Gift Shop and Christmas Gift Shop located within the historic Victorian-style passenger station.

With the pandemic waning, Paul Bencivengo, president of Visit Bucks County, is optimistic for the 2021 holiday season.

“Visit Bucks County heavily promotes region with the ‘Holidays in Bucks County’ marketing campaign with outdoor billboards, a television commercial, digital advertising, and more,” Bencivengo said. “The holidays are a very festive season in Bucks County, and it’s a great time to visit.”

Peddler’s Village
Kevin Crawford Imagery

“We encourage locals and visitors to purchase gift cards to attractions, museums, restaurants, hotels, and bed and breakfasts — a getaway experience is a perfect gift! These purchases support the local economy and help spread joy throughout the holiday season,” he said.

Bucks County officials hope to match the economic boom they saw in 2019, where the tourist industry generated a billion dollars in financial impact and supported a total hospitality workforce of 30,000.

Another popular attraction set to open for the holiday season in New Hope is Peddler’s Village. A holiday tradition since 1984, where the Gingerbread Competition and Display is one of the site’s top attractions and included its free admission.


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‘Twas The Night Before COVID

Dr. Fauci says Americans should ban their family members from holiday gatherings if they are unvaccinated. “If there’s an unvaccinated person, I would say; ‘I’m very sorry, but not this time, maybe another time when this is all over.’”  –MSNBC

‘Twas the night before Christmas and in every blue state
Mayors were angry, governors, irate!

That nuisance from the North Pole was headed their way
With no vaccine passport, and in an unlicensed sleigh.

“Why won’t he stay home?” Grumbling officials would gripe.
“He’ll ignore our mask mandates — him and his stupid pipe.”

Did his elves have their health inspections? The reindeer their shots?
“Plus, all the kids love him — the ungrateful little snots.”

Teachers from their unions and the FDA with its flaks
Didn’t like some fat white guy giving out sugary snacks.

“Didn’t they learn during COVID we’re the ones they should trust?
Mask mandates for toddlers and Zoom school?— Why that was all us!”

And so they devised a CDC-approved plan
To reach kids on Christmas and help them truly understand.

Which is why, before midnight, as young Bobby slept on his couch he
Was startled to hear: “It’s me — Santa Fauci!”

And so it was, beneath the sparkling Christmas tree,
All 5 feet of Fauci, covered in red and blue PPE.

Little Bobby was befuddled, “What are you doing here?”
“I’m responding to reports of unauthorized Christmas cheer!

“So I jumped in my carbon-free electric vehicle and came in a flash
Because I’ve got hopes of holiday joy I must dash!”

Then he took off with a bound in every direction.
“Has this Elf on a Shelf had his booster injection?”

The doll went in his sack, along with the toys
“They might encourage interaction between unvaccinated girls and boys.”

The egg nog was dumped as a potential health danger
And he looked in askance at the scene of the manger.

“Don’t they know COVID can spread from human OR mammal?
Somebody get that baby away from the camel!”

The room was now empty, no sign of joy, cheer or fun.
And with that, said Santa Fauci, “My work here is done!”

He leapt in his Tesla and as he rode out of sight,
Fauci cried. ‘Everybody back in bed! It’s the middle of the night!”

And so to every American in states red or blue, the CDC has a message:
“No, no, no! No ‘Merry Christmas!’ for you.”

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Bucks County H.O.G. Seeks Holiday Lights

What began as a fun way for the Bucks County Harley Owners Group to get out and do some riding while the COVID pandemic was in full force, is back this year and with even more amusement in store.

So if you see someone pull up to your house on a Harley and take out a cellphone or camera and aim at your Christmas lights, don’t worry. It’s a member of the Bucks Co. H.O.G. getting a selfie for the club’s contest.

The members then post their photos taken on each of the 12 days of Christmas on the club’s Facebook page, said Suzanne Lane, assistant director. A prize will be awarded at their annual holiday party after the 200-plus members vote.

“It’s entertaining,” said Lane, a South Brunswick, N.J. resident. “It brightens people up.”

Kevin Savoy as Santa holding Benji at Stars & Stripes Harley-Davison, with John Bittner.

Kevin Savoy, of Levittown, has been a member of Bucks Co. H.O.G. for five years and will serve as club activities director for 2022.

“It’s about the spirit of the holiday,” he said about the selfie contest. “To just share a little joy.”

Savoy, who also entertains children as Santa, including recently at Stars & Stripes Harley-Davidson, does recognizance runs to find special lights and decorations displays for his selfies.

“I like the uniqueness, of people’s originality,” said Savoy, about what he looks for when snapping a photo of various Christmas displays. “The other thing I like is people who have yards just full of stuff that really demonstrate the Christmas spirit. It’s also about the holiday. They took the time to decorate so other people can enjoy it.”

“We try to respect people’s privacy,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t want you to take pictures…Sometimes you’ve got to explain to them what you’re doing.”

“But most people are pretty receptive to it,” said Savoy, who is retired from the Department of Corrections.

Savoy and his wife, Michelle, have three children ages 25, 23, and 14. His youngest son, Brandon, enjoys participating at the group’s events and likes to call the numbers when they have bingo, he said.

“A lot of the stuff we dois charity work,” he said. For example, they raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and they just held a “Pink Your Ride” for Breast Cancer Awareness and raised nearly $11,000 for St. Mary’s Hospital.

“We did a food drive for Thanksgiving for a food pantry and delivered over 400 items,” said Savoy. “We are a riding club, but we also think about others who are less fortunate. We did a homeless shelter ride the Saturday before Thanksgiving and brought over $1,800 in gift cards for them to buy Christmas (presents).”

Savoy said he felt honored to be asked to be an officer of the group.

“Unfortunately, my mom passed away a year ago last December,” said Savoy. “For the 365 days of her passing, I committed to doing more charity work. So this is my year of giving, I call it.  Right now I’m organizing an MDA fundraiser. We’re selling 200 raffles at $20 a raffle for tickets to a Flyers game.”

They also did a charity ride for Toys for Tots for Children’s Hospital.

“We filled the bed of my pick-up truck with toys,” he said.

His mother, Rosemary Savoy, was very charitable “especially around Christmas.”

“She sponsored families,” he said. “I just try to recognize her that way. Hopefully, in my good graces I’m doing good to represent her.”

Anybody can join if they are a member of the National Harley Owners Group. There is an additional $24 a year to join the local chapter, he said.

Over the years, motorcycle riders have gotten a bad reputation because of various criminal gangs, but the Bucks Co. H.O.G. is the opposite of that.

“We do a lot of positive things,” said Savoy.  “Our hashtag for Twitter is ‘#bestHOGchapterever.’ We’re very family-oriented. We’re very outgoing. We really try to bring the best out of people. I’m hoping I’m making Mom proud. It’s a group effort.”

“It’s all about notoriety for the good of people, not the bad of people. The holiday season is about giving back,” said Savoy.

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DVJ’s Santa’s Lil Helpers for December 14: Hatboro-Horsham High School Engineering Tech Classes

Who says you need elves to make Santa’s Christmas toys? At one local high school, the elves got their tools off the shelf and got to work for local kids.

Members of two Manufacturing and Engineering Technology classes taught by Nicholas Pompei at Hatboro-Horsham built games for Toys for Tots. The first period made nine sets of ring toss games and the second-period class made 15 ring toss games.


At Delaware Valley Journal, we’re looking for more kids (18 and younger) like these Hatboro-Horsham students who are volunteering with charities, church groups, Scout troops, etc. — or just putting the Christmas spirit into action all on their own! Send us a photo of your favorite Santa’s helper in action, and information about the charity they’re supporting, and you might just see it featured at DVJournal.


PLUS: We’ll pick one of the highlighted charities and make our own $1,000 donation to the cause!


Just send your photo (with names and ages) of the kids you spot helping others — ringing the Salvation Army bell, collecting for Toys for Tots, working at a local food bank, whatever! — and email it to [email protected].

If possible, please include a link to the charity’s website, too, so we can encourage others to support the cause.

Delaware Valley Journal Is Looking For Santa’s Biggest Lil’ Helpers! 

Across the Delaware Valley this December, kids will be making someone’s season brighter — and Delaware Valley Journal wants to help!

We’re looking for kids (18 and younger) who are volunteering with charities, church groups, Scout troops, etc. — or just putting the Christmas spirit into action all on their own! Send us a photo of your favorite Santa’s helper in action, and information about the charity they’re supporting, and you might just see it featured at DVJournal.


PLUS: We’ll pick one of the highlighted charities and make our own $1,000 donation to the cause!


Just send your photo (with names and ages) of the kids you spot helping others — ringing the Salvation Army bell, collecting for Toys for Tots, working at a local food bank, whatever! — and email it to [email protected].

If possible, please include a link to the charity’s website, too, so we can encourage others to support the cause.

In our December 23rd edition of the DVJ Newsletter (sign up here), we’ll announce which one of the highlighted charities will receive a donation of $1,000 from Delaware Valley Journal!

Happy Holidays!



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