Christmas

Nothing says "I love you," at least in my Polish-American family, quite like the sharing of a thin, flat, tasteless wafer called an oplatek at Christmas.

We're not alone. Before sitting down to Christmas Eve dinner, many families with roots in Poland and other Eastern European countries will take part in this tradition, which has roots dating back hundreds of years.

Sorry, Google. Sorry, NORAD.

Your online "Santa trackers" are cool.

But that jolly old elf has you both fooled.

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You might not expect "Santa's Helper" to be a career-altering gig, but for David Sedaris, it changed everything. The writer and humorist spent a season working at Macy's as a department store elf. He described his short tenure as Crumpet the Elf in "The Santaland Diaries," an essay that he read on Morning Edition in 1992.

Instantly, a classic was born. Sedaris' reading has become an NPR holiday tradition. Click the "Listen" link above to hear Sedaris read his tale.

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The city of Rome may be the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, but as far as bright, glitzy decorations, Christmas there has always been a rather sober affair.

And yet at Christmastime, there's one area where Romans pull out all the stops — the dinner table.

Even with the economic crisis, outdoor markets, grocery shops and fishmongers are crowded with customers.

Christmas means time for family, presents, cookies and of course, holiday traffic. All over the country, traffic cops are working overtime to keep the roads safe for last-minute shoppers.

For nearly 30 years, Tony Lepore has worked as one of those cops in Providence, R.I. But he doesn't just beckon, wave and blow a whistle; he dances — and he's got some serious moves.

The New York borough of Staten Island was hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy. Almost two months after the storm hit, many residents will not be back in their homes by the Christmas holiday.

One organization is trying to make the season a bit brighter for uprooted families with a free toy store on the island. This all-volunteer effort looks like a real toy store, but it feels more like a community of neighbors.

The shop boasts shelves filled with toys like model cars, Monopoly, dolls, craft supplies and books — almost everything you would want in a regular toy store.

This year marks the 10th anniversary for The Polyphonic Spree's annual holiday music show — an extravaganza the group has held in Dallas each December — and it's celebrating with a live tour and a new CD called Holidaydream, on which the band reworks versions of classics such as "Do You Hear What I Hear" and "White Christmas."

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