By Julie Strand Ah, Christmas… ugly pipe cleaner ornaments you made when you were six hanging on the tree, listening to Jingle Bell Rock on 99.1, hanging mistletoe on your front door so that you can kiss whomever walks in…. well maybe that doesn’t happen as much. It is that time of year again Riverwest, and don’t try and deny the fact that everyone has a secret desire to jump on Santa’s lap in the mall. A holiday that centers on celebration is always a big hit – who doesn’t like a good party? The twinkle lights, the wreaths, the search through every toy store in Milwaukee for this year’s new cool toy for your second cousin’s kid, it is all done in celebration. For Christians who observe the holiday, the celebration is for the birth of Jesus – you know, God’s son. This year, I wanted to know how, where, and when I could celebrate this birth at churches in Riverwest. (I usually go to a church outside of the neighborhood. I know – it’s shameful.) On the internet I found St. Philip’s at 3012 N. Holton Street, a WELS Lutheran Church; St Mary’s at 3055 N. Fratney, a Catholic Church; St. Casimir at 924 E Clarke St, also Catholic and apparently in cahoots with St. Mary’s; and Kairos Ministry Group which meets at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, 3275 N. Third Street, and is nondenominational. While researching I found that Kairos Ministry Group has a beautiful website and a very neat Dial-A-Prayer, give them a call to find their Christmas activities – 414. 374.KICC. I discovered that St. Mary’s has a whole stocking full of events in preparation for the big birthday. On December 6 at 5pm there will be a special Christmas season class called Advent Adult Formation. This class will be a blend of education, food (dinner is provided), and spiritual growth. The class will also be offered at St. Casimir on Dec. 7. (Call ahead if you are interested.) On Dec. 7, don’t miss St Casimir’s Annual Holiday Bake Sale. From 9am-2pm anyone can buy as many Christmas tree and Santa shaped sugar cookies as will fit in a stomach, and, this is no run-of-the-mill holiday bake sale, it will have raffles! Big fancy plates of cookies, kitchen utensils, and holiday crafts made by local artists will be raffled off. All month long I can celebrate by being generous at St. Casmir’s food pantry, which will be open and waiting for donations on Saturdays from 9- 11am, (closed on Dec. 27). The Gaenslen School food pantry will also be open and collecting donations on Tuesdays 4-6pm. In addition, I can sign up families with children in need of Christmas presents at the food pantry. After all that preparation I should be ready for THE MAIN EVENT. Here are the options for my Riverwest Christmas. December 21: 10:30am A Christmas Carol Worship led by the Gospel Choir at St. Philips Christmas Eve: 4pm At St Mary’s featuring a half hour of English, Spanish, and Polish carols performed by the choir. 6pm A Children’s Service at St. Philips led by the school children. 8pm A Spanish Language Service at St. Casimir including English, Spanish, and Polish carols performed by the choir. Christmas Day: 9:30am St. Philips Christmas Service 9:30am St Casimir Service including English, Spanish and Polish music. And now that the religious celebratory activities are mapped out I think it is time to make some eggnog, cut some paper snowflakes, sprinkle some extra tinsel on the tree, and find Alvin and the Chipmunk’s Christmas Song on my ipod. If only it would snow so I could make snow angels. Merry Christmas, Riverwest!