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       In this section of Errand of Angels:

The Ten Commandments of Christmas

Old Tradition Based on Good Example

Nothing For Christmas

A Christmas Memory

Keeping Christmas

True Christmas Spirit

Christmas Poems

Does Xmas Take Christ Out of Christmas?

Almost No Christmas

A Candy Maker's Witness

Christian Meaning and History of the Song:Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas Program Idea

Christmas Links

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The Ten Commandments of Christmas

Debra Oaks Coe (c) all rights reserved

1. Thou shalt not put any other holiday traditions or celebrations (not even Santa Claus) above the celebration of our Savior's birth and the deep meaning of His life, teachings, and sacrifices.

2. Thou shalt look at thy life and make at least one positive change as your gift to the Savior at His birthday celebration.

3. Thou shalt have many traditions, especially those types of traditions that remind you of the Savior, give service to others, and bring your family closer together.

4. Thou shalt remember those who are alone and help them to have a "Merry Christmas" also.

5. Thou shalt give gifts of worth and not merely add to another's collection of clutter simply for the sake of "giving a gift". Give of yourself which is the way Savior gave.

6. Thou shalt value the effort and thought put into gifts received. Just as with the widow's mite, it is the meaning that gives a gift value not the dollar amount paid.

7. Thou shalt give no gift grudgingly or because you have to. This does not mean to not give the gift to someone, but work until you have changed your own attitude.

8. Thou shalt not become so busy that you don't have time to really enjoy the season.

9. Thou shalt remember that of all the beautiful and expensive gifts, what children want and need most is honor, respect, love, and your time.

10. Above all, Thou shalt find a way to keep the spirit of the Christmas season and of giving all through the year.

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Old Tradition Based on Good Example

Debra Oaks Coe (c) all rights reserved

Most people are aware that the origin of Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas, but many aren't completely aware of who he was and what he represents.

Saint Nicholas was a very real person who was born as the only child to wealthy parents around 270 A.D. in what is now Turkey. Upon the death of his parents while he was yet relatively young, he inherited a rather large sum of money. It is said that he was already a religious boy and that soon after the death of his parents, he dedicated his life to serving Jesus Christ.

He became very well known for his love of children and generosity to the poor. His method of giving was generally more in the form of throwing a bag of money into a window, or putting gold coins in the stockings of the needy as they hung out to dry.

There are many legends that go with the type of person St. Nicholas was. One of the better-documented accounts of his generosity tells of a family who was starving with no money for food much less money for a dowry so the father could marry off his three daughters. The father was considering sending at least the oldest out to earn money as a prostitute. When the young Nicholas heard of this, he went during the night to a window of the home and threw in a bag of gold coins. In the morning they found the gold; they now had money for food and a dowry as well. The daughter kept her honor.

Because there were two other sisters, the young Nicholas threw in two more bags of coins on two other occasions. By the third time, the father wanted to know whom the benefactor was and watched until finally he caught the lad after he threw the third bag of money. It is reported that Nicholas was very upset that someone knew of his acts of charity and made the father promise not to tell anyone who had helped his family.

Eventually he became the bishop of the church in Myra where he was known for more great acts of charity. One legend said that some children were captured by a group of pirates that threatened to take the children to be sold as slaves if some large amount of money was not given to them. This bishop is said to have gotten the money himself and given it to the pirates to save the children.

During this period of history, the Romans were still persecuting Christians with their infamous cruelties including throwing them to the lions, etc. Although the worst persecution of the Christians had just taken place about 250 A.D. under the reign of Decius Trajan, there had been relative peace in the later part of the century. But in 303 A.D., the last of the great Roman persecutions began. The Roman Emperor Diocletian was persuaded again to suppress the Christian religion. Those who would not give up following the Lord, Jesus Christ, and turn over their sacred books would be either killed or put in prison. Those who went to prison were cruelly tortured.

According to Elder B.H. Roberts in Outlines of Ecclesiastical History, page 128: "The constancy of all the Christians, no, not even that of all the their bishops and clergy, was equal to this trial, and many voluntarily surrendered the sacred writings in their possession to save themselves from punishment and death." During this period, charges were made up that allowed the government to throw all Bishops and ministers in prison. An edict authorized the officials to use severe torture to force these church leaders to make sacrifices to the pagan gods. The hope was that if the leaders could be defeated, and forced to give worship to other gods, their people would follow. Many great men suffered and died in defense of their faith in Christ. St. Nicholas was among these bishops.

This part of Saint Nicholas is not legend, it is part of history. While he lived in a world where apostasy from Christianity was all around him, he stood for what he believed. Saint Nicholas was one of the few who survived Diocletian's torture chambers. This is where he gained his title Saint; for those who did survive were called "saints" by the people in honor of their great devotion to Jesus Christ.

Saint Nicholas was freed when the new Emperor Constantine came to power. It is said that as he reentered Myra, the people flocked around him in his honor. He may have been beaten and tortured, but he was not broken. He went on to serve the people for many more years giving service and adding to the legends of his great goodness. To me this is a story of a man who did his best to serve his God and apply the principles taught by Jesus Christ. It is one that is worthy of being pasted down to our children.

How we went from stories of this ancient priest to our present day Santa Claus, is yet another entire story. However, I found it interesting to learn that many of these changes began in New York in 1822 just as the true gospel was about to be restored.

We had the good fortune of spending over seven years in Germany as a family. In this country, Saint Nicholas is still called by that name, not Santa Claus. He is a priest with a normal sized body who wears a plain robe, without fur, that is not necessarily red. He has no magical powers or magical reindeer and elves -- he rides a donkey that he must coax along. Our children attended German school for several years. In these schools they still tell the legends of this good man and his love and concern for children and the poor. Saint Nicholas day is December 6th, the day that the real Saint Nicholas died. On the night of the December 5th is when he leaves his presents and the children put their shoes by the door for him. Because this Saint Nicholas is more human, he doesn't come down the chimney nor can he put his finger to the side of his nose and go back up to the roof top. December 25th and 26th (they have two days for Christmas) is a time only for the celebration of the birth of Christ.

We have adopted many of these German customs. We tell our children about Saint Nicholas rather than Santa Claus and we celebrate his example on the 6th. I explain that it is the example and spirit of generosity that lives on. We try to give our children opportunities to play this secret role of giving to other families so that they too can feel of this spirit.

I believe that as Christians ourselves we should be promoting a Christian emphasis for the holiday. Statistics show that only 21% consider this a time to think about the birth of the Savior. For most people in America, Santa Claus is the only level celebrated. But even Santa Claus is a thread for these people back to Christianity. Perhaps we can spread the word of who this man was and help them understand that if the real Saint Nicholas were here to celebrate with us, he would tell us to look to the Son of God. I believe he would also be reminding us that we are celebrating a Holy Day and that this is the original meaning of the word Holiday.

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A Christmas Memory
By Laura J. Newby Clayton (c) 1997 All rights reserved


The Christmas memory I treasure most came about during the winter of 1969. This recollection is dear to me for the feelings it never fails to stir up inside my heart.

I had just turned seven years old, and it was a time of great difficulty for my family.   My father was serving a second tour of duty as an LDS chaplain in the jungles of Vietnam, fighting along side of the soldiers whom he served, while my mother was left at home to raise my brothers and sisters and I.  This was very stressful, as you can well imagine, but added to that was the fact that we had just buried one of my younger sisters a few short months before.

Mother struggled to care for her five remaining children as best she could, but it was harder than ever, for emotions in our family were as raw and tender as never before, especially for her.

Still, life must go on.  Christmas was coming soon, and there was no money for which to buy more than the barest of necessities. Somehow, though, she managed to provide a few, meager gifts for us, but Christmas would definitely be sparse that year.

Then came the miracle.

Mother bundled us all up warmly, and announced that we were going to drive from our home in Ogden, down to the ZCMI store in Salt Lake City.  There we found a most kind and generous benefactor who insisted upon buying each of us children a pair of nice shoes.   I remember feeling so excited with this surprise, not just because I was getting something new, but because I hadn't recalled ever having been inside of such an elegant, expensive-looking store!  My mother, on the other hand, mainly remembers trying to find shoes for us which wouldn't cost our benefactor an arm and a leg!  She wasn't used to such prices!  Our benefactor, though, insisted that money was not to be considered in our selections.   Well..., we, of course, drove happily home, carrying our precious bundles.  It had been a most exciting evening.

But the miracle wasn't over yet!

Christmas Day found a knock at our door.  Upon opening it, we found this same benefactor and his wife, bearing arm loads of brightly wrapped gifts. There were presents for each one of us, as well as gifts for the family to share together.

This wasn't the first time these giving, charitable individuals had bestowed to us expressions of love.  A couple of days or so following the funeral of my sister, we were invited to their lovely home.  My father was with us then, having been given a week's furlough from the war, so this was a sad yet joyous time for us all.  The visit to our benefactors' home was a wonderful gesture of love towards my family, and it brought about some much needed gaiety in a week which had been filled with sorrow.   We had a grand time during that visit.  We swam in their neighbor's pool, ate scrumptious barbecued food,... but what was the funniest part of our visit was being able to use their brand new full-sized ping-pong table!  Oh, what a treat that was!

And the giving didn't stop there!  When these dear people saw what delight that ping-pong table gave us children, before we left for home they presented it to us as a gift!  Can you believe that?  They were dear friends to my parents, but that didn't mean that they needed to do something such as this!  Yet they did.

Well, needless to say, when these sweet individuals arrived at our doorstep bearing   still more gifts, we children couldn't quite believe our eyes.  Was it really possible for anyone to be so giving?!  I seem to remember my mother's tears of gratitude and love towards our benefactors, gratitude and love ever so much deeper than mere words can express.  All of our hearts were deeply touched that day, and forever would be.

Perhaps many of you know of my family's benefactors.  These dear friends, who were such examples to us, are Marion D. Hanks, and his wife Maxine. They truly emulated, and continue to emulate, our Savior's life in their gifts of time, sacrifice, devotion to their fellowmen, and love.

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Keeping Christmas

by Henry van Dyke

It is a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and seasons, when men agree to stop work and make merry together, is a wise and wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds a man to set his own little watch, now and then, by the great clock of humanity which runs on sun time.

But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is keeping Christmas.

Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellowmen are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts hungry for you; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness -- are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open -- are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world -- stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death -- and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you can keep it for a day, why not always? But you can never keep it alone.

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True Christmas Spirit

Author Unknown

It was only four days before Christmas.  The spirit of the season hadn't yet caught up with me, even though cars packed the parking lot of our local discount store.  Inside the store, it was worse. Shopping carts and last minute shoppers jammed the aisles.  Why did I come today? I wondered.  My feet ached almost as much as my head.


My list contained names of several people who claimed they wanted nothing but I knew their feelings would be hurt if I didn't buy them anything.  Buying for someone who had everything and deploring the high cost of items, I considered gift-buying anything but fun. Hurriedly, I filled my shopping cart with last minute items and proceeded to the long checkout lines. 

I picked the shortest line but it looked as if it would mean at least a 20 minute wait.  In front of me were two small children - a boy of about 5 and a younger girl. The boy wore a ragged coat.  Enormously large, tattered tennis shoes jutted far out in front of his much too short jeans.  He clutched several crumpled dollar bills in his grimy hands.  The girl's clothing resembled her brother's.  Her head   was a matted mass of curly hair. Reminders of an evening meal showed on her small face. She carried a beautiful pair of shiny, gold house slippers. 

As the Christmas music sounded in the store's stereo system, the girl hummed along, off-key
but happily.  When we finally approached the checkout register, the girl carefully placed the shoes on the counter.  She treated them as though they were a treasure.   The clerk rang up the bill. "That will be $6.09," she said.  The boy laid his crumpled dollars atop the stand while he searched his pockets.  He finally came up with $3.12.   "I guess we will have to put them back, " he bravely said.  "We will come back some other time, maybe tomorrow."   With that statement, a soft sob broke from the little girl.  "But Jesus would have loved these shoes, " she cried. "Well, we'll go home and work some more.

Don't cry.  We'll come back," he said.  Quickly I handed $3.00 to the cashier.  These children had waited in line for a long time. And, after all, it was Christmas.  Suddenly a pair of arms came
around me and a small voice said, "Thank you, lady."  "What did you mean when you said Jesus would like the shoes?" I asked.  The boy answered, "Our mommy is sick and going to heaven.  Daddy said she might go before Christmas to be with Jesus."  The girl spoke, "My Sunday school teacher said the streets in heaven are shiny gold, just like these shoes. Won't mommy be beautiful walking on those streets to match these shoes?"  My eyes flooded as I looked into her tear streaked face.  "Yes" I answered, "I am sure she will."

Silently I thanked God for using these children to remind me of the true spirit of giving.


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Does Xmas Take Christ Out of Christmas?

The fish, Greek ichthys (ixquj), is a symbol for Christ which has been in use since the days of the early church. In Greek, it is an acronym for Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior:

Jesus - I h s o u V

Christ - C r i s t o V

God's - Q e o u

Son - U i o V

Saviour - S w t h r

Frequently Christians were forced to worship secretly. The fish symbol served them well in difficult times because it generally would go unnoticed by a foe of Christianity when Christians used it to communicate. Placed outside a Christian's home, this symbol would announce silently that Christian Communion was to be observed secretly there that night. Artistic forms of the fish frequently decorated the Roman catacombs where Christians were forced to meet during persecution.

Notice that X was the first letter in the word that was Greek for Christ.  In the fourth century, copies of the scriptures had to hand written.   Commonly used terms were abbreviated using the letter abbreviation.  The original four gospels were written in Greek and so the abbreviation of  X for Christ remained.

So the next time you see the X used in Christmas instead of Christ, instead of being upset and feeling like it is an effort to take Christ out of Christmas, be reminded of early Christians trying to worship their Savior and later by people trying to speed up the process of making more copies of the scriptures.When adverse conditions affect the celebration of Christmas, such as when those allergic reactions to Christmas trees purchase artificial white Christmas trees, the integrity of the tradition is not compromised.

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Almost No Christmas

Mary Beth Hughes Copyright 1998 all rights reserved

I was eleven when my parents were near the end of a nasty divorce and it was just a couple of weeks before Christmas.  Mom was struggling just to keep food on the table and heat in the house.  Indiana can have some pretty cold winters and it was cold this year.   At the time, I had two brothers and one sister. By finding, saving, and selling pop bottles and egg cartons, Mom and I had enough money to get some Christmas candy for the kids' socks.  Mom had squirreled away a little to get each of us a small gift from her.

It was at this time that our father decided to turn off all the utilities that were in his name.   He could have just switched names for a very small fee but it would not have had the same effect.  I was shocked when I had to deal with the utility men.   Each of them had very kind hearts and didn't turn off the electricity or water.   This was to give Mom a chance to raise the funds and get the utilities into her name.

Poor Mom she had to spend all of her Christmas money to turn on the utilities and beg from her parents to help cover the rest.  I knew there was to be no Christmas that year.  We did not have a tree, no money even for Christmas candy, no presents and no special foods.  Christmas was not coming to our home that year.

I don't remember being sad but Mom was and she cried on more than one night. We weren't taught to pray and we weren't allowed to, but I still believed in God. So I told him that I knew that Santa wasn't real but he was and would he please give my Momma a Christmas.

The Lord blessed us that year.  Mom had met a man through her work as a waitress.   He decided to help us out and enlisted friends of his to provide all of us with a Christmas.  They worked very hard that night. We went to bed with no tree, no presents, no stockings for Santa, and no plans of Christmas dinner.  Imagine my surprise when my brothers rudely woke me at about four in the morning to see our Christmas miracle.  We had the most beautiful tree that year.  None has compared to it since. There were presents, filled stockings, and food cooking.  I don't remember any of the wrapped gifts that I received that year.  They just weren't important to me. Most important, Mom was smiling and happy.

The blessings from that Christmas are still being received.  The man that the Lord inspired to help us out married my Mom and is still making her happy.  Papa taught us more about being a family than anyone and added two sisters to our family.  It doesn't end there, either, as I shared this with my husband, Clint, and he appreciated Papa's efforts so much that we have made it a family tradition to seek out and help a family who will not get other assistance.  And, just like that Christmas long ago, it is only through prayer that we can find the family who needs this help. And finally, as a child I discovered that Heavenly Father is truly my Santa Claus.

Mary Beth Hughes Copyright 1998 all rights reserved


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A Candy Maker's Witness

A candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a witness of his faith, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols of the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.

He began with a stick of pure white hard candy. White to symbolize the Virgin Birth and sinless nature of Jesus; and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the Church, and the firmness of the promises of God.

The candy maker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as the Savior of all mankind. It could also represent the staff of the Good Shepherd with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs, who, like all sheep have gone astray.

Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candy maker stained it with several small red stripes representing the stripes Jesus received when He was beaten before His Crucifixion; The stripes that the Bible says we are healed by. The large red stripe is for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that mankind would have the promise of eternal life.

As time passed, the candy became known simply as a candy cane. It is now a standard decoration we see at Christmas time, but not nearly carrying the meaning that was originally intended. But the meaning is still there to those who have "eyes to see." Perhaps this story of the origin of the "candy cane" will help you to witness the wonder of God's Gift at this blessed time of the year.

--Author Unknown

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Catholics in England were prohibited by law from practicing their faith, both in private and in public from 1558 to 1829. Being a Catholic was treated as a crime. There was no restored gospel at the time, however there were good Christians who knew without doubt the true church was not one that was mainly created merely for the convenience of King Henry the Eighth) who wanted to sin and have a church justify his actions. So in secret they continued to teach their children their Christian religion.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England during this time frame. It was written to help children learn about their religion. The entire song is writing in symbolism and hidden meanings because it was illegal to have anything in writing that would indicate adherence to the Catholic faith. To be caught could mean imprisonment, hanging, or drawn and quartered.

Christmas referred to a twelve day period that starts with Christmas day. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" referred to a twelve day period that began Christmas day. While the world may have celebrated Christmas for about twelve hours, these Christians celebrated it for twelve days as a reminder that the gifts of God are with us for twelve months of the year. It also represented the idea that we should be thankful for the gifts of God and follow His teachings for all twelve months of the year and not just one day a year.

The song begins, "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me..." The "true love" represents God, as our greatest love should be for Him. The word worship means that which we love the most. The "me" who receives these presents is the Christian man or woman.

1. The "partridge in a pear tree" was Jesus Christ who died on a structure made from the wood of a tree. In ancient times a partridge was often used as mythological symbol of a divine, sacred king.

2. The "two turtle doves" were the Old and New Testaments - another gift from God. Doves symbolize peace and the Gospel contained in these scriptures, when practiced, brings peace.

3. The "three French hens" were faith, hope and love - the three gifts of the Spirit that abide

(I Corinthians 13). The French hens can also represent God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.

4. The "four calling birds" were the four Gospels which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.

5. The "five golden rings" were the first five books of the Bible also called the "Books of Moses."

6. The "six geese a-laying" were the six days of creation.

7. The "seven swans a swimming" were "seven gifts of the Holy Spirit." (I Corinthians 12:8-11, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4:10-11)

"For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word o knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to other divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues; But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."

(I Corinthians 12:8-11)

8. The "eight maids a milking" were the eight beatitudes.

9. The "nine ladies dancing" were nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22)

10. The "ten lords a-leaping" were the Ten Commandments.

11. The "eleven pipers piping" were the eleven faithful disciples.

12. The "twelve drummers drumming" were the twelve points of the Apostles' Creed.

I. Believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
II. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
III. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
IV. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried:
V. The third day He rose again from the dead:
VI. He ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
VII. From thence he shall come to judge the Quick and the dead:
VIII. I believe in the Holy Ghost:
IX. Belief in the communion of saints:
X. The forgiveness of sins:
XI. The resurrection of the body:
XII. And the life everlasting. AMEN.

 

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Christmas Links

Dave Kenison's Christmas Treasures

This an excellent LDS Christmas page with a wide variety of material

The Meaning of Christmas by Gordon B. Hinckley (President of LDS church)

Marvelicious Reason For The Season

A wonderful story of teaching children why we celebrate Christmas

A Christmas Story

An outstanding story about the meaning of Christmas

The Gift of the Magi

This is the wonderful classic Christmas tale from O.Henry.

Christmas Fun and Crafts

This web site has lots of things to make such as a paper manger scene, a little village, etc.

Christmas-Ideas

This is a Christmas site with lots of ideas of all kinds. Includes stories, recipes, crafts, etc.

False Christmas Traditions?

Short article on what Christmas is about and how some of our traditions can take away that meaning.  Well done.

Homemade Christmas Gifts

This site has several good ideas for Christmas gifts that are homemade and inexpensive, but nice!

Crafty Visions Newsletter - 1997 Holiday Issue

This is another site with several good ideas for Christmas gifts that are homemade, inexpensive, and nice!

Christmas Recipes

Most complete collection of Christmas Recipes

Christmas Songbook on the Internet

Lots of wonderful Christmas songs to listen to

 

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Webmaster: Debra Oaks Coe: ddcoe@msn.com 
Copyright 1997
Last modified: December 09, 2001