Celebrating the season, however you can

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

On a blustery Christmas morning, the wind was spreading chill more than cheer. And while most of you were home, all warm and snuggly, some of your neighbors were out and about, working, eating, and, believe it or not, doing some last-minute Christmas shopping.

Bayonne resident Tony works security at a strip mall in Jersey City. He was lucky enough to draw the Christmas morning assignment. He says he’s eager for the work day to end.

“[I’m going to] do a little work, then pick up the kids, go out to dinner, come back home, open some presents. You know, spend it with family,” he said.

Food and family are a common theme on this holiday. And while a lot of places were closed, some places, IHOP among them, were doing good business. Sam was stopping by for some energy to fuel up for moving day. No time for Christmas.

“I’m moving to Virginia from Minnesota,” she said, explaining that she didn’t take the long way from the Midwest to the South by accident, saying she was visiting family.

At the Jolibee nearby, John was preparing for his Filipino family tradition.

“I have my cousins coming from Canada and Missouri, so we’re going to buy some food because over there, they don’t have Jolibee, you know,” he smiled. “It’s like a Filipino thing, a Filipino tradition.”

Tommy’s in Jersey City has been opening its doors on Christmas Day for almost 30 years.

“My dad keeps the restaurant open on Christmas, mostly for the people who might not have families or might not celebrate Christmas,” explained Nick Diakos, who was working the counter. “It gives them a chance to eat in a place with people they’re familiar with.”

But the chasm between having and not having is especially highlighted on Christmas. While many of us are wondering what we got, or what you got, for some with the least, the season can serve to put “having” into perspective.

“Every day’s a blessing,” said one man, who was collecting change at a red light. “Every day is Christmas if you really look at it. You’re breathing.”

North Bergen resident Bobby Love just lost his job. “Things are rough right now,” he said. “God keeps me going.”

In downtown Newark, members of the Truth in the Light Ministries share food, clothes and gifts. There’s no fanfare, no preaching, no strings attached, just a Holy Spirit.

“We’re just so grateful that God graces us to be able to do this,” smiled Lori Watkins, the first lady of Truth in the Light Ministries.

Pastor Jeff Watkins said he ministers to all. “It’s all about love,” he added. “God loves everybody. No matter what religion you are, Muslim, Jewish. God just wants to show his love to people.”

 And love is something we could all use in abundance, Christmastime or not.