Christmas songs used to bring out my cynical side, but not anymore. After a year of political strife and fiery catastrophe, I cherish the buoyant strains of “Deck the Halls” and especially the minor-keyed grandeur of “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.” I’m hoping those are on the setlist for Marielle Coeytaux’s annual Christmas caroling, which begins in front of the Carnegie Building at 5 p.m. sharp Thursday, Dec. 21. Bring a flashlight, something warm to wear, and something red – at least a hat or scarf. Instead of splitting off and strolling through the residential neighborhoods, this year the carolers will head down Main Street as one big group. No RSVP is necessary. Just show up ready to sing.

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Just in time for Christmas, Star sportswriter G.S. Whitt (aka Garrett) is has a new book out Thursday called “Old School: Building a Life Through Sport.” In May he said the book is a collection of his work over the past 25 years, intended to honor his parents and show his appreciation for the players, coaches and people he’s covered. “I hope this book will give people a glimpse into who I am, and by extension who we all are at heart,” he wrote in a May letter to the editor. It sounds like an ideal stocking stuffer for your favorite sports fan. Get your copy at Main Street Books.

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Congratulations to Rodney Rose’s Autumn Skies Landscapes of St. Helena for winning two big awards in November at the California Landscape Contractors Association’s State Trophy Awards held in (where else?) Scottsdale, Arizona. Their installation at “Corkwood,” a residential property at an undisclosed location just outside St. Helena, won “Best of Show – Stewart J. Sperber Memorial Sweepstakes Trophy Award” and “First Place Award for Lighting.” The project also took top awards at a regional competition in June. Designed by landscape architect Bill Williamson of Seattle, the installation of just over an acre contains 200 varieties of plants and trees, a vegetable garden, high-tech greenhouse, replica of the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth, custom Murano glass religious iconography, steel water feature with white marble statue, a few sculptures, and signs by St. Helena metal artist Chase Alstott. See the photos at AutumnSkiesLandscapes.com.

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Here’s an omen, although I can’t say for good or ill: Venus in Gemini is entering Cancer three days before my next birthday. I know this because the 2018 Planetary Calendar, published by Lahni and Ralph de Amicis of Napa, tells me so. Interest in astrology is back on the rise thanks to millennials, and has always been high in Asian and Spanish-speaking societies, Ralph writes. He says the calendar, started in 1949, is the country’s oldest continuously published astrological calendar. He and Lahni have published it since 2000 and have hosted an astrological show by the same name on public access TV since early 2014. Astrology buffs can order the symbol-packed calendar at SpaceAndTime.com.

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Our hometown Congressman Mike Thompson emceed a wine fundraiser on Dec. 7 in Washington, D.C. to support the Redwood Credit Union Community Fund’s North Bay Fire Relief Fund. The event was hosted by the California State Society, in conjunction with Thompson, the Wine Institute and WineAmerica. It raised $260,000. “That money will help those who’ve just lost everything to begin rebuilding their lives,” said Thompson, who thanked the California State Society, the wine community, sponsors, donors and many of his congressional colleagues.

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Archetype is going all-out for New Year’s Eve, offering a $150 “Night of Gratitude” featuring a four-course dinner and wine from Schramsberg. Glancing at chef Anthony Paone’s menu, my four choices would be butternut squash soup, wood roasted mushrooms, 45-day dry-aged grass-fed New York steak, and triple chocolate mousse cake. Hungry yet? The last seating is at 9 p.m.

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I’ll close with a heart-warming story about one of the good deeds that abound at Christmastime. While walking down Main Street last Thursday, a friend who asked me not to use his name found a high-end Leica digital camera sitting on a newsrack. It was worth thousands and he could have pocketed it, but instead he took it to the St. Helena Police Department. The owner, a San Francisco man who had accidentally left it on the newsrack, called the police department and was thrilled it had been turned in. He wrote a heartfelt note of gratitude and promised to drop off a gift “in appreciation of your honesty.” Imagine if the situation were reversed and a St. Helena resident had left a Leica camera on a busy San Francisco street – it would have been lost forever. We are blessed to live in this place, Dear Readers. Merry Christmas.

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