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AAA predicts more than 3.6 million Michiganders will be traveling during the holidays. That’s the highest number since AAA starting making its annual Christmas travel projections in 2000.

AAA spokeswoman Adrienne Woodland says travelers should be sure to pack their patience.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

For the first time, last-minute holiday shoppers in Michigan may have something new to go under the tree: legally purchased recreational marijuana.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

My apartment has enough Christmas decorations to make some people gag.

In my living room there's a strand of lights on the Venetian blinds. More hang from the ceiling. There's a seven foot-tall Christmas tree -- and a three-foot tall stuffed Santa by the window.

My roommate laughed when I put it all up.

band playing
Courtesy of Mike Blank

Today on Stateside, we review the bills headed to Governor Snyder's desk after the lame duck state legislature's all-nighter. Plus, this year marks the 50th consecutive year of a very special Christmas tradition for Stateside producer Mike Blank's family.  

Jimmy Izbinski, Santa at the Toledo Christmas Weed.
Joey Horan / Michigan Radio

Shades of A Charlie Brown Christmas are playing out on a busy intersection in West Toledo.

The Toledo Christmas Weed, a lonely sapling growing out of a crack in the sidewalk, is now adorned with tinsel and surrounded by gifts. It even has a dedicated crew of Santa and his elves, one of whom was passing out free lottery tickets on Wednesday. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Once again, Christians and Satanists are mounting dueling holiday displays at the state capitol.

This morning, State Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) erected a small nativity scene on the lawn of the capitol building.  He’s been doing this since 2014, when a Satanist group announced plans to erect their own “Snaketivity” on the capitol grounds.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The holiday shopping season is about to move into high gear.

Michigan Retailers Association spokeswoman Meegan Holland says a recent survey shows store owners are very confident going into Black Friday.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan store owners are optimistic their after-Christmas sales will be as strong as pre-holiday sales have been this year. 

Meegan Holland, with the Michigan Retailers Association, says the growth of gift cards as presents has boosted post-holiday sales. 

"They often don't spend just what the gift card is worth," says Holland. "They are buying more than that."

Anecdotally, retailers say this has been a very good holiday shopping season. But we won't know how good until major retailers report their fourth quarter numbers next year. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan store owners expect to be very busy this weekend.

Meegan Holland, with the Michigan Retailers Association, says with Christmas falling on Monday many holiday buyers will be shopping in stores and online.

“Going into this Super Saturday weekend, 45% of people still have some Christmas shopping to do,” says Holland, “It could be an epic weekend.”

A payment technology firm says that holiday spending is surging in the days before Christmas.

Santa House
Courtesy of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School

“He errs who thinks Santa enters through the chimney. Santa enters through the heart.”

So said the founder of the Charles W. Howard Santa School in Midland, Michigan.

Yes, you read that right. There is such a thing as Santa school, and the one in Michigan is the longest-running in the country. With students coming from as far as Australia and Denmark, it’s known as the “Harvard of Santa Schools.”

Kathleen Davis / Michigan Radio

In a place that gets as cold as Michigan, lots of people try to soak up as much of the summer sun as they can. But at Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, people are already thinking ahead to colder, snowier months. 

Bronner's Christmas Wonderland is a year-round destination in Michigan. It's one of the central attractions of Frankenmuth, the cozy tourist town known sometimes as "Little Bavaria." 

JOHN AUCHTER / WWW.AUCHTOON.COM

To all I wish peace, love, and good health this holiday season and throughout the new year!

For my fellow Christians, I also want to note that we have some big responsibilities in 2017. 

I mean, we always do, but because the election of Donald Trump was largely our doing, we owe it to ourselves and our country to be particularly attentive.

The election is finally and officially over, so no matter the reason we voted for Trump (a single issue, the lesser of two evils, wholehearted support), the reason no longer matters.

He will be the President.

Courtesy of Bill O. Smith

A children's book can be filled with wisdom and a message that resonates with readers of all ages.

That is certainly the case with Traverse City-based writer Bill O. Smith's new children's book Four a.m. December 25.

It is the story of a very special gift for a little girl.

Courtesy aotaro / Creative Commons -- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Some people may be excited that we're finally out of the Halloween woods, not having to think about costumes, ghosts, or trick-or-treating. But for those who want just a bit more, we have your back.

Let's take one last look at Halloween by seeing how some in Michigan celebrated last night.

Of course, little kids were on the prowl in cute costumes.

 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

'Twas the weekend after Christmas, and all through the mall, shoppers armed with gift cards are expected to make a big haul. 

This is expected to be another big weekend for Michigan retailers.

Tom Scott with the Michigan Retailers says he expects many people will quickly transition from Friday’s Christmas celebration to making returns and cashing in gift cards Saturday and Sunday.   

He says for store owners, gift cards are more than just a stocking stuffer.

“(Gift cards have) changed the way we think about the holiday season,” says Scott. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It’s the last day before Christmas. 

And amidst the frantic last-minute shopping and traveling, some people in Flint took some time out for music.

For 78 years on Christmas Eve, a bank lobby in Flint has turned into a small concert hall.

Dozens of people filled the First Merit bank lobby in downtown Flint to listen to choir sing a mix of holiday standards and carols, as well as sing along themselves.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

This holiday shopping season may turn out to be better than expected for Michigan retailers.

With temperatures approaching the 60’s, it may not feel like Christmas, but that’s apparently not stopping holiday shoppers.

Tom Scott, with the Michigan Retailers Association, says preliminary credit card data suggests holiday spending is up about 5% or more over last year, which is much higher than Michigan retailers were expecting.

Scott credits the weather, which has been much better than in recent years.

user myeyesinthemirror / deviantart

"Yes, there's a place we all know, where people of all ages go. It doesn't matter if there's even snow at all.

In Michigan it's loved by all."

Those are lines from "Christmas in Frankenmuth" a song recorded by the American Legacy Jazz Band. The brassy number celebrates Bavarian chicken and "Christmas time all year round."

Take a listen for yourself:

Christine Cha

If you’re already getting tired of the same old Christmas tunes this year, look no further than a new album called Creole Christmas. It’s by trumpet player and Michigan State University jazz professor, Etienne Charles.

The album combines, jazz, soul, and Creole music into a holiday mix with both instrumental tracks and vocal tracks that put a soulful spin on some standards, like Go Tell It on the Mountain and This Christmas to some holiday songs from Trinidad that you’ve probably never heard of.

African American Santa Claus
soulchristmas / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM / cropped from original

Some Detroit children will have a chance to read their Christmas lists while sitting on the lap of a Santa Claus who looks like them.

BLAC Magazine will host a free event this Saturday and Sunday for children to visit  and get their picture with a black Santa.

For years, Northland Mall in Southfield was a "sure-fire place" for parents to take their children for a photo with a black Santa.

Alas, Detroiters, this is going to be our first Christmas without Northland Mall. And that raises a difficult question for the black community — where will we go to find a black Santa Claus?

Ever since I can remember, Northland was the sure-fire place where parents could take their kids to see a black Santa. My children grew up with two astounding life experiences that, for me, are the hallmark of the progress we have made as a race: They've never voted for a white president, and they've never sat upon the lap of a white Santa.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Two-thirds of Michigan retailers are expecting to see their sales increase this holiday season.

Tom Scott is with the Michigan Retailers Association.

He says on average retailers expect holiday sales will be up about 2% this year. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The recent wave of terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East have police reviewing their security plans for big events, including a major holiday event this Friday in downtown Lansing.

Up to 80,000 people are expected to head to Lansing Friday night for the annual Silver Bells event, which includes a parade and lighting of the state Christmas tree on the Capitol grounds. 

Mitzvah Day is joint Jewish and Muslim day of service on Christmas

Dec 25, 2014
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Members of the Detroit-area Jewish and Muslim communities are joining together on Christmas for a day of good deeds in the Detroit area. It's called Mitzvah Day.

About 1,000 volunteers from both faiths will participate in 43 service projects across metro Detroit.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan utilities are bracing for extremely strong winds, a year after a storm put thousands of people in the dark at Christmas.

  DTE Energy spokeswoman Randi Berris says crews are on standby Wednesday in case weather forecasters are right in predicting gusts of 45 mph or higher in southeastern Michigan. Consumers Energy says it also will be ready.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Before dawn this morning, five Satanists erected what they call a "snaketivity" on the east lawn of the state Capitol.

A fake snake coils its body around the display, which features the phrase “The Greatest Gift is Knowledge.”

Jex Blackmore is with the Satanic Temple of Detroit. 

Satanic Temple

The Michigan State Police will keep an eye on Christian and Satanic displays on the state capitol lawn in the days leading up to Christmas.

Christian groups were outraged when permission was given for a display honoring Satan to be placed on the east lawn just before Christmas.   

Arrangements were quickly made for a nativity scene to share the space. 

Duke Wagatha's Christmas tree lot in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Go for the ambience, the free eggnog, and, oh yeah, a Christmas tree.

At Flatsnoots Christmas Trees in Ann Arbor, visiting owner Duke Wagatha is all part of the experience of finding that perfect evergreen.

Priscilla and Larry Massie

If you're dashing around trying to take care of your holiday to-do list, it might be time to think back and remember a time in Michigan when a bowl of oyster stew was your Christmas dinner and a $1.75 pair of gloves took care of your Christmas gift for the wife!

Nativity Scene
Flickr user Stereogab / Flickr

Someone has asked to set up a Christmas Nativity scene on government property, but where does this lie in the separation of church and state vs. free speech?

MLive’s Capitol reporter Jonathon Oosting joins us to discuss the request. According to Oosting, the recently formed Michigan State Capitol Commission is reviewing the request and they are currently seeking legal advice on the issue.

 Listen to our conversation with Oosting below.


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