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Image: John Lennon
AP file
John Lennon performed at New York's Madison Square Garden on Aug. 30, 1972. Wednesday marks the 30th anniversary of his death.
TODAY staff
updated 12/7/2010 8:57:46 PM ET 2010-12-08T01:57:46

Wednesday, Dec. 8 marks the 30th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. The passage of time has done little to dim the memory of that night in the minds of our readers. Below is a compilation of recollections from our readers.


During high school myself and each of my three best friends were big Beatle fans, we each adopted one of the Beatles as our alter-ego, mine was John Lennon. We had talked about who of the four Beatles would be the first to die. It was sort of assumed that since Ringo was the oldest he would probably the first. It was a Monday night five years after high school. I had just picked up my soon to be future wife from work. After getting home I got a phone call from my high school friend (Ringo). He told me that John Lennon had been killed. I told him to stop kidding around like that. He said to turn on the TV and see. I thought he was kidding around and did not turn on the TV till some time later. That's when I realized that my inspiration for playing guitar had been assassinated. I actually cried alone, it felt like such a personal loss. It took me several years before I could listen to the Beatles music. I now share this story with my kids and younger people, except for the crying part. — Abel Trevino, San Antonio, Texas

Don't know and don't care. I think John Lennon was little more than a dope-smoking liberal making his fame on the backs of the rest of the Beatles. If it wasn't for Paul and the rest, John Lennon would just be an answer to an obscure and lame question on bar-trivia night. — Ron Perkins, Maineville, Ohio

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I was at the Orange Bowl in Miami watching the Monday Night Football game against the Boston Patriots. The game went into overtime when the Miami Dolphins blocked a field goal attempt by Patriot kicker Jon Smith. The Dolphins won the game in over-time, but the celebration was soon cut short when I got into my car and turned on the radio to listen to the post-game analysis. What I heard stunned me. John Lennon was shot and killed? In New York City? Must be wrong, must be a sick joke! But when I got home and turned on the TV, my worst fears were confirmed. My music idol, John Lennon, was dead. There will never be a Beatles reunion. I immediately put on a vinyl album of Double Fantasy (which had just been released a couple of weeks prior to John's untimely death). I began to cry as I began to think about all the great music that John and Paul created. It was, and has been, the soundtrack of my life. What a waste... — Lee Cohen, Pembroke Pines, Fla.

Newsweek: The legacy of John Lennon's death

Interestingly enough, I know exactly where I was December 8, 1980. I was in the Top of the World Lounge on the top of World Trade Center having drinks with friends when the waitress mentioned that John Lennon had just been shot at the Dakota. 30 years on and both Lennon and the World Trade Center are no longer. — Kevin Poitras, Tampa, Fla.

It was the night when I first told my future wife, "I love you." And in a couple of weeks we'll celebrate our 25th anniversary! It was a cold winter night in St. Louis and I was dropping her off at her dormitory at St. Louis University. Later we talked half the night on the phone about Lennon, Reagan and many other things. John's death is kind of a strange footnote in our relationship. I love rock and pop music but I was never wild about the Beatles or John Lennon's solo efforts. Maybe because it's just so overplayed. There's no doubt the music is classic and timeless; my own kids know more about the Beatles than I do. For what it's worth, though, I feel John was the main creative force behind the band. Paul has a tremendous gift for melody, but without John, his solo work has never stood up to the music he wrote with John in the Beatles. I think both George and Ringo are under-appreciated. — Jeff Fister, St. Louis, Mo.

My husband-to-be and I were in the car on the way to my parents' house. John was going to ask my father's blessing on our engagement. Our news was overshadowed by the news of John Lennon's death. Needless to say, my husband of almost 30 years never forgets this anniversary. — Debby Kuchmay, Cochranville, Penn.

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I'd just turned 21 and came home that night a bit earlier than usual (suburban home in central New Jersey). A while later my father came into my room and said, "You know that guy you like? John Lennon?" "Yeah." "He's just been shot in New York City." What? He's been SHOT? I asked my father how bad it was but he didn't know. I was stunned, of course, but I remember thinking very clearly, he's John Lennon, he'll be fine, nothing to worry about. Sometime later my father came into my room and woke me up and told me John Lennon had just died. He DIED?!?! It didn't make any sense. How could John Lennon die? This was my JFK moment (I was too young to remember when JFK was killed), and it wasn't the first time I was surprised to realize my heroes were just people after all, no matter how talented. His death saddens me to this day. Not too many people are irreplaceable, but John Lennon was one of them. — Cameron Hughes, New York

I heard the news first thing in the morning. I was 19-years-old and it broke my heart. Our Christmas tree that year was a shrine to John Lennon and the Beatles. We hung up our 45's and pictures from magazines and album inserts. Very sad day and I can't believe it has really been 30 years. About 18 years later we saw the display at the Cleveland Hall of Fame and the sight of his bloody glasses... well, it was just horribly sad. — Dawn Blackburn

John Lennon: a man of 'absolute contradictions’

Around the corner having a beer in The Jaunting Car Irish pub. Someone rushed in and said, "Lennon's been shot," and rushed out. We knew he lived in the big hotel around the corner so some of us--not all--walked out a little hesitantly to see what was going on. There was a gathering crowd by the south door of the hotel and police cordoning off the area. The mood was one of shock, and there was silence. The next day the same mood all over the city and you could see it in people's faces, very stricken, everyone knew why, and huge headlines in the newsstand papers on each corner. As I recall there was a spontaneous gathering in the Central Park near that hotel but I didn't attend that. Years later I happened to be in London visiting friends when Princess Diana was killed. There was that same feeling citywide again and on everyone's faces, the same mood. Somber and quiet, very sad. — Kathy Callaway, Brainerd, Minn.

Don't know, don't care. I loved the Beatles - from day 1, and he and his Yoko Ono along with their drugs, ruined them. I have everything they made up until those two started dragging the Beatles down - and I threw away everything afterwards. — Donnie Schwirtlich, Corpus Christi, Texas

I had taken a "grand tour" of Europe, and wound up in a place I once belonged, Springfield, Massachusetts. Working the night shift as a Rent-A-Nurse, I was passing medications to patients on a Med-Surg ward when I heard somebody shout out the news, that he was shot. I felt like I had been shot, and was ready to "lose it," but understood that I was responsible for the care of my patients. Barely able to hold my head up, I made a decision that I had to contain myself, and I dragged myself through to the dawn, and through the rest of the shift. I made it home, and cried my eyes out, and after all this time, it still hurts. It's not just that we lost him, but the way he was killed, and the fact that he was murdered. All murders are senseless and incomprehensible: I was just plain angry. I couldn't listen to Beatles music after that, it was just too painful. In 2008, I discovered a band that covers the music of the Beatles, (no wigs, no costumes), called The Fab Faux. They did a tribute to John Lennon at Radio City Music Hall, which was a celebration, but for me it was a chance to grieve with people who loved him. I was very grateful for the opportunity. — Antoinette Gelmont, New York

I was working overnights at a radio station in Western Maryland when the AP wire machine began banging out copy with alarm bells. Yes, it was the "dark ages" when the wire copy was printed out of a big, metal machine. I pulled the copy off and the first words said something like "John Lennon shot tonight in New York". At that point he was reported still alive at the hospital. The news changed quickly and I went on the air to announce his death. It was an awful night and I will never forget it. I still have the AP wire copy from that terrible night. — Leslie Layton, Richmond, Va.

I was home watching Monday Night football with the sound off and listening to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" when the breaking news announcement came on the TV. I turned the sound back on and was completely devastated by the news. It took me quite some time before I could listen to that album again, being so closely associated with the memory of the death of "my Beatle brother" John. To this day I often wonder about all the music that might have, should have, been. I am still "Comfortably Numb" — Greg Cook, Stevensville, Mich.

I was in San Diego Ca. in the process of losing my virginity with a beautiful blonde girl that I met at a toga party. I was 18. The news came over the radio. I even remember the radio station call letters 101 KGB FM. After the news came over the radio, we were shocked. I lost my boner, she was crying, and it had taken me about another 2 hours to convince her that it was ok for us to continue because John would want it that way. Make Love Not War! — David Craig, Los Lunas, N.M.

As an aspiring actor, at the time, I was two buildings west of the Dakota, having a voice lesson. My lesson had originally been scheduled for earlier in the day, when an opportunity to audition had arisen. My voice teacher & I rescheduled the lesson for 6:00pm & then I stayed for coffee & gossip. Neither of us were interested in the TV or radio news. We sat & chatted for most of the evening. When I finally left I exited the building & saw the crowd & police cars. It being New York City, I didn't think about it twice, I simply turned west & began my long trek home to NJ. It wasn't until I arrived home that my parents asked me if I had heard the news. — Andrew Till, Butler, N.J.

I was home watching TV at the time they broke in stating that John Lennon had been shot and killed. The strangest thing that I thought about was that early that same day my Grandmother had found my Beatles lunchbox in the attic that I had carried in the 3rd grade. To this day everytime I look at it it reminds me of that terrible night. — Debra Betts, Midland, Texas

I walked into 7th grade math class and our teacher was crying. My classmates and I all sat there in stunned silence - most of us had never seen a teacher show such emotion. Finally she looked up and said, "John Lennon was killed last night." Some of the kids had no idea who John Lennon was, others had a vague idea or had heard of the Beatles from their parents or older siblings. Only a handful of us were fans of John and his music. In a quiet voice my teacher told our class about John Lennon. She told us about his music and what he stood for, and how his message of peace had touched her life. Then she brought out a small, beat-up cassette player from her desk and a shoebox full of cassette tapes and we spent the rest of our class period listening to his music. I remember watching my teacher's sad eyes as we all listened to "Mother," "Imagine," The Ballad of John and Yoko," "Working Class Hero," "Happy Christmas (War is Over) as well as several Beatles songs. We didn't learn any math that day, but we all learned about a man whose music touched so many and a man who just wanted us all to give peace a chance. — Kevin Routh, St. Peters, Mo.

I was 18 years old when John Lennon was killed. I remember it like it was yesterday. I working at a restaurant and my manager, who knew of my love for music, rock and the Beatles in particular (Stones are #1) pulled me into the back room to tell me. The whole place was VERY SAD that day. It still shocks me to think that someone who only wanted peace and love in the world died such a violent and senseless death!!! — Maureen Ackerman, Columbus, Ohio

I was at home, eight months pregnant with my first child. My sister called me at about 6:30 in the morning. She didn't want me to hear it on the news, she was afraid the shock would make me go into early labor. I just stood there and cried. — Hope Page, Dover-Foxcroft, Maine

I was a 17-year-old, totally infatuated with John and in love with the Beatles' music. I heard the news the morning of Dec. 9 when my clock radio alarm went off. After a few minutes of processing what I heard, I realized I wasn't dreaming. Seeing me collapse in tears that morning, my dad asked my mom whether I should go to school. This was my generation's moment of loss, on par with the disbelief that I think others felt with the brutal passing of JFK or Martin Luther King. — Lauren Ward, Pittsburgh, Penn.

I was in my apartment with my wife watching Monday Night Football when the announcement was broadcasted to the nation. Earlier in the day at work I was making a drawing for a office renovation! In the corner of my draft, I doodled a likeness of John Lennon between 10:30-11:00 am of the same day that he was assassinated. My attention that morning was admiring how well that I drew the profile of John Lennon, that I showed some of my fellow employees the likeness. I am not sure why, but the image and drawing I will never forget. What a loss to our generation! — Chip Funke, Williamsburg, Va.

I was hiding a Kris Kringle gift in my college dorm when everyone on my floor started screaming my name when they heard the tragic news. Anyone who knew me then, knew that I was a big John Lennon fan and was looking forward to opening the Double Fantasy album on Christmas morning. It still makes me want to cry... — Lorraine Oler, New York

US Navy Boot Camp Company 248, San Diego, CA - I was the company yeoman which included lots of paperwork & lost sleep...that night in the Company Commander's office, working while the company slept - where one of my 'perks' was listening to the radio - I heard the news, all alone & the only person I could share it with at the time was the Rover Watch. Turned out that he was a big fan also. — Charlton Doss, Hendersonville, Tenn.

I was watching Monday Night football when the news came through. My parents; especially my mom gasped. She would have to be the one to tell my older sister when she picked her up from a friends house that night. We all knew how much she loved the Beatles and wondered what her reaction would be. Well when she came home, she was sobbing. I remember wondering what the problem was, why was she crying over some one in New York? Where was New York City anyways? I wanted to watch the game with my Dad, not hear about this shooting. It would be about 5-10 years later that I would finally understand the significance of that evening and was sad that it took that long. When ever I hear the song "Imagine" now, I am always taken back to that evening and wonder why? why John Lennon, why not someone else. — Kathleen McDermott, Los Angeles

I grew up in the Belleville, New Jersey, and loved the fact that John Lennon lived in New York City and everyone just let him live his life in peace with Yoko & Sean. I had joined the Army and was stationed at Ft. Carson, Co, and was in the barracks with some friends watching Monday Night Football and drink some beers. When the announced that John Lennon had been shot, my first reaction was it could not have been someone from New Jersey or New York, they loved and respected him too much. We all just could not believe some would harm such a kind and creative person. We stayed up most the night listening to the Beatles and Lennon's music. My condolences and prayers still go out to his family and loved ones. He will always be missed and forever in the hearts and minds of a grateful world. Let's all continue to Give Peace a Chance. — Kevin Decker, Colorado Springs, Colo.

My sophomore year in college I was watching Monday Night Football like a lot of people. The game was tied, I think the kicker was lining up for a game winning FG. Then, a little teaser ran across the bottom of the screen. I'm not sure if it was from the national TV feed, or from the local station. I tend to not see references to it when I search about that day, so I'm thinking it was local. It said something like "Former Beatle John Lennon has been shot outside his NY apartment." I'm probably misremembering it -- but I'm certain that it didn't say he had been killed -- just shot. My heart just dropped. I didn't believe it. I waited for about 20 seconds. Then Howard Cosell said the words that millions of others heard -- and it was true.... — David Nielsen, Portland, Ore.

I had just turned 10 years old a few days before and was watching Monday Night Football with my dad when the story broke. My dad was a longtime Beatles fan and I had discovered the Beatles through Lennon's recently released solo singles-- Woman and Just Like Starting Over. We were both in shock and just couldn't believe what we heard. I believe I starting crying because I was extremely upset that this man would not be able to make any more music. It still upsets me to this day that we have been deprived of his voice for all these years. I only learned after his death what a special human being he was as more than just a great songwriter/singer. The world needs more souls like John Lennon. — Davis Waid, Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.

I was driving home from my bartending job in Denver. At the time I was a student at the University of Colorado.... going back home to Boulder. Turned on my radio... and the announcer was going crazy about John Lennon being shot and killed. The first thought was... oh my god..and now the Beatles will never get back together. All the way home listening to Beatles music playing... — Steve Daugherty, Mechanicsville, Va.

I don't remember the exact moment, but I do remember getting on the school bus, and hearing he was dead. I can recall we were all just stunned. My friend and I used to write our notes in "Beatles Code". She was Penny Lane and I was Day Tripper. Too bad WikiLeaks can't tell us if it was a conspiracy to kill John Lennon. — Sarahlyn Branson, Ambler, Penn.

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I was 10 years old. Watching a football game in my bedroom on a little black and white tv. Sitting on the floor. Howard Cosell said "John Lennon, perhaps the most famous of all the Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead...on...arrival". I can still hear that voice today. I got up and went into my parents bedroom and told them. Their reaction was quick "oh, that's too bad". I find it funny that at 10 years old I knew the social significance of his death while my parents, who lived through "Beatlemania" did not. I also remember telling kids at the school bus stop what had happened and these kids not even knowing who John Lennon was. Can't Believe this was 30 years ago. — Andrew Schneider, Minneapolis

I absolutely adored the Beatles, especially John Lennon to this day. I dropped my kids off at school and went to work and when I came through the door I remember everyone looking at me and then looking away. I was asked if I heard the news? What news? John Lennon was shot and killed last night. I thought I would faint right there. After the shock, I went home, sat on my living room floor, put on his albums and just cried. I still do. My son gifted me a few years ago with a huge Imagine picture which hangs in my living room today. Imagine....just imagine! — Gerrie Hernandez, Hudson, Fla.

I was a DJ for the college radio station KALX at UC Berkeley. I was on the air when I heard and got the call that Lennon had been shot. The phone lines were lighting up , and I went into shock. We all loved Lennon. I really did not know what to do at all except to announce it to the listeners and then I put a long playing song by Hendrix on the turn table - 'my friend'. It was rather brutal, actually, as I was feeling such a sense of loss myself then the calls kept flooding in. The listeners were mourning, and calling to either sob or criticize me for what I was playing , disclaim the information I was providing, and begging for comfort. Eventually the station director and some of the staff members came up to the studio, got on the air to field calls, relay updated information and take requests. A lot of people only had radio access and did not have media access like we do today. I have never really forgiven myself for the reaction I had, but it did show me how important one person can be to so many, and how one person, alone, can destroy so much for so many in the blink of an eye. — Pamela Flinn Schanuel, Castle Rock, Colo.

I was thirty years old and had just woke up in the morning. As was my habit, my first move was to make a pot of coffee. Then to the front door to retrieve the morning newspaper and scan the front page. Then on to the constitutional, paper in hand. I opened the fold, looked at the front page, and I can recall letting out a primal scream and feeling the tears well up in my eyes. I scrambled to find whatever information I could. I felt unsettled, like I had lost a family member , for days afterwards. His music and legacy still lives on..and our children and grandchildren should remember to pay respects to John today. Without him or the Beatles, music today would not be as we know it. — Michael V., Camp Hill, Penn.

I was in my mid-20's, and a student, putting myself through school doing gardening jobs. I was mowing a lawn in Santa Barbara, California when the owner of the house, a woman in her 30's, rushed out of her back door, and said "Oh my God! John Lennon has been shot. He is dead.!" The mower was silenced. And I was speechless. Why would anyone kill John Lennon? — Debbie Finamore, Seattle, Wash.

I was in my apartment, getting ready for bed. I was just about to turn off the radio, when the DJ said "I don't know if you know this, but...". I said to myself "what don't I know?", and then the news hit. I've been a fan of Lennon and Ono forever. Within 10 minutes, all my friends were calling me, knowing how depressed I was likely to be. I remember being depressed, but more angry, to the point of being homicidal, at the man who killed Lennon - I was going to hop on the next plane to NYC and strangle him with my bare hands. (Of course, I also knew that I wouldn't REALLY do that, I was just reacting to the grief and shock.) The last time I had experienced such a sense of loss was when JFK was killed, and I was only 9 then. I think Yoko has been phenomenal in maintaining John's legacy, while not turning it into a commercial scavenger hunt. Peace and Love to Yoko always... — Bill Conrad, Los Angeles

I came home from college to go to a Bruce Springsteen concert. I have actually met Bruce a few times and I asked him if he knew during the concert and he said he was told during the intermission.  — Jeff Wain, Toms River, N.J.

I was in the recovery room of the hospital having just given birth to my first child. A beautiful little girl who I named Amy. The woman who gave birth after me said she had just heard it on the news, she had a son and named him John after John Lennon. — Patricia O'Neill, Assonet, Mass.

12/8 is my birthday. That evening my new girlfriend of 4 months, Denise, took me out to dinner at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center. We lived in North Jersey, were 27 years old in 1980 and this was a big deal for us. After a romantic dinner we decided to take a drive around chilly Manhattan. While driving, the news broke that John Lennon had been shot and killed. We were stunned. We were also driving in the central Park area. Being a big Lennon fan I knew he lived at the Dakota so we decided to drive over over there. It was chaotic and confusing. We drove home silently. That evening Denise and I were exposed to two icons that were wiped away too quickly. Thankfully our marriage almost 4 years later has lasted over 26 years and going strong. Long live John. — Tim Rose, Marco Island, Fla.

I was in my dorm room and we were smoking and listening to the Partridge Family's Greatest Hits. I remember it like it was yesterday because I had the munchies and it was the first time I ate Pringles. They changed my life. Forget about potato chips, man. I ate those Pringles and never looked back. Yup! December 8, 1980. A date that will live in infamy. Pringles rock,dude!!  — Jane Bradley, Philadelphia

I was living in South Africa and my boyfriend in Toronto. We grew up in a small town in the Cape and have known each other since we were in our teens. He emigrated to Canada and we met up after 30 years when we started a most romantic relationship. I flew to Toronto and on arrival was told that we would be taking an auto down to Miami and thereafter he was not sure what we would do next. (we went to the Cayman Islands). We were motoring from Toronto when we heard the news of John Lennon being shot and we listened to the Beatles the entire trip down to Miami. I still love listening to them. They were great! My friend and I have lost contact again and he celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday. So Happy Birthday Bill E! — Merle Apter, Kfar Vradim, Israel

I was 20 years old and the whole world was ahead of me. I just had walked in from work, turned on the TV to Monday Night Football and heard the announcement from Howard Cosell. I was so stunned and turned on the radio, which was "my generation's" form of communication. They played Lennon and Beatles music all night with people calling in. My thoughts of living in the peaceful world that Lennon frequently described in his music died that night. I felt even worse with knowing that (Mark David) Chapman, the man who shot him, lived in my hometown and I have known several people who knew him. It was one of the saddest days of my life at that time. Two weeks later our house burnt down. It was a rough month. — TLea Chappel, Atlanta

I was at the Starwood in Hollywood at a Punk Rock concert. Rodney Bingenhiemer was playing dance music. A local L.A. band was playing in the adjacent room. I was moving between rooms when someone stopped me and said, "Did you hear that John Lennon was shot and killed today? He's dead." It was as if that moment was captured forever in my mind -a frozen bit of the room filled with smoke, the strobe light flashing in the background, two different musics playing - one live and loud, the other DJ equipment blasting a fun Go-Go's song. The room spun with the smoke and smell of booze. John Lennon shot and killed? Words that made no sense. I made my way to the dance area. Then, Rodney announced a tribute to John Lennon. He played "Imagine." The surrealness of the moment was beyond comprehension. From fast screaming music "God save the Queen...she's no human being" to "Imagine all the people, living in peace." It was a rare moment in a punk club. Everyone was quiet and listening. Then, it was back to Punk blasting our eardrums. — Isa de Quesada, Huntington Beach, Calif.

Beats me. It wasn't one of those life altering events like 9/11 or the start of the first or second Gulf War. I imagine I was probably working and paid it no mind. I never liked John Lennon as a Beatle anyway. — Jack Driggers, Indian Trail, N.C.

I was 17, living in my native UK, having traveled the previous night to Liverpool from Cornwall for an interview the next day at Liverpool University. You could see Quarrybank School from the landing of the house of the family friends where I was staying. I woke up on the morning of Dec. 9, dressed and went downstairs to be greeted by my friend with the words "John Lennon has been shot dead in New York." I walked into the City Centre for the interview along streets of a city in shock. Every store blared Lennon's music but the people were quiet, clearly distraught by the loss of a native son, one of its biggest celebrities, and a Beatle, whose career was seemingly "Starting Over." That has been my only ever visit to Liverpool and for this reason I will never forget it. — Derek Langsford, La Mesa, Calif.

I was living in NYC on the West Side, just a couple of blocks from where John Lennon was shot at the Dakota. I saw Yoko walking in Central Park a few months before the tragedy, but never managed to catch a glimpse of John. There was a Memorial Service in Central Park on the Sunday following John's death. Hundreds attended. It was a moment never to be forgotten, when so many New Yorkers could bow their heads in complete silence in tribute to the passing of a great artist, peace activist and cultural icon. John Lennon's death marked an end to innocence for a generation. Mark David Chapman certainly had a history of issues, but we now know that some psychiatric medications have a history of causing violent behavior. How ironic that may be for those who sought peace and enlightenment through drugs and chemical means. — Anne Dunev, Valley Village, Calif.

Working at Sears - mounting tires. Came into work and read a hand painted statement on the wall about 8 feet long: "The Chair for Chapman." — Cliff Hammer, Midlothian, Va.

Where was I when Lennon was killed? Entering the world! I was born on Dec. 8, 1980. — Beth B., New York

I was at home. I was in high school. What I remember is that my mother had just bought me his newest album but told me I'd have to wait for it since Hanukkah was over. I woke up Christmas morning and there sat a Santa cookie with the album and a note that said - "Got to the end of my run and found this at the bottom of my bag, thought you might like it." Now we NEVER celebrated Christmas (still don't, never will) so for my mother to think to do this was very sweet. — Susan, Colorado

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