In one part of the planet, though, the lights are out. There is not be a flicker of recognition of the festival in North Korea - or not in public. It may be celebrated secretly, particularly as 2016 is the anniversary of a great Christian martyrdom on the banks of the Taedong river in Pyongyang. Nobody knows how many North Koreans celebrate the birth of Christ just over two millennia ago. For them, displays of faith can lead to prison or worse. And nobody knows either who will remember the death 150 years ago of a missionary on the banks of the Taedong river. The Welshman, Robert Jermain Thomas, was one of the big figures who brought Christianity to the Korean peninsula. Befitting his contribution, his death, around the end of August in 1866, has been marked with loud and joyous celebrations in churches in Cardiff and Seoul. But from Pyongyang, where Thomas was martyred, there has not even been a peep of the smallest trumpet. The exact circumstances of his death are unclear but it is known that he was a missionary who became fascinated by Korea. At a time when Western influence was feared and rejected, he voyaged on an American ship to spread his faith.

"I'm the worst procrastinator," Rippeto said with a laugh. "But also, most of the sales tend to happen right before Christmas." Rippeto's mission Friday was to hit South Coast's clothing stores in search of the perfect gifts for her husband. "He never tells me what he wants, so I finally just got him clothes," she said. "It's what he needs. I go for the needs, not the wants." Shoppers coming out of the mall's Disney Store took their mounds of goodies home in giant blue tote bags the shop was selling for $2. Many customers with totes hauled "Star Wars" pillows and action figures from the store timely buys given that "Rogue One," the latest in the Disney-owned "Star Wars" film franchise was released in theaters last week. There was a similar buzz at the Bella Terra outdoor mall in Huntington Beach as customers with hands full of shopping bags zoomed past the poinsettias and other holiday decor. Even before 10 a.m., the mall's central parking structure had four of its six floors packed with cars. At the Huntington Surf and Sport store, assistant manager Jared Mohl said he's been seeing customers come in all the way up until its 9 p.m. closing.

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