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FAITH MATTERS: Santa Lucia festival . . .Free-throw contest . . . Live Nativity Pageant

Church to host Santa Lucia festival KARLSTAD, Minn. -- A Christmas tradition of old Sweden comes again to the region at the 23rd annual Santa Lucia Festival sponsored by the Agassiz Swedish Heritage Society. This year, it's in First Lutheran Chur...

Church to host Santa Lucia festival

KARLSTAD, Minn. -- A Christmas tradition of old Sweden comes again to the region at the 23rd annual Santa Lucia Festival sponsored by the Agassiz Swedish Heritage Society. This year, it's in First Lutheran Church at 2 p.m. today.

The Rev. Gary Halverson will bring a welcome from First Lutheran, and Lyndon Johnson, Hallock, Minn., and the president of the society, will speak.

Karlstad is named after a major Swedish city.

The Sola Strings, a girls violin quartette from the region, will perform, and Scriptures will be read in Swedish. Queen Lucia, with her crown of lighted candles, will proceed with her attendants.

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The legend of Lucia, which dates to the fourth century A.D., is about a young Christian girl in Sicily martyred for her faith. The longest day of the year on the ancient Swedish calendar was Dec. 13, and the holiday begins the Christmas season in Sweden.

There will be coffee and desserts served. Everyone is welcome.

Info: First Lutheran (218) 436-2406.

St. Michael's KCs set free-throw contest

GRAND FORKS -- St. Michael's Knights of Columbus Council No. 1260 is hosting a Basketball Free Throw Competition at St. Michael's Parish Youth Center at 1 p.m. today. Competition is open to all boys and girls 10 through 14.

For more information, contact Terry Fischer at (701)-787-0987.

Holmes to hold Live Nativity Pageant

HOLMES, N.D. -- Holmes United Methodist Church will continue a long tradition with its 21st annual Live Nativity Pageant at 5 and 5:30 p.m. Dec. 20 and 7 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21 in the Ollman horse arena west of Thompson, N.D., near the rural church.

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If everyone turns out, they will repeat the pageant until everyone sees it.

It's not only a "stand-and-look" deal, said the Rev. Mark Ellingson, but a pageant. "The characters move and act out the Christmas narrative," he said in a news release. Participants wear costumes and share barn space with real animals and "the Christmas story is read, the angels sing, the shepherds come, and the wise men present their gifts."

Hot apple cider and singing and sleigh rides also will be available; the arena is not heated. Straw bales will be available for sitting.

It's at the Dwight and Sara Ollman farm home, nine miles west and five miles south of Thompson on Grand Forks County Road 13. Everyone is welcome.

Info: (701) 847-2720 or (218) 779-5707.

Waddington Family to sing in GF

GRAND FORKS -- The Waddington Family, a country gospel group from Regent, N.D., will perform in concert at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 27 in Valley Christian Center Assembly of God Church, 3920 Cherry St.

The family works together in a family business and travels in several states with their music ministry. Caleb and Tamera have seven children, ages 1 to 22, and most play an instrument, from guitar to mandolin.

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Everyone is welcome; there is no admission cost.

Info: (701) 746-7327; online at www.thewaddingtonfamily.com .

Court rules against Jehovah's Witnesses

MOSCOW -- Russia's highest court has upheld a ruling that halts the activities of a regional branch of Jehovah's Witnesses and bans dozens of its publications.

In September, a court in Rostov-on-Don had outlawed the group's activities in the region, seized its assets there and labeled 34 of its publications extremist. The Russian Supreme Court upheld the ruling, court spokesman Pavel Odintsov said Tuesday.

The list of banned books includes a children's book of Bible stories, and the Jehovah's Witnesses' signature magazine, The Watchtower.

"We are deeply disappointed with that decision," Jehovah's Witnesses spokesman Yaroslav Sivulskiy said. "We are concerned that it may affect all our activities, including imports of our publications, which are printed in Germany."

"We consider it to be a rollback to the past," Sivulskiy said in a reference to the Soviet era, when many members of Jehovah's Witnesses, including his father, were put in prisons. "The Supreme Court makes it illegal for us to profess our views."

-- Herald staff and wire reports

If you have stories or announcements for Faith & Religion, contact Stephen J. Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or e-mail slee@gfherald.com ; fax, (701) 780-1123.

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