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Fox News presenters reveal their most unforgettable Christmas memories

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Fox News presenters reveal their most unforgettable Christmas memories

Christmas means family: family recipes, family traditions, family heirlooms and especially family stories.

In “All American Christmas” (Fox Books), out now, 23 Fox News personalities welcome readers into their Christmas celebrations. From baking to tree-trimming to lighting the candles of the household Advent wreath, they describe their most treasured seasonal rituals.

Here, contributors share the childhood Christmas memories that remain vivid decades later — and a few that their families will never let them forget.

SILENT FRIGHT

Bret Baier
Bret Baier
Randy Holmes/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Christmas Eve mass at Bret Baier’s neighborhood Catholic church was a holiday highlight, and serving as an altar boy made the night even more special.

“I really got into being up front and part of the sacrament,” the anchor writes.

One year, the parish priests organized a particularly elaborate procession to kick off the midnight vigil. Twenty altar boys in black cassocks and white hooded surplices led the solemn march up the darkened center aisle. Each boy held a tall lighted candle. With their hoods up over their heads, they resembled a line of miniature medieval monks.

“The next thing I knew I was on the floor looking up at faces that gradually came into focus,” Baier remembers.

“I’d been carrying the candle too close to my body. The heat and smoke from the candle’s flame got trapped in my hood.” He had collapsed on the altar, in view of the entire horrified congregation.

“Not the typical surprise you want to provide for your family and your faith community,” he admits.

SANTA SHUTOUT

Brian Kilmeade with his brothers and dad.
Brian Kilmeade with his brothers and dad.

Brian Kilmeade’s brothers still tease him about “the door-was-open Christmas.”

Late one Christmas Eve, the “Fox & Friends” host recalls, the three boys sneaked out of bed to peek at the tree standing in their Massapequa, NY, living room. Sure enough, a pile of gifts was waiting.

“All of a sudden we heard banging noises. We figured it had to be Santa,” he remembers. As they scampered back to their shared bedroom, Kilmeade noticed the front door standing open. He did the only responsible thing: he closed and locked it.

“The door being open had nothing to do with Santa,” he reasoned. “We had a chimney. Santa doesn’t do doors.”

Actually, the boys had interrupted their dad, James — coming off the late shift at the bar he managed — in the process of ferrying all their gifts into the house from their hiding place in his car. James spent hours shivering outside, vainly trying to wake his wife without alerting the kids to his predicament. (A handful of pebbles tossed at her bedroom window finally did the trick.)

“That’s a parent’s dedication,” says Kilmeade.

SNOOPING FOR SECRETS

Janice Dean as a girl with her mom and today.
Janice Dean as a girl with her mom and today.

Long before Fox meteorologist Janice Dean became Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s fiercest critic, she investigated childhood’s great mystery: the truth about Santa Claus.

“Perhaps that was the beginning of my career in journalism,” Dean recalls.

When her half-eaten lollipop got tangled in the fuzzy beard of a department-store Santa at age five, Dean got suspicious. “I noticed right away that the beard hair wasn’t normal hair,” she remembers.

She began to snoop around her family home. Hidden in her parents’ bedroom closet, she found a cache of wrapped gifts. Just to be sure, she opened one.

“I was very careful about it and able to forensically reseal it, keeping the tape intact,” she confesses. “I remember being both delighted and horrified by what I’d done: ‘Oh, this is terrible!’ and ‘Oh, YAY! I got what I wanted!’” A newshound was born.

Decades later, when Dean’s son Matthew asked where Santa’s gifts really come from, she confirmed his doubts.

“He was clearly upset,” she writes. But “once he settled down, he said to me, ‘Well, let’s not tell Theodore.’

“I loved that he wanted his younger brother to have … that magic.”

PRESENT PUNISHMENT

Lawrence Jones and with mom as a boy.
Lawrence Jones today and with mom as a boy.

“We were kind of a make-do family,” Fox News contributor Lawrence Jones recalls. His mother’s creativity sparked their low-budget Christmas tradition of crafting ornaments out of cotton balls, Popsicle sticks and pinecones. “I got comfortable using a glue gun early on in life.”

That skill once got Jones in Christmas trouble. Weeks before the big day, he found his parents’ hiding place and spied the toy pistol he’d asked for among the collected presents. But his coveted gift was missing a holster.

“I figured that was a problem I could easily fix,” he writes. “Imagination + cardboard + razor knife + hot glue = holster.” He put it together and tucked it away.

On Christmas day, Jones unwrapped the pop gun and rushed off to fetch the waiting accessory.

“Mama and Daddy figured out pretty quickly that I’d been sneaking around,” he admits.

The toy gun went back into storage for a few months as punishment.

CLAUS FOR ALARM

Peter Doocy as a child with his parents and sisters and today.
Peter Doocy as a child with his parents and sisters, and today.

By the age of 7, whatever questions White House correspondent Peter Doocy had about the Santa Claus story were put to rest after an awkward encounter with the right jolly old elf himself.

Doocy’s dad, longtime “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy, had scored tickets for the whole family to attend the premiere of “Miracle on 34th Street,” director John Hughes’ remake of the classic Christmas film, at the Ziegfeld Theatre in Manhattan.

“I was a little kid, and after all that time, watching the movie, I had to go to the bathroom,” Peter Doocy remembers.

“As I was standing there, a man with a white beard came up to the urinal next to me. It was Santa Claus!”

In fact, it was Richard Attenborough, the famous British actor, who had grown a full set of whiskers to play Kris Kringle in the film.

The men’s-room meetup is now a favorite family story. “Imagine a kid who still believed in Santa seeing that!” Doocy writes. “Not only was Santa out of uniform but…”

UN’BEAT’ABLE GIFT

Jesse Watters wearing the red “Michael Jackson” jacket he finally got as a gift years after he asked for it as a child.

All Jesse Watters wanted for Christmas in 1985 was a red leather multi-zippered jacket like the one Michael Jackson wore in the video for his hit song “Beat It.”

“Here I was, this little white kid growing up in Philadelphia,” Watters writes. “I was seven. I had no idea how expensive and impractical — I would have grown out of it in no time — that jacket would be.”

On Christmas morning, he eagerly tore the paper off the package he was convinced would make his moonwalking dreams come true. Alas, his parents’ pragmatism had won out. “It was a decorate-it-yourself sparkle-glitter Michael Jackson glove kit,” Watters remembers.

Three decades later, when Watters revealed his dashed Christmas wish during a segment of his show “The Five,” co-host Dana Perino took note. She had drawn Watters’ name in the office’s annual Secret Santa gift exchange.

Perino tracked down a replica Michael Jackson jacket and presented it to her colleague. “The mix of surprise and delight when a gift connects with someone is worth all the time and thought that goes into it,” she writes.

“It was worth the wait!” says Watters, who wore the jacket proudly on the air. “Nothing could ‘beat it’.”

GUITAR HERO

John Rich with father's guitar, which is his most memorable Christmas gift.
John Rich with father’s guitar, which is his most memorable Christmas gift.

“One Christmas, with a single gift, my dad pretty much changed the direction of my life,” writes country music superstar John Rich, who hosts a show on the Fox Nation streaming service.

Jim Rich, John’s father, was a preacher who played gospel music on his acoustic guitar in the pulpit and taught group guitar lessons on the side. When five-year-old John tagged along for a lesson, Jim handed him a plastic toy guitar so he wouldn’t feel left out.

“Over the next year, I got to where I could take that little plastic guitar … and play everything he was playing,” Rich recalls.

That Christmas, a big box under the tree had John’s name on it. “It was the guitar I’d been watching my dad play since the beginning of my life,” he writes. Unable to afford a new instrument for the boy, Jim Rich passed on the only guitar he owned.

“You need a real guitar, and with it you’re going to be better than I am,” the father told his son — who launched his major-label career with it.

“He taught me about sacrifice,” John Rich writes. “About putting your faith in something you can’t see yet, but you know is going to come down the line.”

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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