NEW YORK – Any less than the best just wouldn't do for the New York man formerly known as Jose Luis Espinal. When you're seeking to change your name, why not go right to the top and share a name with someone who just had a birthday celebrated by billions around the world?
That would be Jesus Christ, by the way. And the man formerly known as Espinal feels positively prophetic now that a judge has given him permission to go by the same name as the Christian Messiah.
Mr. Christ, 42, said he was "happy" and "grateful" that the judge approved the change, which is effective immediately.
There was no word on whether he plans to change his birthday to Dec. 25 or find work as a carpenter or a religious leader. And he doesn't seem to be telling people that he was born in a manger because there was no room at the inn.
Espinal . . . uh, Christ . . . said he was moved to switch monikers about a year ago after he had a revelation: "I am the person that is that name."
Mr. Christ, who is unemployed and unmarried and has no children, said, "This was not done for any reason other than I am that person. You're dealing with the real deal."
He acted as his own lawyer when he got the move approved by Manhattan Civil Court Judge Diane Lebedeff. The judge said she was "satisfied that this application is neither novel, nor would granting it pose practical problems."
Name change applications usually are not denied just because the change might cause practical difficulties or be thought unwise, according to Lebedeff, as long as a person with the same name does not object to the proposed change.
And in this case, the original, better-known Jesus Christ is not expected to make a fuss about copycats or trademarks.
In her decision to grant the name change, Lebedeff cited a 2001 Utah case in which a man legally changed his name to "Santa Claus" and a Washington, D.C., case earlier this year in which a name change applicant obtained a driver's license and Social Security card in the name of "Jesus Christ."
Though laws differ by jurisdiction, the judge said, there seems to be a nationwide consensus that a name cannot be changed to a number. She cited a South Dakota court ruling against a change to "1069" and a California court rejecting "III" as name.
The judge said she held a hearing in which Espinal, who also used the last name Tejeda, testified. She said he was aware of the "common law right to assume another name without legal proceedings so long as the change is not made to deceive or perpetrate a fraud or to avoid an obligation," but she wanted to go the formal route anyway.
The judge said the newly named Christ's "reasons were primarily those applicable to his own private religious beliefs and he stated no desire to use his proposed name to secure publicity, to proselytize, to fund-raise or advise others that he had been cloaked by the courts or government with a religious authority."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
For the Rest of Us, There's Festivus
Residents were preparing to celebrate "the festivus for the rest of us" Friday with a night of airing grievances, feats of strength and, of course, the aluminum Festivus pole.
"It's all in good fun," said Jeff Boam, 36, a math teacher from Millcreek Township and longtime "Seinfeld" fan.
"More than anything else, it's a great excuse to get together with friends and have outrageous fun," said George Klapsinos, 38, a senior technical service specialist for Lord Corp.
Many people learned of Festivus through "Seinfeld," but its roots actually go back several decades, when writer Daniel O'Keefe's father started it. He was looking for something more from the holidays, something that wasn't political or religious.
O'Keefe wrote "The Real Festivus: The True Story Behind America's Favorite Made-Up Holiday," and co-wrote the "Seinfeld" episode.
In the episode, Frank Costanza, played by actor Jerry Stiller, comes up with the idea for a new holiday after struggling in a tug-of-war for a doll at a toy store.
Festivus' "traditions" differ from those of Christmas.
Instead of a tree, Festivus followers celebrate around a metal pole. Boam's Festivus pole is 6 feet tall and rooted in bucket of cement.
"No tinsel, no ornaments. Nothing should go on it. It should be bare," Boam said.
Guests also grab the pole and fume about how others have disappointed them in the past year.
"One year, we had a blizzard on the night of the party," Klapsinos said. "So we grieved about everyone who said they were going to show up but didn't. I mean, we made it, right?"
Finally, the festival features feats of strength.
"This usually means wrestling," said Jack Munch, a real-estate broker. "I've seen parties where it deteriorates into five people wrestling in the snow in the backyard. The whole thing is a blast. You never know what's going to happen on Festivus."
Manhattan's Slasher-Santa Display for Sale
NEW YORK (AP) — For the man who has everything — or someone really desperate to find a belated gift — Joel Krupnik and Mildred Castellanos have an answer: Their red-suited Santa Claus figure, holding a bloody knife in one hand and a severed doll's head in the other, went up for auction on Christmas Day.
Already, bidding had reached $200 and "might go higher, maybe even to $500," the New York Post quoted Krupnik as saying.
Lest anyone be offended — and some people were — Krupnik had explained earlier that the macabre holiday display outside the couple's midtown Manhattan home was intended as a protest against the commercialization of Christmas.
The bids were to be deposited in a box next to the 5-foot tall Santa, to be opened after 3 p.m. Krupnik, whose telephone is unlisted, could not be reached late Sunday afternoon for a final accounting.
The auction proceeds would go to the highest bidder's favorite charity, according to a sign next to the display, which also included a number of other Barbie doll heads.
As for any critics suggesting the display was sacrilegious, Krupnik said St. Nick "is not in the Bible. He's not a religious symbol."
Texas Lion Named Kwanzaa Celebrates Birthday
A South African lion named "Kwanzaa" celebrated his first birthday, and the weekend party included 10 pounds of horse meat fashioned into a cake, whipped cream and a carrot representing a candle.
Kwanzaa was born at the zoo on Christmas Eve 2004, and now weighs more than 115 pounds.
Zookeeper Manda Butler said Kwanzaa will be on display through January as crews prepare to send him to the zoo in Birmingham, Ala.
The Kwanzaa holiday celebrates African-American culture.
Fake Money Stolen From Thai Bank
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Three teenage robbers in Thailand have been arrested after a sharp-eyed street vendor noticed they were trying to spend fake money that had been stolen from a bank, police said.
The two 15-year-old boys and a 16-year-old girl broke into the Siam Commercial Bank in the seaside resort of Pattaya early Monday, making off with a bundle of notes and mobile telephones, said police Maj. Sutham Chaosithong.
But the teens' haul also included a stack of fake bank notes, Sutham said.
Branch manager Kitiphol Kramwong said the bank had detected 30 fake notes in the past week, marked them as such, and left them in an easy-to-access drawer — which robbers had pilfered. It was not clear whether they realized they had stolen fake money.
While police were inspecting the scene of the crime, they were told that vendors at a nearby market had caught the three teenagers trying to buy goods with forged money, Sutham said Tuesday.
The young suspects have since been detained at a social welfare detention center pending a juvenile court ruling on the case, he said.
Pattaya, 110 kilometers (70 miles) southeast of Bangkok, is a beach town popular with Thai and foreign tourists.
Call Me Mayor, Senator and Lt. Governor, Please
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Narragansett man is running for three political seats at the same time, saying he believes there is an absence of leadership in elected office.
Christopher F. Young, 37, who has run unsuccessfully for office in previous elections, has declared his candidacy for the mayor of Providence, lieutenant governor and U.S. senator.
"I represent the power of the people to run for political office," Young, who is running as a Democrat, told The Providence Journal. "Do you understand how important that is? That you yourself can run for political office, because I am doing this."
But Young's ambitions may come in conflict with a state law, adopted by the General Assembly in July, that forbids candidates from declaring for more than one local or state public office.
Robert Kando, executive director of the state Board of Elections, said he did not know if the law prohibited candidates from seeking a federal office — such as a U.S. Senate seat — while also running in a city or state election.
Though he acknowledges the odds are against him, Young said he was running for multiple offices because he sees a lack of leadership in politics.
Young, who said he thinks elections are rigged, campaigned unsuccessfully last year for state senator and state representative. He also ran for mayor in 2002 and U.S. senator in 2000.
Born in Providence, Young received a degree in electrical engineering from Boston University.
Young, who volunteers for several organizations and supports himself with family money, said he was currently living in Narragansett but would move back to Providence to meet the residency requirements for his mayoral bid.
Young does not accept campaign donations. He said he supports lower taxes, affordable housing, education reform and taxing the colleges in Providence.
Compiled by FOXNews.com's Catherine Donaldson-Evans.
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