A young U.S. Marine who came home to Long Island for the holidays gave the man who raised him a special gift on Christmas Eve by becoming his legally adopted son.
Lance Cpl. Christopher Mohedano-Hernandez said before a Dec. 24 ceremony in Nassau County Surrogate's Court that while he's already 19 years old, he wanted to pay tribute to the only father who raised him from childhood by making their bond legal.
The Lawrence High School graduate said the timing of his adoption by his mother's husband, Luis Mohedano, was fitting for his devout Catholic family as they prepared to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and the formation of the Holy Family.
"Even though Jesus wasn't Joseph's son by blood, it was his child no matter what," Mohedano-Hernandez said. "To me, it's the same way. I'm not related by blood to my father. He is my father and I am his son."
Luis Mohedano, 49, said adopting Christopher, who was home from his military assignment in California, was something he had wanted to do for a long time.
"I'm thanking God that it finally came true," said Mohedano, of Lawrence, with his teary-eyed wife, Rosa, and their daughter, Kate, 12, also beside him.
The Marine's adoption was among those Judge Edward McCarty III, a retired Army colonel, presided over in a ceremony that included the singing of "Jingle Bells."
Uniondale couple Brian and Chinyere Thornhill finalized the adoption of their 4-month-old daughter, Chinaza, who wore a red bow in her hair that matched her plaid dress.
Oceanside couple Joel Bumol and Danielle Miller also completed the adoption of their 13-month-old son, Jude, who bounced on Miller's knee as the judge declared that she and her husband were legally the toddler's mom and dad.
"This is the best Christmas gift," said Miller, who is pastor of Oceanside Lutheran Church.
The ceremony also included a special appearance by Santa Claus.
With his lawyer next to him, Claus watched as the judge signed a decree formalizing the jolly old elf's adoption of all the children in the world for the next 48 hours.
Claus, as McCarty put it in a statement, would then "start his 2013 worldwide journey of joy."