Forgive us. That's not exactly in the holiday spirit. Let's start again.

In this season of giving, Philadelphia just got the perfect gift: Cliff Lee's a Phillie again.

"This is Christmas and your 21st birthday and getting your driver's license and meeting your soulmate all rolled into one," said Joann Leszczynsky, of Fairmount. "I can't believe I'm seeing a dynasty in Philadelphia."

The pitching ace thumbed his nose at the piles of cash that the New York Yankees were offering him and, instead, returned to Philadelphia, the city where he won a pennant and - almost - a world championship.

It showed heart. It showed loyalty. And it showed that some things matter more than money.

"He took a pay cut and went against the demons of New York and snubbed them, and that's the kind of player we love," said Eteecio Bussie Sr., 41, of Levittown.

One of Bussie's co-workers e-mailed him an image depicting Lee as baby Jesus in the manger. He found that fitting.

"I guess he will be the savior of Philly - if we win it next year," Bussie said.

Of course, it's not as if Lee's family will have a hard time making ends meet on Cliff's salary; more than $100 million is what's easily described as "comfortable."

Philadelphia-born and raised Doreen Lewison said she was upset when Lee was traded after the 2009 World Series. Everyone at the school where she works was happy yesterday.

"This shows he really loves the game," she said. "He's not in it for all the fame and glory he would get from playing in New York. It's definitely a true-love thing."

"We hear about selfish, prima donna, overpaid, in-it-for-the-money athletes every day who say the dumbest things like, 'I have to feed my family,' " Paul Smith, a Center City account executive, wrote in an e-mail, "so seeing Cliff Lee choose us over the Yankees, over more money, is just a testament to the fans and people of this area."

Mrs. Lee's the boss?

Not everyone was hating on New York and the Yankees. Some, like Fran Golden, of Doylestown, had good feelings toward that team from the north.

"I would like to personally thank the Yankee fan who spat on Cliff Lee's wife," Golden wrote to the Daily News, referring to an incident during last year's American League Championship Series.

Charles Garuffe, 71, of Mayfair, said Lee's wife must be the boss in their house. Otherwise, why would he turn down all that money?

Then again, he joked: "You can only eat one steak, wear one suit and drive one car. How much money do you need?"

Lance Silverman, 44, said he first thought it was a joke when he heard Lee was returning. Now he's just excited for another great baseball season.

"He was part of us, like a part of our family," said Silverman, of Old City. "When he left, it was such a shock. Now he's back in the fold and there's no stopping us."

Lee, Silverman said, has a winning attitude.

"That's what people love about him," he said. "It's like what Philly is made of - hard workers and the never-say-die mentality."

Welcome home

"I can't believe it. I am losing my mind," KINGOFZED wrote at "It is official Philadelphia is the place players want to be. The 2011 Phillies may go down in the record books as the greatest pitching team in the history of baseball."

"KG" took time to remind Phillies fans that it's the tickets they buy that made Lee's contract possible.

"All the sellouts generate the money that makes something like this possible," KG wrote. "Although, is something like this really possible?"

Yep, some still couldn't believe the news yesterday.

"This is not happening," wrote one fan. "I'm a Philadelphia fan. This is not happening . . . this is not happening . . . this is not happening."

Can't please 'em all

Not everyone in what is, geographically speaking, Phillies Nation, is making plans for a parade down Broad Street.

"I'm just disappointed the Yankees weren't able to sign Cliff Lee," said Carl Redding, the celebrity chef and Bronx Bummers fan who recently opened Redding's Restaurant, a Southern-style eatery in Atlantic City. "When you're dealing with, [Yankees ownership] you just always think they have the deepest pockets and can get any deal done."

New York fan Quan Kupooniyi, 21, of Upper Darby, showed some of that Yankee arrogance. He shook his head in disappointment when asked about Lee.

"I was [upset], but with him or without him, they'll still be the Yankees," he said. "The only times I'll be [upset] is when they play the Yankees and the Yankees lose, but that will never happen."

If all goes according to plan, we'll get a chance to see about that in October.