Shopping done. Three day Living Nativity hosted. Christmas cards addressed and mailed. Cookie trays made and delivered. Christmas lights viewed. Holiday parties attended. Presents wrapped under the tree. House cleaned and decorated awaiting holiday visitors. Pantry stocked with ingredients for the Christmas feast. Sound familiar? These are my annual December rituals. Every year, I take a deep breath, make the lists, and participate in their completion, one by one. I will admit, sometimes it does get a bit stressful to maintain the fast and furious pace of these holiday rituals, some of which have been in place over 30 years. Will I ever cut back? Probably not. Why not? Because even though it takes time and effort, I'm not willing to forego the wonderful memories these activities bring. If I were to stop, would anyone (besides me) ever miss the tasty treats, the themed decorations, the scrumptious Martha Stewart worthy meals? Hard to say. However, I'm convinced everyone would be devastated without them. That is why I will continue year after year.
While these special activities all add bit by bit to the spirit of my Christmas season, they alone don't hold the key to my Christmas joy. There is another Christmas tradition that matters the most to me: gathering with family and sharing gratitude for one another.
As I attend the funeral for a friend later this week or read the accounts of recent tragic events, I am reminded how quickly and permanently relationships can change forever. I never want to take for granted the simpleness and ease of being able to visit with, share with, cry with, hug and laugh with the people who share my family tree. We aren't perfect. We have our differences. We have our trials. But at least for today, we have each other. That is a big deal. I can never forget the importance of letting each precious family member know how valued they are, not just during the holiday season but each and every day of the year. The tradition of family love is my most cherished tradition of all.