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Celebrating the Holiday Season

The celebration of the holiday season has ancient historical roots, but it serves the same purpose today as it has over all those centuries. It is a time to lift our spirits and glimpse what life could be like all year round.

Some aspects go back to the Druids as early as 3,000 years ago. They decorated trees around the winter solstice and performed many rituals we might recognize. The Roman Saturnalia coincides with the time of year. That ancient people celebrated successful harvests with a week-long celebration. And, of course, many aspects of Christmas and Hanukkah revolve around the Christian and Jewish religions. Many of the modern customs of the season derive from those that grew up in England and Germany in the early to mid-19th century.

But whatever the historical origin of this or that part of the Christmas holiday, it is celebrated in hundreds of countries around the world in similar ways. It is one time of the year when everyone is reminded of the many joyous aspects of life. It is a time for exchanging gifts as a token of affection, for Christmas parties to enjoy good friends and family. It is a renewal of good will.

All those are given concrete form by the many ways that people around the world enjoy the holiday.

Some of those involve decorating the home or office inside or out. Stringing lights lend a festive air to objects and the buildings that house them. A Christmas tree brings nature indoors, while Christmas ornaments give it an artistic touch that only humans can provide. Christmas cards are exchanged to remind others that we're thinking of them and wish them well.

At the same time, socializing rises. That often takes the form of a carefully prepared meal with delightful holiday drinks and delicious Christmas desserts. Those parties often extend into New Years because, after all, those ancient Christmas traditions continue to operate in modern times. Yes, the ways of the past continue to influence the present.

Giving Christmas gifts, or Hanukkah gifts, is a big part of the holiday, and for good reason. While it may be the thought that counts, thoughts are made clearer when they're given expression in reality. A thoughtful holiday gift says you know what another wants. That's a sign of caring. It's an act by one person to give up a material value in exchange for another that will bring joy to both. And, after all, joy is non-material even when prompted by an object.

For, everyone will acknowledge that while Christmas gifts are delightful, the smile on the face of someone you like is the biggest gift of all.

Copyright 2008
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