You may think longingly of the time of dreamy innocence, of your childhood Christmases where you counted the days until Santa came, sang in the children's choir for Christmas Eve services, enjoyed the day with extended family so loved then and now so missed now.
You may think wistfully of your children's childhood holidays, the effort you took in making Christmas special for them, delighting in their excitement and innocence.
Or you may think of your first married Christmas and the joy you shared of so many firsts to come, so many plans, so many dreams.
None of us can go back and experience the holidays in quite the same way as we did as children or newlyweds or young parents. And, if you think about it, maybe you wouldn't want to.
No holidays, even those you remember so wistfully, were ever totally perfect.
Think of the time when your family was young and growing and you were feeling torn between wanting to please parents and in-laws by showing up at their celebrations while wanting to create some family traditions of your own.
Think of the times during your childhood Christmases when fancy dresses grew scratchy, large family dinners were so very long and Santa didn't always bring you your fondest wish.
But life went on and what you choose to remember from those times are the best moments -- the excitement of the holiday, your mother's pies and cookies, the delicious feeling of being embraced by family.
Life may be very different now. You may have passed the pleasure of hosting the family holiday meal to an adult child with bittersweet feelings -- feeling a special time in your life passing while enjoying being a guest. Or you may find yourself alone this holiday season. Maybe you recently lost a beloved parent or spouse. Maybe your kids are grown up and scattered nationwide. Maybe there has been a family rift that hasn't healed in time for the holidays.
There are so many things that can make this holiday seem less than merry if you're busy looking back.
What would happen if you let yourself simply be in the present?
Now is the time to notice the signs of the season all around you: the special music, the crispness in the air, the Christmas cards in the mailbox, the scents and sights of holiday treats, the warm wishes that surround you if you listen.
Now is the time to make or honor new traditions. Since the tragic death of her lifelong friend Jill, my friend Mary has made lunch with Jill's husband, now in failing health himself, a Christmas tradition. She visits him bearing his favorite guilty pleasure -- a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken --and they spend the afternoon together, revisiting the past, enjoying the present. My friends Bob and Dale host an "Orphans Holiday" dinner for friends who, like them, have no family nearby. Another friend Mike volunteers to bring cheer and tasty treats to homeless shelters. He says that this has become such a cherished tradition for him that he can't imagine spending the holiday any other way.
Now is the time to make this Christmas your own, to do what pleases you. Maybe you want to watch holiday videos. Or spend a day bundled in a quilt, reading a fat novel and eating leftover Chinese food right out of the container. Maybe you want to organize a special dinner with friends -- a potluck or a party at a restaurant. Maybe you want to spend this Christmas doing for others -- helping to feed the needy through your church or other charitable group or helping to distribute toys to sick or disadvantaged children. Maybe this quiet holiday season is the perfect time to give a loving little animal a forever home by adopting a cat or dog from your local shelter.
Now is the time to let modern technology link you to loved ones -- with Skype or FaceTime visits to share holiday cheer.
Now is the time to feel the inner peace of gratitude --for all blessings of your life, however small, however far away.
Warmest holiday wishes to all my friends in the blogosphere. However and wherever you're celebrating -- with a crowd or whether you're alone this holiday -- I send you my love and best wishes for a wonderful 2016!