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From Our Family to Yours…


Wishing You a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season!


Karen and Jay share the spirit of Christmas and the importance of family during this special season of the year!


Christmas is a celebration of joy, tradition, miracles, giving, and families coming together!  It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  There is an excitement that builds as this magical day approaches.  I remember those days when I was six or seven years old – and eagerly waiting for Santa, as well as later in life when I would read to our own kids on Christmas Eve – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ (which I still do, by the way), and then send them all off to bed – knowing they might not sleep even a wink – as they listened for reindeer hooves on the roof. 


Christmas is widely hailed as the most wonderful time of the year, and for good reason. At the heart of this festive season lies the simple yet profound joy of families coming together. The significance of being surrounded by loved ones during Christmas cannot be overstated. It is a time when distances and differences seem to vanish, and the warmth of familial bonds takes center stage. Whether it's sharing a hearty meal, exchanging gifts, or simply enjoying each other's company by a crackling fire, the magic of Christmas lies in the unity and togetherness of families.

And Christmas is also about traditions. The rituals, passed down through generations, create a sense of continuity and connection to our past. From the hanging of stockings by the fireplace to the joyful decorating of the Christmas tree, these customs provide a comforting familiarity that transcends time. Christmas traditions not only bind families together but also foster a true sense of community.


It’s very much a time for magical miracles, both big and small. From the first snowfall that transforms the world into a winter wonderland to the joyous reunions of long-lost friends and family members, the holiday season is a time when the extraordinary becomes ordinary. It's as if the air is infused with a sense of wonder and anticipation, making Christmas a time when miracles are not just hoped for but expected. These magical moments remind us of the beauty and possibility that life holds, inspiring a renewed sense of hope and gratitude.


And, of course, one of the most powerful and enduring aspects of Christmas is the spirit of giving. The act of giving during the holiday season extends beyond material presents; it encompasses the generosity of spirit and the warmth of goodwill. Whether it's volunteering at a local shelter, donating to those in need, or simply offering a kind word or gesture to a stranger, the Christmas season inspires people to open their hearts and spread joy. The spirit of giving during Christmas serves as a reminder of our shared humanity and the profound impact that kindness and compassion can have on individuals and communities alike.


So, as we approach this special day, please embrace the spirit.  Fill your heart with joy.  Reach out to your family, your neighbors, your friends, and members of your community – to wish them well, rejoice in the spirit of Christmas – and give heartfelt thanks for this joyous season. 


Christmas - The Season of Giving 



When your heart is full – and you’re in that magical Christmas spirit – there is something that makes it feel so natural to be generous and to be in a ‘giving’ nature. So, not surprisingly, during Christmas, charitable giving tends to increase ignificantly. In the United States alone, charitable donations often rise by more than forty percent during the holiday season. Moreover, volunteerism also sees a substantial surge, with people dedicating their time to help those in need. From organizing toy collections to doing acts of kindness, these acts, both big and small, contribute to making the Christmas season a time of goodwill and generosity.


Now when I think of acts of kindness, I can’t help to think about one of my favorite Christmas movies, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’  Actually, it’s my absolute favorite movie – of any kind – Christmas or any other.


This Christmas classic revolves around George Bailey, a man who's shown the impact he has on others' lives after contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve. Through an encounter with an angel named Clarence, George sees an alternate reality where he was never born and realizes the profound positive influence he has had on his community. The movie portrays themes of selflessness, the value of community, and the importance of each individual's impact on others' lives. It teaches that every person matters and their actions, no matter how small, can make a significant difference in the lives of others. 


Most important, George Bailey has been a ‘giver’ all throughout his life, helping others in every conceivable way.  So, when it turns out that George finds himself in trouble and needing help, the entire town of Bedford Falls comes to his aid.  And in a fitting tribute, his younger brother, Harry Bailey raises a glass to George and says, "A toast to my big brother George: the richest man in town." There's a round of cheers, and hardly a dry eye in the house (or in any house where this final scene is being viewed).  Because we all know that while George may not have much money, he has been a ‘giver’ – in every conceivable way, and as a result, has created a wealth of friendships, good will and respect – in a way that money could never buy.


Now as Karen and I finish up our Christmas shopping, we like many are putting money into the Salvation Kettle. But one of the things I enjoy most is seeing the acts of kindness taking place by my friends. Phil and Julie Taub of Swim with a Mission are generously awarding grants to veteran support groups. My twelve-year old friend, Elliot Perry is stuffing 235 Christmas stockings that will be given to veterans across New Hampshire. And friends are reaching out to those who might be alone on Christmas to ensure that they will not be alone, but instead will be welcomed into a loving family to celebrate the season!


I love Christmas for what it truly means. As Kris Kringle says in ‘Miracle on the 34th Street,’


“Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day. It’s a frame of mind.”

 

So, please embrace that ‘frame of mind,’ and especially, please immerse yourself in the spirit of giving!


Christmas is a Time of Traditions


Traditions are like glue.  They help hold everything together.  And Christmas traditions are especially important and powerful.  In fact, I’ll bet that you and your family have very special traditions during the Christmas season that are carried on year after year – and often passed from one generation down to the next.


Here’s one of ours.  It started many years ago when the children were very young.  At about 9.30pm on Christmas Eve, I would gather all the kids together – so very excited and waiting for Santa Claus – and begin to read to them – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.’  I would put great enthusiasm into the reading – and when it would finish – with the words – ‘Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night’ – that was the signal.  Time for the kids to go to bed – as Santa was on the way.  Well, here we are now.  The kids are in their early 30’s – and the tradition lives on.  Never missing a Christmas. 


The visit to my aunt, uncle and cousins’ place at Christmas time is one of my comfort memories that I often go back to in this world that sometimes seems so rushed and noisy.  Exciting sled runs down the hill and then coming into a toasty kitchen where we would have grilled cheese sandwiches and delicious homemade hot tomato soup is a tradition that I’ll never forget and one that I’ve often shared with our kids.


However, the iconic Norman Rockwell version of Christmas, steeped in idyllic family scenes and traditional values, has undergone a profound transformation over the last couple of decades – especially as families find themselves spread out across the country – and sometimes even around the world at this special time of the year.  Unfortunately, we’re not always able to enjoy that iconic family tradition – being all in one place – opening presents, having Christmas dinner, and more. While it's important that we acknowledge these factors that are reshaping holiday traditions, it’s even more important to reflect on the importance of preserving some semblance of tradition in our ever-evolving world.


A more mobile society, driven by economic opportunities, has dispersed families across regions, making the traditional gathering of extended family members more challenging. Despite these challenges, families are finding innovative ways to stay connected, utilizing technology and redefining what it means to come together during the festive season. My family, where some members are scattered across the country, reaches out – using technology to bring us all together – when we can’t all be in the same place at the same time.  Zoom has been a godsend for us – as I’m sure it has been for so many other families around the country as well.


As things change, it begs the question: why is it important to maintain some type of tradition? Because traditions provide a sense of continuity and stability in a world that is constantly in flux. They offer a way to connect with our roots, pass down values to future generations, and create a shared sense of identity. By holding onto certain traditions, families can anchor themselves in a sense of belonging and create lasting memories that transcend the evolving external circumstances.


As the old Norman Rockwell version of Christmas undergoes a metamorphosis, shaped by changes in family structures, cultural values, and global dynamics, it is essential to recognize the resilience of traditions in adapting to these shifts. The celebration of holidays may look different, but the essence of joy, connection, and love remains at its core. In embracing and evolving with these changes, families can (and need to) forge new traditions that reflect the dynamism of modern society while preserving the timeless values that make the holiday season truly special. And so, while we might not all be sledding down any hills and enjoying delicious sandwiches and soup together this season, let’s keep our families strong, our traditions intact wherever possible and enjoy this blessed season.  And, yes, right around 9.30pm on Christmas Eve, I will in fact be reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,’ to a gathering of our kids – and keeping the Christmas tradition alive!


Positive Profile of the Week:  Santa Claus – the One and Only!

This week we are delighted to highlight that jolly and iconic figure - Santa Claus!


We love Santa – as he is synonymous with holiday cheer and traces his legendary origins to the snowy landscapes of the North Pole. Born out of folklore and fables, Santa transcends time and culture.


Legend has it that Santa Claus, also known as St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, or Father Christmas, began his life as a kind and generous bishop in ancient Turkey. Over the centuries, his story evolved, merging with various traditions to become the beloved figure we know today.


In the 19th century, the transformative poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore helped solidify Santa's modern image. With his reindeer-drawn sleigh and magical abilities, Santa became synonymous with delivering joy and gifts to children around the world.


Though Santa's workshop is firmly rooted in the North Pole, there's a curious connection to our wonderful state of New Hampshire. While not his birthplace, the enchanting landscapes of New Hampshire have been a frequent source of inspiration for holiday tales and festive imagery. The picturesque scenes of snow-covered forests and cozy villages evoke the magic of the season and add a touch of New England charm to Santa's global narrative.


Santa Claus embodies the spirit of generosity, love, and goodwill, transcending borders and bringing people together during the festive season. His timeless appeal continues to captivate hearts, making him a cherished symbol of Christmas magic for generations worldwide.


We thank you, Santa, for the unifying, positive spirit you bring into our lives each year as we celebrate Christmas, the most special of holidays!


Quotes of the Week:  Christmas – That Special Time of the Year!


"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." - Norman Vincent Peale

 

"Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts." - Janice Maeditere

 

"Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection." - Winston Churchill

 

"Christmas is the day that holds all time together." - Alexander Smith

 

"Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others." - Thomas S. Monson



 

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