"The Best Holiday Gift of All" has been an annual tradition on my blog. The message is timeless, so I wanted to share it with you once again so we can all be reminded to be truly present at our holiday celebrations and in all of the moments that matter throughout the year.
Like many of you, while my wife Jan and I are busy preparing hearth and home, gifts, and events for each year's December, there are moments we’re catapulted back to reflect on years gone by. We both have strong memories of traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation.
In the Sinatra household, we both have fond memories of baking cookies with our children, then still further back to the smells that wafted from our mothers' warm kitchens as we sung carols—laughing when we had trouble carrying the tunes or recalling the words. I know many of you took the same type of trip down memory lane as you decorated the Christmas tree, or lit the Chanukah candles.
The sights, sounds, and smells of our family’s spiritual rituals are a part of all of us, regardless of our personal and individual heritage. Our unique histories make each of us the special people that we are. Some of the sadder recollections can bring a tear to our eye, as we remember the time we celebrated without a family member who was overseas defending our country, or the year someone was hospitalized.
My wife Jan has vivid memories of special times with her dad as he took her and her siblings outdoors to go cut down the Christmas tree or go sledding—then, returning from their snowy adventures to enjoy warm cocoa by the fire.
Gifts were nice, but were not the main event when we were growing up. As my wife Jan remembers, she mostly opened practical gifts like warm pajamas, hats, and gloves—hoping for that one special toy. Those of you who grew up in the 1950’s, or earlier, know exactly what we mean. The expectations were fewer, there was less “stuff” to want, and without the distractions of cable television, the Internet, and cell phones, it was easier to be fully present at our holiday celebrations.
As you get wrapped up in your holiday decorating, planning, shopping, wrapping, baking, and more—it’s easy to create a picture perfect image of how things should be in your own mind. But the truth is, if you’re not fully present in the moment to give and receive human connectedness, all the work you put into the season is little more than an empty gesture.
Like a lesson from the childhood classic The Grinch Who Stoke Christmas, the holidays aren’t about the food or the gifts. They’re about being resplendent in music, togetherness, and feeling connected to one another through our spiritual roots and heritages.
Whatever your favorite holiday music, food, or family and spiritual traditions are, I wish you the gift of holiday “presence” to feel what’s in your heart—whether it’s happiness, sadness, appreciation, or delight in the unexpected. These moments are part of your individual and shared treasure trove, like a memory box to open each and every time you celebrate your own family's heritage.
Wrap those heartfelt feelings in an imaginary box with a big bow for yourself, and know that, this December, your genuine "presence" is one "present" that you can give out and still re-open each and every day of the year.
Now it's your turn: What is your favorite holiday memory?
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