Gift-giving is a great tradition that is wrapped in mystery and  generates excitement.  If you celebrate the holiday with small children, Christmas morning is filled with Santa’s enchantment and unwrapping each gift is like discovering mysterious treasures.  And exchanging gifts with other adults is obviously a key part of the holiday experience, but it’s not my favorite part.

Shopping, for one thing (as Linda can confirm), is not an experience I enjoy.  I don’t enjoy wandering around stores, either in-person or online.  I do enjoy decorating our tree, listening to music, sitting by the wood stove, walking in the woods, and attending holiday performances.  And years ago, when our daughters were basketball players, I loved watching their games.  Most people don’t think of girls’ basketball as a holiday activity, but for our family it was.  I preferred it to shopping at the mall by a ratio of infinity to one.

I enjoyed sitting for an hour on hard, plastic bleachers in high school gyms, riveted to their lively games.  I remember one particularly competitive game, with outstanding playing and excellent referees, and one particular moment when my younger daughter’s shot ricocheted off the rim twice, bounced above the rim, and then came down right through the net. Swisssh! It was probably obvious to everyone in the gym that I was her dad because I gave her a standing ovation.  Our daughters had fun playing, and we had fun watching.  These games were woven into our holiday experience.

When I think back on memorable holiday moments, what stands out for me are the experiences more than the gifts, such as attending school performances.  One year we saw Man of La Mancha, a theatrical experience performed at Middlebury College. We don’t usually think of Man of La Mancha as a holiday play — after all, it’s set in a dungeon built by the Spanish Inquisition — but it’s a wonderfully inspiring story of an eccentric man with high ideals, who is willing to risk everything to live according to those ideals. And it’s a musical. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

What I remember most fondly is attending spirited holiday concerts in the community, or at our daughters’ school, visiting a local gingerbread house exhibit every year, and watching White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street, with hot cider, thank you.  Once in a while we would do something different, like bowling, just to have  new experience together.  (Bowling is a sport in which the less skill you have, the more fun you can  have).

We usually spend three nights decorating our tree (one of our own Christmas rituals) and if we’re lucky enough to get some snow ( a good bet, here in Vermont) we would do some sledding down our steep driveway. We would build snow creatures and have snowball fights.  (Our daughters played softball, too, so they were formidable opponents).

We usually take time in December to loan money to third world entrepreneurs through Kiva and to make some charitable donations to worthy organizations.  We’ll put extra birdseed and apples for the critters who live around our house, and take long quiet walks in the woods.

So I want the holiday celebration to be about the experience.  That’s what I enjoy the most and that’s what I remember the best.  May you savor whatever it is that you do, during this special time of year, when the holidays mingle with the new year.  How many more holiday seasons will we get to experience?  Don’t miss your moments.

My best wishes to you.
Happy Holidays!

Gregg Krech is the author of five books on Japanese Psychology and will be conducting the online program, Living on Purpose, starting on January 8, 2023.
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