It didn’t need the record dump of snow we got two nights ago to remind us Christmas is here.

But it sure seems fitting on this winter solstice (as I write this). After all, if there’s one day of the year I wish for snow, it’s Christmas Eve—though much of it may be washed away by the time Santa’s sleigh comes gliding.

For me, though, Christmas is mostly about family, about a re-enactment of the rituals we do each year. It’s about the giving spirit. And it’s a reminder of my life’s story.

With my three children spread from coast-to-coast in the U.S. and one in Vancouver, it’s usually the one time of the year that we all get together (though one will be missing this year). The “family,” that’s me, my children, their spouses or partners, their mother and a related “adopted in” family—about 11 of us altogether—usually spend 2-3 days huddled together at a single location.

Each year, the ritual gets re-enacted, preferably Christmas Eve but whatever night closest to that that we can mesh schedules.

We start with food (of course), each one having brought an appy, then gather around the piano for some carol singing. More food. Then, together, we recite the biblical Christmas story that we memorized as kids.

Now it’s time to open the overflowing Christmas stockings, in order, from youngest to oldest. Amongst the eclectic mix inside, each will find a card in honour of a donation I’ve made on their behalf to a project somewhere in the world, as appropriately as possible matched to the recipient (a child, for example, may get a card denoting a gift made toward building a playground; the teacher, a donation toward textbooks; the nurse, a donation to a newborn care package.)

More food. And drinks. Then it’s time to unwrap the gifts under the tree. Not so many of them anymore—we’ve dispensed with Secret Santas and with big gifts. But some are just better wrapped and under the tree, especially if they’re far too large for the stockings.

And what would Christmas be like without a gift-unwrapping ritual, anyways?

The night is still young. The gifts are played with/constructed/read/whatever. Chocolates are passed around. Conversation is pleasant. More food from the potluck. More visiting.

Eventually, we all retire to our sleeping quarters. If ever we were to sleep well, this should be the night.

Your ritual will be entirely different from mine. You may even be celebrating a completely different event from mine.

But, at this season, I hope everyone can enjoy, at least briefly, family, ritual, a giving spirit, and a reflection of the season and its history.

Whatever your connection to this mailing list, I want to wish you a very special holiday season and a Happy New Year!