C hristmas Eve is here, heralding the celebration of Christ’s birth, the closing of the peak shopping season, and the shift into a new year. For many of us, Christmas remains one of the strongest connections we have to our past. The traditions of this Holiday Season take some of us back decades and instantly connect us to other times, places, and people. In a world that is ever-changing, the traditions of this Season are comforting in ways that are pure magic.

Consider the songs of the season. We have beautiful music tying this Holiday to its religious roots: “Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners are reconciled.” We also have our secular favorites: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Yuletide carols being sung by a choir. Folks dressed up like Eskimos.” The songs of Christmas evoke feelings of past and present in ways that are difficult to explain; connecting us to moments of hope and joy, instantly taking us there.

Then, we have the movies. In our house, we have a collection of old fashioned Christmas DVD’s stored in their own place in our movie cabinet. Classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott and Muppet versions!), Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Christmas Family Vacation, and Jim Carrey’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas reflect some of our favorites – each one a gateway to another time and place as well as a marker for celebrating the present.

We also have traditions like the food, decorations, and family gathering that are present through the holidays. A smile comes to my face every time I pull into our driveway as I see the lights on the house and the tree lit up inside; a rush of memories floods my mind, taking me to joyful moments decorating many, many trees as a child and as a father. The old ornaments marking their own moments in time mingle with newer decorations reflecting the changing nature of our family – each with its own story. Christmas also gathers us together in a way that becomes more and more rare as we age and family dynamics shift, calling us to hold on to these traditions as long as we can.

In a world marked by “triggers” which are most often associated with negative outcomes, the triggers of the Christmas Season connect us with a joyfulness that can be evasive and ephemeral. Like the ghosts in A Christmas Carol, these triggers take us to our past, present, and future, reminding us of the happy moments together and challenging us to keep the spirit of the Season alive beyond these few days in December.

Today, let go of all stress as meals are prepared, last minute gifts are picked up, friends and family converge, wrapping is completed, and you come face to face with the challenges of other people. Look for the Divine in this precious Holiday and hold all those you love tightly for the few moments you have them all together. Allow the triggers of the season to take you there and mark another set of moments for remembrance.

“And so, I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from one to ninety-two. Altho’ it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you.”

God bless us, everyone.