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Today is April 21, 2019


‘Tis the season to celebrate the special joys in our lives

By Michael Callahan

Michael Callahan
Michael Callahan,
Executive Vice President/CEO
EPAs of Mississippi

Ready, set go! The holiday rush is officially underway. The next several weeks will be a blur of busyness for many folks. There are family gatherings to plan, shopping to do, errands to run and special dishes to prepare—all on top of our daily routines of work, school and kids’ activities.

At my house, my wife and I will have the annual “discussion” about whose holiday decorating style will win out: my over-the-top lights and tinsel versus her more restrained, traditional approach.

The way I see it, this time of year is as much about fun as it is reverent. I know everyone under the age of 12 is with me on this.

We parents, however, set the stage for our children’s perspectives and expectations of the holiday season. Our attitudes and behavior during the holidays say to them, “This is what it’s all about.” Are we conscious of the messages we’re sending? Are we too stressed out to keep things merry and bright?

Even as my own three youngsters are not so young anymore, I hope it’s not too late for me to influence their thinking. These are a few things I hope they’ve picked up from our own family holiday traditions:

• Thanksgiving is all about gratitude. Not food, football, hunting or shopping, as wonderful as these things are. Thanksgiving is a time to pause, reflect on the good things in our lives and give thanks to God. No matter who you are or what you believe in, this is a special day of reverence above all else.

• Giving to others is one of the best ways to express gratitude, not only during the holidays but year-round. Charitable giving makes a huge impact on the well-being of a society, from alleviating hunger to disaster relief. I want my children to grow up to be generous in spirit as well as actions. While I pray they will never experience hardship, I hope they will never take their quality of life for granted. 

• The “success” of a family’s Christmas celebration is not dependent on material things. While we certainly want to please our children with gifts as best we can, maybe we should try to dilute the focus on materialism. For Christians, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, above all else. Then there are the outdoor lighting displays and decorations, the living nativities, the uplifting songs you hear only this time of year, downtown parades and little gifts of appreciation for, say, a teacher or a neighbor.

I’d like to close by offering some unsolicited advice to all youngsters:

Put the phone down at family holiday gatherings and talk with your relatives, especially those you rarely see. These folks probably have a lot of stories to share and would love to hear what’s going on in your life. Have real conversations, ask questions and share some laughs. Hug back when hugged. Show appreciation for gifts and food. Be thankful you have a life filled with people who love you.

I hope your holiday season is joyful, fulfilling and meaningful. Have a happy Thanksgiving and a merry Christmas!

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