A Reflection on My Family’s Holiday Tradition

“Christmas is a holiday that we celebrate not as individuals nor as a nation, but as a human family.” — Ronald Reagan

Every year, just a few days before Christmas, my family and I sit down in our home with a minister friend and focus on the true meaning of the season.

It’s one of those traditions that everyone really seems to look forward to each year. It’s a night of grounding and it’s a moment of calm before the storm.

We begin by listening to a reading from the Bible. Then, we talk about what that parable means to each of us. We also talk to one another about our lives over the past year. Our triumphs. Our struggles. Our hopes and plans for moving forward.

After each person speaks, I usually ask, “Do you feel supported by the people in this room? If not, how can we better support you? How can we do a better job of being there for you, or backing off when you need space and letting you roam?”


This tradition has been a moving and emotional experience for my family each year. Above all, it’s been a way for us to feel more connected. I hope it takes some slice of pressure off the present-swapping on Christmas Day.

I share this family tradition with you in hopes that perhaps you might convene your family and/or friends at some point in the next few days and do the same. Gather them not just for the unwrapping of presents, but for a moment to truly connect. Check in with them about the year they’ve had. Ask about their highs and lows (because we all have both).

You can read from the Bible when you gather, or you can read from a book of quotations or mediations. Use whatever best suits you and helps set the scene.

Don’t allow any phones. Instead, sit in a circle in a quiet room and dedicate yourself to listening to those you love. I’ve never left my family gathering without being surprised by what I heard, learned or felt.

Learning, living and loving. That’s what I’m going to focus on this holiday season. I’m focused on learning from those I love and also learning how to love them in a way that works best for them. I’m also going to focus on living life as the adventure that it actually is.

For me, embracing life as an adventure changes how I feel about life. It makes me more energized, hopeful, optimistic and understanding. It helps remind me that those I love are living, breathing and evolving spirits that are on their own individual adventures. It makes me pay more attention.

I know the holidays can be hectic and crazy-making, but me, I’m going to focus on making new meaningful memories. I’m going to focus on the birth of Christ, the adventure of life and the divine gift that resides deep within every single one of us.

Yes, every single one of us. I’m talking to you. May you also enjoy the gift of life in the days that come and the connection of gathering with your family and friends.

Merry Christmas!

Love,

Maria Shriver
contributor
Maria Shriver is the mother of four, a Peabody and Emmy-winning journalist and producer, a six-time New York Times best-selling author, and an NBC News Special Anchor reporting on the shifting roles, emerging power and evolving needs of women in modern life. She creates socially conscious television, books, films and digital media with the purpose of informing, inspiring and igniting hearts and minds in a discussion that produce positive impact in the world.
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