I am writing this on Christmas Eve morning while enjoying a hot cup of coffee.  I am all ready for Christmas with the exception of making a few breakfast casseroles for Christmas morning at our house with all of our kids and grandchildren.

As I write this, I reflect on how Christmas changes over the years. The traditions may be the same, but the people who sit at your dinner table do change. The level of stress you experience may fluctuate. And the level of joy and peace you feel may change too. All of this could bring a tear to your eye, but it is actually quite beautiful and something that should be acknowledged and celebrated.

My Christmases have changed greatly over the years. I had the chunk of years when my children were little where I was extra busy with shopping, making sure I had cookies and milk set out for Santa, that I had “Santa” paper for the kids’ gifts that was totally different than the other paper I used, and then I always looked for a really good hiding place to put all the packages. I then had the chunk of years that I made fancy Christmas rolls for all our family and friends. Having so many that I made, rather than delivering them to everyone, we would hold a Christmas party at our home to hand them all out. Now I am in an era where leading up to Christmas is rather quiet. We enjoy Christmas morning immensely with all the children and Grandchildren, but leading up to the day is calm and enjoyable.

Having gone through many different cycles with Christmas, it makes me realize what is most important. And that is who is sitting around your dinner table. There was probably a time that your grandparents were present at the table. They may not be there anymore, but you may still have Grandma’s recipe for her famous molded Jello salad represented at the table. If your parents are still sitting at the table with you, one never knows if it will be the last one or not, so enjoy the beautiful serving platter that has been in the family for generations that your mom uses to serve the ham this year. Sometimes your favorite Aunt will no longer fill her seat because she and your Uncle got divorced, so enjoy the hand-made gift that she gave you this year. Your fun cousin may have an empty seat for a few years as she moves away to study abroad, so enjoy her high energy and non-stop chatter this year. However, new seats are added to the table when your oldest cousin brings her fiance to Christmas, so take the time to get to know him and welcome him with open arms. Highchairs are added as new babies are welcomed into the family, so fill their souls with love.

So this Christmas, no matter who is sharing the table with you, take the time to look around and enjoy the faces that you call family. There is no time in life to hold a grudge or continue to be mad or be jealous over something silly. If you don’t realize that life is too short, just acknowledge the empty seats at your dinner table, and that should wake you up.

Make a very conscious effort to be in the moment for every moment this holiday season. Notice all the details of those you surround yourself with, reflect on what makes your loved ones unique, and enjoy — never judge — what you are observing. And simply smile! Remember this Christmas season for all that it is and enjoy the occupied seats around your dinner table. For when a Christmas may change greatly from one year to the next, you can reflect back on it with great fondness and clear memories.

This is what we remember at Christmas — who sat at our table. We don’t remember the scarf that we received or the billfold that we unwrapped with a $20 bill placed inside. But we always remember who we shared the day with. This is what Christmas is all about. Although it will change greatly over the years, enjoy it for what it is…one Christmas at a time!