For many, Christmas celebrations with family and friends began during the weekend and will extend into the next, a result of the mid-week arrival of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

It should be welcomed as a bonus to a joyous time of year, a chance to extend the festivities and family traditions.

But it is tonight and Christmas morning that is the focus for many as they gather in churches for Christmas programs and services and share in the joy of giving and receiving gifts, especially with children.

While Easter is, bar none, the holiest day on the Christian calendar, Christmas is certainly the most popular, celebrating the humble birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem.

It’s a time for Christmas lights, from modest displays on a tree or home to the extravagant display of the Kiwanis Holiday Lights at Sibley Park. And, of course, it’s time for family traditions and good food — oh-so-much good food.

It’s also this season of less natural light is a time to remember those who are in need and those for whom Christmas can be a trying, even sad time of year. There are those who are alone, those for whom the holiday brings painful memories of a loved one they’ve lost, those who are in a hospital or struggling with mental health issues or addictions. And, of course, many are struggling financially.

The holiday season is the perfect time for those who can to help where and how they can. For many, extending a helping hand is putting money in red kettles, buying a gift for a charitable program or donating to local food shelves and shelters.

Others may give their children or grandchildren a chance to learn charity by having them buy something with their own money for someone less fortunate or by taking them to visit people in a nursing home or by volunteering elsewhere.

The holiday season has a unique way of generating a degree of hope and optimism. So reach out to family and friends — and strangers, too — and enjoy the time together and the meaning Christmas brings to you.

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