The Christmas season is here again. How’s your Christmas spirit? More to the point, what is it that kindles your Christmas spirit?

My Christmas spirit is more difficult to kindle this year than in previous years. I am now at what one might call "superior vintage," and because I am older I am losing friends almost every year.

This year has been a difficult year for losing friends. With every loss comes a feeling of nostalgia, accompanied by floods of memories of those very close and important relationships, some from as far back as childhood. Much of that is good but it creates a feeling of loss nevertheless.

Friends and family make the world a place of joy and love and that should be emphasized to us with every Christmas season.

Music is a major factor in any Christmas season. Whether it is "Here Comes Santa Claus," "White Christmas" or "Rudolph" it begins to dominate your psyche. The music that really closes the deal, for me, includes "Hark the Harold Angels sing," "Away in a Manger" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem." A night of listening to carols by candlelight at one or another of the churches in the area always seems to be just what the doctor ordered. We love the singing Christmas trees and the annual Christmas parade.

The spirit of Christmas culminates each year with church Christmas programs. The singing of little children and church choirs tell us each year of that wonderful story of a babe lying in a manger with shepherds and wise men kneeling at his feet, of families gathering to renew the bond that was kindled in all of those Christmases past.

I can remember a succession of great aunts coming to visit at my grandmother’s house when I was a boy — Aunt Nora, Aunt Goldie, Aunt Pearl, Aunt Philomena and Aunt Lela. (Don’t you just love those names from the 19th century?)

All of these dear ladies are gone now but their faces are still as crystal clear to me as they were a generation ago. Each would arrive with her tray of divinity, fudge, brownies, and my favorite of favorites, chocolate chip cookies.

Is it any wonder that I can close my eyes today and still smell the wonderful kitchen fragrance that filled the house each year at Christmas time?

Is it any wonder I still spend several hours a week at the "Y" doing battle with the bulges created by the remnants of all those wonderful memories?

Such memories get us ready for the big day, the day we welcome friends and family to our homes as the Holy Family did when the shepherds arrived to "see this miraculous thing," when we open the presents just as the Holy Family did 2,000 years ago with the visit of the Magi, and when we focus on the blessed Christ child who is, lest we forget, the reason for the season.

So we wish for you a growing Christmas spirit that will stay with you all year round, and a wonderful Christmas season with your family and friends.

Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and the Anderson Independent-Mail in South Carolina. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states. Contact him at presnet@presnet.net.