Holiday spirit seems to be a popular topic for blogs these days, and I realized I hadn't yet posted my own two cents on this topic.

As the holidays approach, be they Channukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or any other holiday of equal importance to you (depending on faith; I listed the ones I personally see the most of in my life, but there are probably more I'm leaving out), it is important to keep some things in mind.

First, these holidays have absolutely nothing to do with the weather. We here in the northern hemisphere equate these holidays with winter, snow, and hot chocolate with marshmallows, but our neighbors in the southern hemisphere enjoy these same holidays in the middle of the summer. Someday, I hope to spend some time somewhere on that side of the earth (perhaps Australia, New Zealand, South America, Africa) and see what it is like for these holidays. Okay, that's just an excuse to go traveling and see the world, but still, would Christmas lights be the same if it didn't get dark until 8 or 9pm?

Second, a word on gift giving. The best gifts are not those found on wish lists, or those with the biggest price tag. Many say that simply having a family and friends in your life is a gift, and to spend time with them is also a gift. Of course, this is true. But giving gifts is still a very fun and nice thing. So when you're out searching through the bargains and holiday sales, keep not the money in your pocket in mind, but that special person for whom you are buying. The best gifts I have received, and the best gifts I have given, are those that just jump out at you when you see them. If you see something and instantly, that special someone jumps to mind, then chances are that will be a very good gift. Then, when you present said gift, that person will be delighted not only by the gift, but even more, to know that you know him or her so well, and that you think of him or her even when you're not hanging out, living together, working together, or what have you.

Third, as people become increasingly frantic about buying gifts, spending time with family (which can be stressful for everyone), keep a smile on your face and a laugh in your heart. You can't please everyone, but you can sure try. Offer up compliments to strangers, be a courteous driver, talk to your neighbors. Do something nice for someone you may not like. The holidays are as much about improving the self as anything else.

Fourth, step back and look at the world through eyes that are not clouded by the hazards of everyday life. Chances are, you'll see something very beautiful. Take a walk in a park, play in the snow, sit and stare at something for so long that it becomes not merely an object, but a true part of this world we call our home. It's easy to forget that nature is a force of its own that does not answer to our own world of people. Watch leaves fall from trees, watch wind blow leaves around, stare up into clouds as snow falls quietly to the ground. And if you can, watch not from indoors, but from outside. No matter how cold or windy, getting lost in nature warms the soul, and you will realize that you are as much a part of this earth as everything and everyone else, and that this is truly where you belong.

Finally, take a break from worry, fear, stress, and everything else that taints this game we like to call life. I often hear people say that we must do all we can to make this world a better place. And when I think about this, I realize that the world already is a better place, and to see it, all we must do is open our eyes.

Don't blink. You might miss something.