I LOOOOVE the holidays.  So, because we’re a hop, skip and jump away from Christmas, here’s the list of things that make me smile (or just plain happy) about this time of year:

1.  When people remember what the holiday is really all about.  Those of you who know me are aware I’m an agnostic.  That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in a divine power, and when I see folks who REALLY “get it” around this time of year, it fills my heart with joy.

2.  Snow.  I absolutely adore it when it snows any time between Thanksgiving and the New Year.  There’s just something pristine about newly fallen snow that is perfect for this time of year.

3.  Christmas Songs.  Particularly those by Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Lou Rawls, Vanessa Williams and Steve Tyrell.  Oh, and I can’t forget my one “must listen to” that’s a diametric opposite of those…Santa Claus and His Old Lady by Cheech & Chong.

4.  The smell of baking.  I am not, in any way, shape or form, a baker.  So when hubby decides to fire up the oven and bake cookies or whip up a batch of fudge, I’m in absolute heaven.

5.  Hearing greetings from the war front on the radio.  During the first Iraq war, you never really heard stuff like that, but now it seems like a regular happenstance on most radio stations.  Thanks SO much for that, radio honchos, because we need to remember that there are folks who are far, far away from home, missing their families.

6.  Hanging ornaments on our Christmas Tree.  This year when we moved we got a pre-lit tree (YEAH), but it’s a little smaller than our old one (taller, tho), so we had to ditch a bunch of the filler ornaments that we’d been carting around for 16 years.  Now each and every ornament on our tree means something.  In most cases, it’s a present we’ve gotten each other every year, or our annual “year” ornament.

7.  Receiving Christmas cookies from the kids next door.  This was a first for us, and was especially cool (and touching) since we’ve just moved in.

8.  Opening my home to my friends and co-workers.  We hadn’t had a Christmas gala for a few years, mostly because hubby was sliding into end-of-career burnout, and then afterward, “retirement is bliss” euphoria.  But this year, I think we’ve started a new tradition!

9.  Putting money in a Salvation Army kettle whenever I see one.  I’m a big charity person anyway, but I NEVER fail to put something in the SA bucket when there’s a bell ringer.  And more when it’s cold out.

10.  Christmas movies.  Specifically, Scrooged, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Holiday Inn and, on Christmas Eve, The Little Drummer Boy.  Hubby finds it very amusing that I choose this time of year (and The Little Drummer Boy) to be more secular, but that’s the one night I want it to be very clear what this is all about.

11.  “Christmasifying” our house the day after Thanksgiving.  We’re still on a turkey and wine hangover, the Nebraska game is on, and all is well in the Schaefer household when the tree and all the decorations go up.

12.  Thinking of my Dad.  This year is the second year without my Pop, and hubby and I were talking about how proud he’d be that we chose this house (or rather, it chose us).  It brought back a lot of fond memories of Christmas past, like the very first one my whole family stuffed themselves to our tiny apartment in Vacaville, CA for our very first Christmas as a married couple.  Then August’s dad and his wife came for New Years.  What a blast!

13.  Last, but most important…knowing that I’ve had the absolute love and support of the best man I know for the last 17 years.  It’s been a fabulous ride, baby!  Now here’s to many more!