Thanksgiving? Christmas? Do you remember those days? As I write this, it is almost Thanksgiving. I just drove through a neighborhood where almost half of the houses already have their Christmas decorations up. Of course, the stores have been advertising Christmas for weeks and “Black Friday” Christmas shopping and special prices have sprawled out into the week and even onto Thanksgiving Day itself.

I wonder how many of us really remember (or even know) the reasons behind these holidays. Thanksgiving Day was decreed as a national holiday in 1941 by the U.S. Congress as a day of “prayer and thanksgiving to God.” It is supposed to be a day when we the people of the nation along with our fellow citizens give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives, communities, and nation. However, Thanksgiving is now mostly about travel, food, football, and especially consumerism as Christmas pricing arrives.

I wonder how many of us really remember (or even know) that Christmas is a national holiday in the United States set aside to remember the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. Christmas is a time in which we remember that God entered into our world fulfilling hundreds of prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) in order to live, love, die, and eventually be raised from the dead for the salvation of human beings. However, Christmas is mostly about holiday decorations, extravagant gifts (whether you have the money to pay for them or not), Santa Claus, flying reindeer, and special music.

The ancient Church calendar reminds us that Christmas begins on December 25 (or the 24th on the Eve) and lasts for 12 days. It is preceded by the season of Advent, a time of preparation for the Messiah’s return and for remembering the Messiah’s birth.

Do you remember the holidays? I hope you will this year. Thanksgiving can be a day of worship and gratitude with those you love. Christmas can be a deeply spiritual and meaningful time as one recalls the birth of Jesus, prays for spiritual renewal, and celebrates the transformation He brings to one’s life and community. Both holidays also bring a unique opportunity to provide for those in need. Take time to remember the real holidays this year! Give of yourself to help someone. Go to church somewhere on Christmas Eve. Spend some extra time in prayer. It will make all the difference in your holiday!