The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- One of my favorite Christmas songs is the Andy Williams’ classic: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” Each time I listen to the lyrics it helps me think about so many things that make the holidays special. For many of us, Christmas truly is a magical time of year. But what really makes it the “hap-happiest season of all?” Is it the “kids jingle belling,” the “holiday greetings,” the “parties for hosting,” or having “friends come to call?”

While the song certainly refers to special and meaningful parts of most typical Christmases, it can sometimes be a little different for those of us serving in the military. Sometimes we are able to take leave and travel home to spend time with family and friends or have them travel to wherever we are stationed to spend the holidays with us. When we have those opportunities, we are truly blessed and should be thankful that we have the chance to be together and reminisce about “the glories of Christmases long, long ago,” as the famous song also reminds.

However, many times throughout my career I was not able to be near family during the holidays, usually because of deployments. For many of our teammates this year, they will be experiencing the holidays away from loved ones because of a deployment or a remote assignment. For others, the holidays will not be the same this year because of the loss of a loved one. Still, while the holidays may seem different this year or not as magical or nostalgic as they once might have been, there is reason for us to have hope and be of good cheer.

It can still be a most wonderful time of the year!

If you are anticipating a Christmas season that may not be as merry as in years past, try instead to focus on other people. Offer to babysit a friend’s child while he or she gets last-minute holiday shopping completed. Make cookies for squadron or office members or volunteer on Christmas day at one of the many local charities that will be providing a Christmas meal to the homeless. It’s also fun to be a Secret Santa and provide a gift to someone else who really has a specific need. When we pivot our focus off ourselves and pour into others, the joy of Christmas returns. The old adage really is true: It is better to give than to receive.

No matter what challenges you may be experiencing, my prayer is that you know that your life matters and you can make a difference this holiday season. There are always things in your life to be thankful for, blessings that need to be counted, and people that need your love and encouragement. We must discipline ourselves (just like we do to stay “fit to fight” and pass our PT tests) to have attitudes of gratitude because, as I remind my three children nearly every day, our attitude determines our altitude. Happiness is not a place or a time of year. Happiness is choice we make—not just during the holidays, but it’s a choice we make all throughout the year.

For those of us celebrating Christmas because of our faith, this season truly is a time of thanksgiving where we remember that the light and joy of the world has come. We can simply be thankful by putting our focus on that. As one of the great Christmas hymns declares, “Joy to the World the Lord has come!” Similarly, other faith traditions celebrate with a focus on lights and the hope and joy that come from shared beliefs and being together.

Yes, the holidays can be the most “wonderful time of the year.” If we resolve to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and focus some of our attention on other people that God may have put in our path for a reason, in the words of Cousin Eddie, (from one of my favorite holiday movies, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”) our Christmas joy can truly be “the gift that keeps on giving the whole year round.”

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Team Pete!


It's the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It's the most wonderful time of the year
It's the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It's the hap-happiest season of all
There'll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There'll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of the
Christmases long, long ago
It's the most wonderful time of the year
There'll be much mistltoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When love ones are near
It's the most wonderful time of the year!