| 22 Feb 2012 | 03:11

This time of late fall makes me more aware of holding on to what is important. Each morning it takes a little longer for the light to appear, and during my weekend walks with my dog, Biscuit, the bare trees, piles of brown leaves, and the distant calls of the Canada Geese migrating south to their winter grounds amplify the sense of diminished light and life. Even Biscuit is willing to come inside after the walk to the warmth of the wood stove and the security of his food and water bowls. Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, Wednesday is the first night of Hanukkah, and the first night of Diwali is on Friday, three celebrations that involve the lighting of lamps or candles to beat back the darkness. While there is deeper religious significance to Advent, Hanukah and Diwali, the magic of the candles and lamps brings a special feeling that children remember. This is also a wonderful time to gather around a fire in the fireplace with popcorn, cocoa and a board game to enjoy the warmth of good conversation and family connection as well as the connection across the ages to all who have been comforted by the warmth and the light of a fire. As families, we have choices about how we approach this holiday season. The crassness of merchandising on the one hand has to be weighed with the magic of young children at a Hanukah dinner, participating in a Christmas pageant or in a Diwali celebration, or seeing presents ready to be opened under a lighted Christmas tree. We can choose how many parties we will attend, whether there will be a religious emphasis or not to this season, how much importance we put on presents given and received, and how much time we will spend together as a family enjoying each other’s company. My hope for all of us is that this holiday season will be one of bringing us together to hear the wisdom passed down through the ages from our religious and cultural forbearers and from those in our family circle who can add depth and perspective to the issues of today. Early memories can last a lifetime. I hope that our children will remember 2010 with great fondness, warmth, and light. James Burger is headmaster of Tuxedo Park School, one of the oldest independent schools in the country specializing in pre-secondary education for Pre-K through ninth grade students who commute from the surrounding region. Mr. Burger has been the headmaster at Tuxedo Park School for 17 years.