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Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper: A Reflection on My Family’s Holiday Tradition

“Christmas is a holiday that we celebrate not as individuals nor as a nation, but as a human family.” — Ronald Reagan

Every year, just a few days before Christmas, my family and I sit down in our home with a minister friend and focus on the true meaning of the season.

It’s one of those traditions that everyone really seems to look forward to each year. It’s a night of grounding and it’s a moment of calm before the storm.

We begin by listening to a reading from the Bible. Then, we talk about what that parable means to each of us. We also talk to one another about our lives over the past year. Our triumphs. Our struggles. Our hopes and plans for moving forward.

After each person speaks, I usually ask, “Do you feel supported by the people in this room? If not, how can we better support you? How can we do a better job of being there for you, or backing off when you need space and letting you roam?”

This tradition has been a moving and emotional experience for my family each year. Above all, it’s been a way for us to feel more connected. I hope it takes some slice of pressure off the present-swapping on Christmas Day.

I share this family tradition with you in hopes that perhaps you might convene your family and/or friends at some point in the next few days and do the same. Gather them not just for the unwrapping of presents, but for a moment to truly connect. Check in with them about the year they’ve had. Ask about their highs and lows (because we all have both).

You can read from the Bible when you gather, or you can read from a book of quotations or mediations. Use whatever best suits you and helps set the scene.

Don’t allow any phones. Instead, sit in a circle in a quiet room and dedicate yourself to listening to those you love. I’ve never left my family gathering without being surprised by what I heard, learned or felt.

Learning, living and loving. That’s what I’m going to focus on this holiday season. I’m focused on learning from those I love and also learning how to love them in a way that works best for them. I’m also going to focus on living life as the adventure that it actually is.

For me, embracing life as an adventure changes how I feel about life. It makes me more energized, hopeful, optimistic and understanding. It helps remind me that those I love are living, breathing and evolving spirits that are on their own individual adventures. It makes me pay more attention.

I know the holidays can be hectic and crazy-making, but me, I’m going to focus on making new meaningful memories. I’m going to focus on the birth of Christ, the adventure of life and the divine gift that resides deep within every single one of us.

Yes, every single one of us. I’m talking to you. May you also enjoy the gift of life in the days that come and the connection of gathering with your family and friends.

Merry Christmas!


Dear God, thank you for the spirit of this season. I feel so blessed for the opportunity to gather with those I love. I also pray for those who might be alone or having a difficult time during the holiday season. Let us all be grateful for the beauty and the magic of this life you have given to all of us. Amen.

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Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson and Maria Have a Meaningful Conversation About the Meaning of Christmas

As I mention in my essay, it’s so grounding to sit down with loved ones this time of year to talk about the true meaning of the season. That’s why I’m delighted that my pastor, Monsignor Lloyd Torgerson, agreed to stop by my office on Friday. He offered words that will inspire you, make you think, and give you something to discuss with your family in the days ahead. Enjoy. 


1. ‘A Very Special Christmas’ Album Celebrates 30th Anniversary, Raising Funds for Special Olympics: This music and its significance is so special to me. For nearly 30 years, the album series “A Very Special Christmas” has raised millions of dollars for Special Olympics athletes around the globe. We’re so grateful to the talented musicians who have contributed their talents to this cause. WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE

2. Why Seniors Are the Economy’s Most Underrated Natural Resource: The contributions that older workers bring to the workforce must be recognized. According to the Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the U.S. is among the 55 to 64 age group. This trend has been the case for the past 15 years and shows no sign of slowing down.

3. Meghan Markle Takes Time For Special Christmas Visit to Nursing Home: So nice to see Meghan Markle taking time to visit a nursing home in London this holiday season. The Duchess of Sussex met elderly residents and enjoyed carols around a Christmas tree, as well as arts & crafts, at Brinsworth House, a nursing home for the Royal Variety Charity.

4. Yes, Brain Fog During Menopause Is Real: Unfortunately, this is difficult to diagnose. According to experts, “Menopause-related cognitive impairment happens to women in their 40s and 50s, women in the prime of life who suddenly have the rug pulled out from under them.” 

5. Boys Need Better Access to Mental Health Care: This story should remind us to keep the lines of communication open with the boys and men in our lives. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, doctors, teachers and family members may not recognize the symptoms of depression. Experts say the unique challenges and needs of young men are not receiving the right kind of attention.

6. New Study Reveals Diet and Exercise Might Reverse Aging in the Brain: This is really interesting. A study published in the journal Neurology found that even among a group of older people who already show signs of thinking problems, exercising regularly over six months and eating more healthfully can improve their performance on cognitive tests.

7. TIME’s 25 Most Influential Teens of 2018: So great to see young people out there making a difference. TIME’s annual list is determined by accolades across numerous fields, global impact through social media and overall ability to drive news.

8. Artist Anne Patterson Installs Buddhist Peace Offering Above Tribeca’s Bogardus Garden: Such a beautiful concept. Artist Anne Patterson is bringing a little Nepal to her Tribeca, New York, neighborhood. Patterson says she hopes her colorful hanging art installation, which adorns Bogardus Garden, will “…bring light and love and peace into this neighborhood.” 


For our Sunday Reflection this week, we share with you this beautiful poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He reminds us that the holiest of holidays are those moments we reflect inward, “by ourselves in silence and apart.” 


THE WOMEN’S ALZHEIMER’S MOVEMENT: a global movement of game changers, groundbreakers, and cultivators of hope. We’re working to change the future for all minds and wipe out Alzheimer’s. Join us.

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