Of all the holidays, secular and religious, people celebrate, just one is marked, if only for a short time, by something of a miraculous transformation.
Caught up in what seems to be an ever-accelerating culture in many ways, we slow down for a few hours. We enjoy family and friends - even people we don't really know - as on no other occasion.
As accustomed as we are to news that makes us worry - about the economy, politics, health and violence - we still find ourselves on edge most of the time. Except for once a year, when, for just a few hours, it doesn't really matter what is in the headlines.
For about 11 months of the year, we watch our spending closely. Charity begins at home, after all.
Not now. For weeks, Western New York residents have opened their wallets and purses wide, in the hope the holiday season really can be merry for everyone.
In our hearts, faith sometimes is an afterthought. We believe, each in his or her own way - but we are sometimes too private about our religion.
That changes in late December. The Christian faith becomes more a part of our everyday thoughts. We behave, as we admit to ourselves, as we wish we did 365 days a year.
It is the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the first part of a promise fulfilled for those of our faith. Only Easter surpasses the importance of this holiday for Christians.