By Jason A. Smith
I love the Christmas season. It's a time when families gather together, exchange gifts, watch classic holiday movies and, of course, eat large amounts of food.
My family has had a number of long-standing traditions over the years as it relates to Christmas, such as opening one present on Christmas Eve, and visiting my grandparents on Christmas Day.
Those traditions have had to be altered somewhat in recent years, for various reasons.
My grandfather died several years ago, and my grandmother is now in a nursing home. As for all of us kids opening presents early, we're all grown now, and haven't been able to relive that memory in quite a while.
However, I'm excited about this Christmas for several reasons. For one thing, as I've mentioned before, this year has been pivotal for my family, as evidenced by the two additions who will have presents at the Smith Christmas celebration -- my six-month-old nephew, and my new sister-in-law.
Another reason I'm excited about this Christmas, is because of various people in my life who aren't blood-related to me, but are considered family, nonetheless. I've either met or become reacquainted this year, with people whom I cherish and love deeply.
Their presence in my life is a gift I am truly thankful for this Christmas.
I was thinking about those individuals over the weekend, when my wife and I attended a holiday party in Locust Grove with some friends. The occasion was dubbed the "Dysfunctional Family Christmas."
None of the people at the party were related to each other, yet all are considered family by my friends who hosted the gathering. Before I went there, I knew a few people fairly well and had heard of a few others several times since my wife and I got married. But, I wasn't completely sure how well I would fit in with those who were strangers to me.
Any fears I might have had were quickly dashed, as everyone who was there seemed to get along as if we'd all known each other for years. We played games, watched movies, ate amazing food and spent the evening enjoying each other's company, even though most of us had only met earlier that night.
To put it another way, we acted the way a family is supposed to act, particularly during the holidays. By the end of the night, we had basically adopted each other into our respective families.
The people who were at that Christmas party will never replace my actual family, and I would never want them to. I am blessed with wonderful parents and siblings whom I love more every day.
But, I learned a long time ago that family is about more than just blood.
For that reason, I can't wait to see what the coming year holds, and I am looking forward to expanding my circle of friends -- my family -- even more.
Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.