From the Editor

’Tis the Season of Joy By Wendy O. Dixon

As we celebrate the blessings and family traditions of Christmas every year, the holiday season brings a thrill to my soul.

My family starts the celebration each year by decorating the tree. Since it’s trendy to have a theme for a tree, I call our theme “Toy Land Traditional.” The top half of the tree looks like one of those you might see on display at Macy’s, filled with traditional gold and red ornaments – some family heirlooms, some I’ve collected over the years.

But as you look down, you’ll see Spiderman and Luke Skywalker, small John Deere tractors, and Lego cars and trucks tucked in the branches. The clear divide in décor coincides with the reach level of my two sons, John Patrick, 11, and Ryan, 9. I gave up on having my Macy’s tree when the boys decided my decorations were just plain boring.

It has always been a chore to get them to smile sweetly at the camera for our Christmas photos. They hate getting dressed up, hate smiling and hate standing tall. The photo shoot usually puts us all in a really bad mood.

This year, my husband, Sean, and I told the boys they didn’t have to smile, just do what comes naturally. The result? Rabbit ears behind their parents’ heads.

On Christmas morning, I am the one who wakes up every hour, starting at around 2 a.m., to see if the boys have come in to see what Santa brought them. Once I hear the pitter-patter of little feet enter the living room, I jump out of bed and think, “Finally, it’s time!”

Even though my kids will say the best part about Christmas is getting all those presents, I’ve noticed they are also happy to give gifts to their loved ones – and even strangers. Sometimes they don’t even see the recipients of their gifts, as when they give toys in support of Operation Christmas Child, an organization that sends gifts and the message of God’s love to impoverished children around the world. They enjoy going to the store to pick out a truck or a superhero for kids who live in places like Kazakhstan, Russia or Liberia.

Even in these lean economic times, you are giving to charities, churches and families in need. The Emerald Coast is full of givers.

Barbi Carroll, president of Mission Love Seeds, a local nonprofit organization that helps villages in the Philippines, as well as families in Mississippi and Kentucky, says the residents of the Emerald Coast are a generous bunch of folks, adopting 298 Filipino families and 200 Mississippi families last year.

Administrators of the Ronald McDonald House of Northwest Florida, which provides a “home away from home” for families of children who are suffering a medical crisis, are pleased with the support they get from many local businesses, especially since they are continuing to raise funds for their $5 million campaign to build a larger house to accommodate more families in need.

And many more local organizations say the Emerald Coast residents are a generous, giving and caring community. Well done.

From of all of us at Emerald Coast Magazine, happy holidays. May the joy of the season carry you through the year.