Take a deep breath, everyone. The holidays are upon us. Thanksgiving is Nov. 25 this year, with the first Sunday of Advent on its heels and Christmas exactly a month later. Have you done your Christmas shopping yet? Started your Christmas shopping yet? Thought about your Christmas shopping yet? Yeah, me neither. Despite Teresa’s suggestion — maybe informed by stores’ holiday displays — that the holiday season starts at Halloween and runs through Valentine’s Day, it’s at Thanksgiving that I start feeling the pressure. I don’t even cook Thanksgiving dinner usually; my job is to show up at my sister-in-law’s house with a Costco pie and maybe shape the crescent rolls before they go in the oven. We’re back to that this year after doing everything at home last year, trying to keep everyone safe from COVID-19. This year, all of the adults have been vaccinated, and several of us have had boosters already. Even Teresa, not quite 12, has had her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and will be fully vaccinated by Christmas. Another reason to take a deep breath — this one of relief — and give thanks. Last year, everyone was looking to the holidays to bring some brightness to a dark time. Christmas lights in our neighborhood went up earlier and stayed up later last year than in previous years, and it seemed like outdoor displays were more elaborate. We shopped online and did curbside pickup last year, and we baked and made homemade decorations and had lots and lots of game nights with everyone home all the time. This year seems to have shifted back toward normal, or whatever normal is going to turn out to be, but it doesn’t feel like we’re there yet. As COVID-19 cases creep up as temperatures drop and Teresa begs to go somewhere — anywhere — on a train or a plane, I don’t know when it will feel that way again. So, deep breaths. Take time to appreciate the holidays and the family togetherness they bring, both with extended family members and with our own kids. Don’t lose the thread of what we celebrate at Christmas, either: the joy of the Incarnation, the gift of God made human, the way to salvation, the reason we all give one another Christmas gifts in the first place. Don’t forget, either, the anticipation of Advent, a season of joyful waiting, like children waiting breathlessly for their Christmas gifts. Now is the time for everyone to take a moment to remember all the things we have to be grateful for, from the simple ability to take those deep breaths to meals with family and the fun of happy surprises.