At this time of the year, our early ancestors may have greeted you with..."Feliz Navidad", " fröhliche Weihnachten", "Wesolych Swiat" , "Buon Natale", but we want to wish you a "Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays". We thank our many readers for their holiday greetings and best wishes. Also, we extend grateful appreciation to so many of our readers for their outpouring of thoughtful comments received during the past eight and one-half years that this column has been in print. Your generous words, thoughtful ideas, and warm holiday greetings mean much to this columnist. Truly, this is that season for timely reflections.

The following holiday thoughts are tempered by the background of this columnist who was brought up during the great depression years of the 1930's in the rural farm hills of western New York. We did not have much in abundance materially, no one did; but, what was abundant was the sharing of friendly greetings with and for one another. Most of us did not have the latest cloths or designer "whatevers." "Hand -me- downs" were common special gifts. We were taught that the warmth of a friendly greeting and the kindness of a good deed were the most important gifts of all.

Today, the brisk wintry season is at the threshold and the crisp temperatures are knocking at our door. But the frigid winds on the outside is moderated by the warmth of peoples' hearts on the inside. This is a season to rejoice, to renew contacts with friends, and to bring joy to those who are in need of friendship's generosity. To be sure, there is the normal hustle and bustle and last minute things to do. For children and for some adults, the waiting time seems to move so slowly, and for others, the time seems to move so quickly. But, most of us seem to enjoy the holiday quickened pace; we seem to cherish it just as it is.

As with the lives of many of our friends and neighbors, young and old, there is the feeling of anticipation. And then, there are some in our midst who at this time of the year who seem to feel the burden of loneliness. Many of us empathize with those who are full of joyous anticipation as well as those who feel a bit on the nostalgic side of remembering times past. Most of us, if not all, have experienced the "joyous ups" and the "lonely downs." We know the joy which comes from giving and we know too, the need to receive the gift of a friendly genuine human touch. We know the pleasure of helping to fulfill the cherished needs of others, as others have so kindly done for us. Will you join us in our holiday "gift wish" for others?

For those who are young at heart, we ask that they be given the gift of a gentle hand of nurtured reassurance. For the adults in our midst, we ask that they be given strength, patience, and resilience at a time when there is a degree of uncertainty all around us. For those who have reason for sadness, our hope is that they may find the gift of comfort in cherished hopes and memories. And to those of our neighbors who have suffered the ravages of natural disaster or harship, we ask that their gift may be that their lives may be put back together, and in their aspirations, may they find enriching fulfillment.

Our Christmas gift wish list includes the men and women of our armed forces who sacrificed their lives for us, we are supremely thankful and our hearts go out to their loved ones. To the men and women of our armed forces a special "thank you" from a grateful and humble people. And to the leaders of our Country, we ask that they may be blessed with insight, virtue, and discernment of wisdom, so to have the character to effectively lead a willing, dedicated, and thankful people.

And so, from our heart to your home, we are reminded of these words "Good friends are like stars...You don't always see them, but you know they are always there." Greetings, dear friends and neighbors everywhere, "Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Holiday greetings to ALL!"