Written by our Founder and CEO, the Celebrations Pulse letters aim to engage with our community. By welcoming your ideas and sharing your stories, we want to help you strengthen your relationships with the most important people in your life.

December is the season of rituals, 31 days packed with cultural, religious, and family activities that brighten short days and create cherished memories. Whether you celebrate HanukkahChristmasKwanzaa, and don’t forget about New Year’s, rituals connect us to each other and to past and future generations.

My favorite – and one of the earliest I remember – is the annual visit to Santa Claus. As a boy growing up in Queens, New York, I recall my mom taking all my brothers and sisters to sit on Santa’s lap at a certain department store on 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan.

For me, as well as my siblings, the ritual instilled a sense of the magic of Christmas and resulted in photos that we still cherish today. The visits also reinforced good behavior through the year as we tried to avoid Jolly Old St. Nick’s naughty list.

Like all rituals, the visit to Santa carried multiple layers of meaning that revealed themselves as I grew older. Santa’s generosity and kindness (thank you for overlooking a few “naughty” incidents over the years!) served as an introduction to the power of giving to children everywhere.

jim mccann santa spirit

The spirit of Santa

Aside from some milk, a few cookies, and good behavior, Santa shared his wealth of toys and candy without getting anything in return. The joy of giving – and lighting up children’s faces on Christmas morning – was his reward.

Certain facts about Santa have come to light as we grew older. But his giving nature stayed with us, and as parents and grandparents, we use our own experiences to deepen the traditions for our children and grandchildren.

The rituals involving Santa are for many of us the starting point of a lifetime of giving. We give to others as Santa gave to us – for the joy we receive and the emotions it evokes. And it expands beyond family to our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers.

A few weeks ago, I asked the community to share stories about what motivates them to give, whether over the holidays or the rest of the year. The response was humbling, and it made clear that there’s a little bit – or a lot – of Santa in all of us, regardless of faith.

Why our community gives

For Patti, letting people know how special they are to her and how grateful she is for them, is the way she lives her life. She also remembers that it’s OK to be a gift recipient because she realizes other people most likely enjoy giving as much as she does.

The thought that someone is just thinking about you is such a special feeling, particularly when you least expect it. I believe, as humans, we all want to be seen and cared about. Gift giving is one way to do that. Small or large, goofy or practical, or maybe even just a card with a special note, it’s the love and thoughtfulness of gifting that really enhances life.

As a child, Rebecca tried to always listen to her grandmother who gave, shared, and prayed for family members and friends who needed assistance. Rebecca’s grandma always taught her not to be selfish by giving and helping others.

As an adult, I’ve carried my grandma’s caring thoughts throughout my life and given back to the community, family, and friends. As a child, our family didn’t have a lot, but we were thankful for what we had. Every day, I’m blessed that I can give back and share my blessings with others like Grandma did.

Connie shared how she learned how to give as a child, when her generous father allowed her to gift a makeup set with a friend who lived in a less fortunate family. The friend took it among herself to share it with other friends and spread the joy of the present.

Today, Connie sends popcorn and cookie gifts to friends and co-workers.

Life is meant to be shared. For me, giving gifts is a celebration of the abundance and richness of life. I have a fulfilling career and lots of loving family, friends, and colleagues. It’s my belief that sharing and giving back is an essential response to all the blessings I’ve received.

As the stories from our community show, Giving is the Gift.

All the best,

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Jim McCann is the founder, CEO, and chairman of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. as well as a business leader, author, and philanthropist with a passion for helping people deliver smiles. Devoted to helping others, he also founded Smile Farms, a 501(c)3 organization that provides meaningful jobs in agricultural settings to young adults and adults with developmental disabilities.

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