Because Christmas falls on different days each year, Advent can last 22 to 28 days, although there are always four Sundays in the Advent “season.” This year, Advent starts today, and lasts 25 days.

Advent, by definition, is to wait expectantly, and to prepare for the coming, or arrival, of something, or someone, extremely important.

I know I don’t need to spell it out, but Jesus is the reason for this season. I wore a pin proclaiming that sentiment on my lapel for many years. Years that I taught in the public schools. I’m a bit of a rebel that way.

Although I’m not all that “religious” by nature, I resented the name-changing of “Christmas Vacation” to “Winter Break,” and sited my age and “forgetfulness” when I wished someone a “Merry Christmas” instead of the more politically-correct “Happy Holidays” for the duration of my career.

I used to be quite close with a man who converted to a cult that doesn’t believe in Christmas. That first year, I sent him a Christmas card anyway. He called to tell me I wasn’t “respecting” his “religion” by doing that.

“It’s the other way around,” I replied. “You’re not respecting MY beliefs by NOT sending me a card.” And while “live and let live” is generally my motto, that particular day I wasn’t feeling all that generous of spirit.

And the bottom line is that this season, more than any other, IS all about the spirit of things. Love and tolerance should be our code, and I admit I blew it that day. Although, when I think about it, I still think it was funny, so maybe I’m just incorrigible at heart.

So whether it’s the Spirit of Christmas, the Spirit of St. Louis, or the Spirits of Johnny Walker and Captain Morgan that you choose to embrace on this first day of Advent, I wish you unequivocal peace, joy, and love.

Just don’t get between me and the chocolate in the Advent Calendar.

(What an example of a messed-up, goofy, delicious tradition! I embrace them ALL!)