“I’ll be home for Christmas. You can plan on me. Please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree. Christmas Eve will find me where the love light gleams. I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”

“Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays, ‘cause no matter how far away you roam, when you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze, for the holidays, you can’t beat home sweet home.”

These are the lyrics of two favorite Christmas tunes that we all know and love. It seems that when we talk about Christmas, we almost always tie it to “home.” The old saying “home is where the heart is” is an accurate definition, in my opinion. Lots of folks will be joining together with family over the next couple of days and celebrating Christmas. When you have family that lives away, you may be traveling to go see them. We left Friday, Dec. 17 and drove to Georgia for a few days to visit our daughter and her family. We had our “Christmas” with them. Driving around looking at Christmas lights, going to church, watching Christmas movies, shopping, eating... all of it was amazing, but the thing I love most about it is that when we are together, even in Georgia, we are still “home for the holidays.”

When I was growing up, we pretty much stayed in Bethany. We would open our family gifts on Christmas Eve and then wake up Christmas morning and see what Santa had brought us. Christmas Day would consist of playing with new toys, seeing what your friends got, etc., and lots of family time.

Joining the Dillard family had a new set of traditions. The Dillards have a Christmas breakfast and have had one for decades. Jim and Nancy still host it, and Daddy Jack will be joining us. The start time has changed a bit (we used to get there by 8 a.m., now breakfast is at 10 a.m., which is great). The menu is still pretty much the same — pork tenderloin, scrambled eggs, gravy, biscuits and Bubba’s homemade cinnamon roll. Nancy makes the cinnamon roll, and Bubba would be proud.

As I get older, I sit back and just enjoy the sights, the sounds, the smells, the love of Christmas. Watching a granddaughter get overly-excited about the smallest of gifts; smelling homemade “fill in the blank” as it comes out of the oven; listening to Christmas music you remember singing when you were younger. I could go on and on.

But the thing I love most, I think, is the “home” aspect of Christmas. Being surrounded by those you love and care about is, in itself, a giant gift that continues to be unwrapped and enjoyed by all. It isn’t a gift for just one person; it’s a gift that includes everyone. Home isn’t necessarily a geographical location; it’s a feeling, an emotion, a group of people. Home truly is where the heart is.

So, as we enjoy the anticipation of the next few days, let us enjoy the gift of “home.” Let us never grumble and complain if we can’t all be together on Dec. 25. That’s a date on the calendar. We can celebrate Christmas wherever, whenever... as long as we have the gift of “home.”

In 1943, a song was written from the point of view of a soldier stationed overseas during World War II, writing a letter to his family. In the letter, he tells his family he will be coming home and to prepare the holiday for him, and requests snow, mistletoe and presents. The song ends with a melancholy note “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”

May all our “dreams come true” this Christmas season. Merry Christmas to you and yours from the Dillard “home”: Jerry, Dawn and Ryker (Longview); Deke, Andrea, Sloane, Judah, Murphy and Dakota (Hallsville); Fancy, Steven, Asher and Teegan (Gainesville, Ga).

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— Dawn Dillard is a proud East Texas gal who loves all things southern especially cooking, music and family. She can be reached via email at