However one celebrates the holiday season, there’s little doubt there’s something magical in the air this time of year.

Those looking for evidence need to look no further than the pages of this very newspaper. The Leader-Telegram’s annual Holiday Memories essay contest this year drew nearly 150 entries.

Subject matter for the stories included religion, belief, charity, joy and family. Consider the following from first-place award-winners in their respective age categories:

• Claire Henneman, a junior at Bloomer High School, wrote of a Christmas morning letter her parents wrote when she was in the fifth grade. It’s an age when some stop believing in the “traditional” Santa Claus.

“Santa is how we learn to believe in something you can’t see or touch, something you’ll need in life to believe in yourself, your family, friends and God,” the letter cited by Henneman read. “He lives in our hearts, not the North Pole, and Santa himself is magic, hope and happiness.”

• Fifth-grader Lily Gagnon of Altoona wrote of a Christmas two years prior when a Hatchimal made her day despite the fact she was suffering from a stomach illness.

“Even though I was extremely sick, I still had a big smile on my face,” Gagnon wrote. “And that is the story of how I got sick on Christmas, but also got my dream toy.”

• Jaxson Batz, an Altoona sixth-grader, wrote about serving food to the homeless over Thanksgiving break. The experience of providing food for the less fortunate “was the greatest feeling I have ever had,” he wrote. “When they started to walk through, I just started to think about how thankful I am for a loving mom and dad, a house, food and a family.”

The winning entry in the adult division will be published in Monday’s newspaper.

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Rasmussen Reports, a nonpartisan electronic media company specializing in public polling, released Thursday the results of its most recent surveys.

Although politics dominated the report, the survey of 1,000 American adults also found that many “Americans don’t plan to be a Scrooge this Christmas and are instead planning to donate to charity in the name of holiday spirit.”

Eighty percent of respondents said they are at least “somewhat likely” to make a charitable donation of some kind this year. That includes 58 percent, who are “very likely” to do so. The figures are significantly higher than they were four years ago.

The holiday season is a time to promote unity and relinquish divisiveness, celebrate what we have in common and not dwell on our differences, lift others up while forgiving ourselves for perceived shortcomings.

May your celebrations with family and friends be jubilant and your gifts well-received. Happy holidays from all of us at the Leader-Telegram.

Liam Marlaire, assistant editor