December 23, 2021 / Esther Choy

Holiday quotes can help us get in the celebratory spirit this holiday season


Sitting in his home office, Ben gets the invitation to the office holiday party. It will be virtual again, but the email makes it clear that it will be shorter than last year’s anti-climatic party. It had seemingly unending and awkward moments and long speeches, but none of the cheer brought by a glass of wine or a cheese plate.

This year’s party will include a box in the mail with all the ingredients for a specialty cocktail that he and all his colleagues will be able to make and enjoy together. Ben wants to be supportive of his team, but fatigued by the prolonged pandemic he finds himself wondering, “Do we really have to do this?”

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or ‎Eid al-Fitr or some combination of all or none of these, you can probably relate to Ben. The holidays can sometimes feel performative and hollow.

Here are five holiday quotes to help you get into the spirit of the season, with a focus on storytelling as a way to connect with the people around you. These quotes will help you to be present for what really matters.


I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favorite story. The pleasure is in the familiar way the story begins, the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending. — Fred Rogers, host of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

Mr. Rogers gets at the heart of the holidays with this quote. Tradition. We all have family, work or personal traditions that we indulge in. Maybe it’s listening to your Aunt Rose retell the story of how she met Bob Hope one Christmas day when she was just a girl. Or maybe it’s setting your great grandma’s menorah on your windowsill. Maybe it’s going to Dave & Busters with your colleagues and beating them at skeeball.

Whatever your traditions, savor them this year. Allow the familiar to wrap you in a warm blanket. If COVID is upending some of your traditions again, you can rekindle them through storytelling. Get your mom on video chat and cook together, telling stories about past celebrations to each other. Or relive your epic skeeball win with your coworkers by telling the story during your team holiday meeting.

(Learn more about why storytelling is so powerful.) 

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“It came to him that he didn’t like holidays. . . . They bore down on you. Each one always ended up feeling like an exam . . .” ― Lily King, author of Writers and Lovers and Five Tuesdays in Winter

If some of your traditions feel more like an exam, as Lily King so powerfully imagines in this holiday quote, it’s time to re-think them. With COVID changing the way we do so many things, you have the opportunity to do away with traditions that no longer serve you. You can start new, healthier ones. For example, perhaps the pressure of finding the perfect holiday gift for your brother  is no longer joyful. (He has everything, anyway.) propose that your family institute a book exchange instead.

Storytelling is not only a powerful way to connect with other people and make a case for change, reading stories can also make us happier. Anthropologist and author Ceridwen Dovey writes that “Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.”

Little tweaks to long standing traditions, can reinvigorate your holidays.


I don’t need a holiday or a feast to feel grateful for my children, the sun, the moon, the roof over my head, music, and laughter, but I like to take this time to take the path of thanks less traveled.  — Paula Poundstone, comedian


Paula Poundstone hits the nail on the head with this holiday quote. Holiday parties are a great excuse to express gratitude. Gratitude is a superhero; it seems there’s nothing it can’t do. Harvard Heath summarizes the research on the benefits of gratitude like this: “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

If you need help getting in the mood to celebrate, use parties as an opportunity to trade stories with the people in your life about what you are grateful for.


“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” — Maya Angelou, poet and author of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

In this quote, the poet reminds us of the richness of diversity, a value celebrated by many holidays this time of year. Shake up the usual holiday party banter to enrich your tapestry with some new threads. You can do this by asking crazy good questions to the people in your life and listen to the stories they have to tell you whether online or IRL.

When we ask crazy good questions, we give our colleagues a chance to tell their own unique stories. And we have the chance to practice our listening skills. Listening attentively is one of the best gifts we can give other people.

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There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. — Leonard Cohen, singer/songwriter

In the darkness of winter, being able to see the light is more important than ever.  Truthfully, darkness actually helps us recognize the light more clearly. During this season of shorter days and longer nights, many of the holidays incorporate light as symbols of celebration. The light of the menorah, the glow from kinara, the twinkle of the Christmas tree.

For many of us 2021 didn’t go as we had hoped. The pandemic lingers on and still impacts us professionally and personally. How can this Leonard Cohen holiday quote help you retell a story of a challenge from this past year? A great story depends on a point of view that is worthy of your listener. During this year’s holiday season, can you find a perspective from which you and your colleagues can joyfully celebrate?

(Learn how storytelling can build empathy in the workplace.)

Wishing you and yours peace, joy and rest for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022!


Esther Choy

Esther Choy founded Leadership Story Lab in 2010 to help others leverage the art of storytelling to create extraordinary opportunities.
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