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Unidentified Man #1: I believe in figuring my own way to do things.

Unidentified Woman #1: I believe in the power of numbers.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe in barbecue.

Unidentified Woman #2: Well, I believe in friendliness.

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in mankind.

Unidentified Man #4: This I believe.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

For our Monday series, This I Believe, we invite you to submit statements of personal conviction. Today is just one of the more than 20,000 we've received. It's from Melinda Shoaf, a homemaker and mother of four from Memphis, Tennessee.

Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON: After last year's holiday season, Melinda Shoaf sat down to write her essay for our series. We recorded her after this year's holiday, and she told us that her belief has become all the more solid for having put it down in words the year before.

Here is Melinda Shoaf with her essay for This I Believe.

Ms. MELINDA SHOAF: I believe that if you're the person in your family who arranged for and executed the celebration this past holiday season, well, you're probably still tired. You may be wondering why you spent so much on presents, why you had to have your house just right, why you had friends over for drinks when you were already weary and worn out. You may be thinking you're getting too old for all of this, or you may be thinking you're too young.

If you know what I'm talking about, you're probably your family's designated celebrator. That is, the one who sees to it that a holiday actually happens in the lives of your loved ones. After New Year's I was sitting at the breakfast table in a stupor. My husband asked if I was all right. I'm exhausted, I answered. I'm totally exhausted. He looked puzzled. Why do you do this to yourself every year?

I have to admit that part of what I do around the winter holidays seems almost involuntary, innate. It's as if I'm driven by the ancient need to mark the darkness of winter with my little bit of light. My answer to my husband's question is that I believe one of the most important things I can do while I'm on this planet is honor those I love through celebrations, and the older I get, the more I believe it.

When my children were small, their father lost his job. It took a decade to recover emotionally and financially. Hot water and electricity were luxuries that weren't always available; meals were a challenge. I tried to hide it from them, but I was constantly afraid of losing our home. Those celebrations were so sparse, the future so uncertain, that the ground seemed to be shifting beneath us.

So now celebrations mean that much more to me. This year I polished the silver, lit the candles, made sure a sprig of holly was carefully tacked above every window. I served a $12 bottle of wine instead of a $7 one. I bought lamb chops instead of a roast. Little things, just so we'd remember this day, this night.

I believe that in this world there is and always has been so much sadness and sorrow, so much uncertainty, that if we didn't set aside time for merriment, gifts, music and laughter with family and friends, we might just forget to celebrate all together. We'd just plod along in life.

I believe in the importance of celebrations. As my family's designated celebrator I may be tired and I may not have done all that I set out to do, but I believe that this year I celebrated the ones I love, and I hope with all my heart that I celebrated them well.

ALLISON: Melinda Shoaf, with her essay for This I Believe. As many essayists do, Shoaf read her essay first to her children. Her daughter said, now I understand. To contribute your statement to our series and to see what others have written, visit our Web site, npr.org.

For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: Next Monday on MORNING EDITION, a This I Believe essay from Sacramento listener Becky Hears(ph). Her husband is serving in Iraq.

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