a special christmas briefing

Great holiday reads and a look back at the year.

This year, Churchtown Dairy in Claverack, N.Y., drew hundreds of carolers.Alexandra Genova for The New York Times

At a dairy farm in New York this month, carolers serenaded a herd of 28 cattle. Across Europe, Christmas markets popped up like fairy-dusted street fairs. And there’s cheer to be found even in the farthest reaches of the cosmos — the winking lights of the Christmas Tree Galaxy Cluster shine from approximately 4.3 billion light-years away.

For much of the Northern Hemisphere, late December brings the shortest days of the year. The holidays are a welcome explosion of light, cheer and respite from the darkness.

You don’t need to be celebrating Christmas, either. It’s the season of Kwanzaa, founded less than a century ago by a Southern Californian Black Power activist to provide an alternative to a “white” Christmas. Hanukkah wrapped up a few weeks ago — but latkes and doughnuts are a welcome addition to any table.

Perhaps you plan to spend today watching “Die Hard” or “A Christmas Story” or “The Snowman.” You might have started your Monday at Christmas Mass, or maybe you’ll be finishing it with Chinese food and a movie. You may be visiting family, or setting time aside to volunteer, or spending a day of relative quiet in blissful solitude. You might be moonlighting as Santa Claus. (And if today is another work day for you, we tip our hats to you.)

Whatever kind of Christmas Day you’re having, we’re wishing you a joyful one. (We’ll return to normal programming tomorrow.)

For now, your briefing writers in Melbourne, Australia (Natasha), and London (Amelia) are toasting to you, and to another year together.

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