No, holiday spirit – whatever it is – isn’t something we can command and experience at will. Instead, it’s something that pops up at the oddest moment, stays no particular amount of time, and then disappears almost as quickly as it came.

And that’s if you’re lucky and it shows up at all.

So where does that leave us if we can’t track down holiday spirit, we can’t buy it, and we don’t want to wait for it to arrive divinely?

Thinking back in time, the one place I could count on being exposed to holiday spirit was at a church or an elementary school or mall or somewhere else where young children were presenting a holiday-inspired play or story or musical performance.

If it has been years since you’ve attended something like this, and maybe then only because you were coerced more or less at gunpoint by a well-meaning friend or relative, here’s what you’ll probably see: a sweetness and genuineness not found in the department stores or online shopping arcades, and a guaranteed opportunity to transport yourself back to a time when the holiday spirit literally overtook our lives.

Perhaps you’ll see the shy but talented young singer, the one who knows every word to her portion of the song but is still concerned about her moment in the spotlight so that she barely whispers into the microphone.

Or you’ll see the loud and boisterous young man, eager to grab the mike and cut loose with an obliviously energetic off-key rendition of whatever he’s supposed to be singing.

Or maybe you’ll see the excruciatingly frightened young girl, toes anxiously tapping and fingers nervously working back and forth, awaiting her turn in the limelight, fighting back tears as she hopes against hope she’ll deliver her lines correctly.

And you’ll definitely see rows and rows of parents, leaning forward ever-so-slightly when it’s their kids’ turn, silently mouthing the words and smiling broadly and reflecting the anxiousness and confidence and excitement and anticipation of the holiday season in one happy and spontaneous and tearful moment.

Take a look around this season, and you’ll find a place like this. Ask a friend or neighbor, particularly a proud parent, if you need to be pointed in the right direction.

It’s no secret that holiday spirit becomes harder and harder to corral as we grow older and presumably wiser, but it’s still out there, waiting to be discovered as it’s reflected in the bright faces and smiling eyes that might have been ours once upon a time.