I'm not sure which is the larger "non-holiday holiday" -- today, Christmas Eve (and please exchange that holiday for any denominational holiday you'd like), or one week from today, New Year's Eve. They're very different holidays, of course, but they're both "holidays-that-aren't-actually-holidays." 

When I think back to Christmas Eve as a child, I think of the cold Chicago-area weather outside (feeling it through the windows and under the doors), plenty of snow on the ground, darkness falling by four in the afternoon, a fire in the fireplace by five, and food with family. I think of the anticipation of opening presents that evening and the next morning. My father would go to work for half a day on Christmas Eve, which I always thought unfortunate but came to understand, and when he came home and our grandparents arrived, the holiday would really begin.

To dispel the notion of a Norman Rockwell upbringing, there were plenty of arguments over the holidays. My siblings were adept at fighting (not me, no, never) -- all of us "running around like wild Indians" and "roughhousing," as my grandmother always called it.

Then when I think back on New Year's Eve, I remember the nervous feeling that I first had in middle school or high school, or whenever I hit that age when you first start thinking that you should do something big for New Year's Eve or you're missing out.

So, when I think "Christmas Eve," I think -- like many of us -- of family.

When I think "New Year's Eve," I think -- like many of us -- of social events. Alongside this come other feelings we all share. The feeling of passing time. Another year. Looking forward to the next, to something new, and to continually trying to improve upon life.

In mid-December, Robert Brokamp (TMF Bro) said he'd already started his New Year's resolution, because his resolution was not to procrastinate. I thought this was rather witty. Naturally, he was kidding.

2003 product ideas
I'm trying not to procrastinate, too. With 2002 almost in the books as another terrible year for stocks (the third in a row), I'm hoping to find some great investments at good prices for 2003. Motley Fool analysts believe they've found 12 such stocks. They write about them in the Fool's newest publication, Stocks 2003. Consider this compendium if you're interested in buying a few stocks next year and want some new ideas -- now that stock prices have come down so much.

Throughout 2003, the Fool will present other new stocks ideas every month, as we did this year, both in Motley Fool Select and Motley Fool Stock Advisor. The latter is David and Tom Gardner's market-beating stock newsletter, wherein each brother offers his favorite stocks. Meanwhile, Motley Fool Select offers three in-depth stock ideas every month from Motley Fool analysts who analyze stocks every day, along with a special feature and a review and update of past stock ideas. Both products will be our pulse on 2003 as it unfolds.

The Fool's new left navigation bar
As always, the Fool offers so many free things that you couldn't list them all. Well, you almost could. If you're reading this on our website (rather than the free e-mail service), look to your left. Well, scroll up and then look to your left. We have redesigned our left navigation bar to list almost all the topics that the Fool offers content on -- including 401(k)s, credit cards, home mortgages, insurance, mutual funds, car buying, retirement, taxes... and much more.

Use our left navigation bar to your heart's content to find information -- and facilitate action -- on almost any personal finance topic. The Fool's hope is that this information will help you throughout your life -- to make better financial decisions and to eventually reach financial independence, if, like most of us, you're not there yet.

Our stocks
This time of year also makes us look back on the year that was. In this portfolio, one of our most interesting companies (I believe) is Millennium Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: MLNM). In 2002, Millennium initiated six phase I, II, or III human trials on drug candidates, while canceling one trial (an oral one). Two of its drugs were given a rare award from the Food and Drug Administration, granting them fast-track status. One of these drugs, Velcade for cancer, will be submitted for approval in early 2003.

Biotech stocks are out of favor right now, with many -- including Millennium -- near 52-week lows. This is a much better time to consider them as a long-term investment, rather than when they're soaring. Don't consider them lightly, though. Only one out of hundreds of biotech companies ever succeeds. We hope Millennium will be one.

Performance-wise, Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) did well this year, rising from $11 to top $20. We'll see in January if its full-year results and cash flow will be enough to sustain the share price. eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) had a banner year and the stock rose slightly on the heels of about doubling in 2001.

But next year, Millennium is what I'm interested in most -- Millennium and Isis Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ISIS), which has had a flurry of news in the last two weeks. I want to see these companies' first real drugs get to market. They may, with luck,  in 2003, and it could prove a boon to the entire biotech industry, let alone to patients.

It's time to celebrate the holidays; consider giving to others if you can; and have a joyful one!

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. You can view each columnist's stock holdings.

Rule Breaker Portfolio Returns as of 12/23/02 Market Close:

            RB        S&P     S&P 500
            Port      500      DA*    Nasdaq
Week        0.43%    -1.43%    --     -1.33%
Month      -0.52%    -4.16%    --     -6.57%
Year -19.36% -21.84% -- -29.16%
using IRR** since 8/4/94*** 21.46% 8.33% 10.94% 8.07%
10/20/98*** 2.91% -6.64% -3.64% -8.40%
*Dividends added. Or, danger ahead. Whatever.

**Compound Annual Growth Rate using Internal Rate of Return. This performance measure is more meaningful than total return because we began adding cash occasionally in July 2001. In a total return calculation, or ((Current Value - All Cash Deposited)/All Cash Deposited), cash added would show up as returns. And that wouldn't be cricket!

***What's this? The Rule Breaker Portfolio's precursor, the Fool Portfolio, was born Aug. 4, 1994. In a 10/20/98 column, David Gardner announced the name change of the Fool Portfolio to the Rule Breaker Portfolio. Here we provide returns as if the RB Port started on either date. Remember, don't mimic any online portfolio. Most individual investors should restrict any positions as risky as these to under 20% of their portfolio -- and could have a long and happy investing life with 0%.