At the risk of coming across as sentimentally tone-deaf, I recently told a friend that Christmas would rank no higher than fifth on my list of favorite holidays. I love Santa Claus, have spent most of my Christmas mornings in the snow-white beauty of Vermont, and relish a thoughtful gift as much as most 10-year-olds. But the fact is, there are four holidays that have come to mean more to me. Here they are, in ascending order.• Valentine’s Day — I’m in love with my wife of 17 years, and I enjoy a day when it’s a recognized obligation of mine to acknowledge how much I love my spouse. I try to make sure she knows this truth year-round, but distractions interfere. I’m lucky to be in love; glad there’s a holiday to remind me.• St. Patrick’s Day — I’ve got Irish blood, which is a blessing on most days and a reminder every day that passion is important. It’s not necessarily Irishness that makes me feel so strongly (one way or the other) about most matters, but I’m convinced the way we’re wired (our ancestry) is an important element to self-identity. And I take pride in my ancestry. On top of that, my dad was born on St. Patrick’s Day. March 17th means a lot to me, not only because of who I am but for the Murtaughs who came before me.• Thanksgiving — With every healthy year, I find more reasons to be thankful. Particularly as the Great Recession extends her ugly tentacles further than any of us would like. Gratitude is so easy, yet so rare on your average day. I’ve begun pointing out the sky to my daughters on certain evenings, with the sunset a certain shade, or explaining to them why the joy of my favorite team’s first championship makes my step lighter. These are “free” elements of life that should be recognized for the miracles they are. And they should never be taken for granted. Turkey and football are mere supplements to this wonderful holiday.• Father’s Day — There’s a selfish component to this. I lost my dad six years ago, and his absence is pronounced on the third Sunday in June. I endure his loss by emphasizing my own role as father to the two loveliest daughters in the world. There’s no more important role I’ll play, however long I’m given in this life. (Along with the partnership I’ve embraced with their mother; see Valentine’s Day.) My daughters (and wife, for that matter) think they’re celebrating me when they come up with special surprises and a few extra hugs on the finest Sunday of the year. What they’re actually doing is reminding me of the greatest gifts in any man’s life, should that man be as fortunate as I am. (See Thanksgiving.)My wife took the above picture on Father’s Day a year ago. Aside from a wedding shot or two, it may be my favorite picture of me ever taken. A baseball glove on my left hand, a St. Louis Cardinal hat on my head, my bare feet in the grass of leftfield at AutoZone Park, my home away from home. And my daughters — Sofia and Elena — under each arm, smiling as brightly as I am. Sorry, but Christmas morning can’t touch this. You’ll find me at the ballpark this Sunday night, soaking up my favorite holiday. Again.