There is no one who is more of a traditionalist than I. No time of year brings this more to my mind than the period of Thanksgiving through Christmas. So it is with great surprise that I have found myself celebrating Holidays in non-traditional ways in the last 15-17 years!
I remember well the Christmases I experienced as a young girl in Ohio, wanting each year to be the same as the one before. The joy of seeing beloved ornaments come out of the fragile boxes and being lovingly placed on the tree by the hands of one of my family was thorough and deep. My sisters and I would drape the stairs with evergreen boughs and decorate the big windows by the front door with colored Glass Wax that would, after the Holidays were over, allow the windows to be cleaned to a sparkle!
Back in those days our decorating was quite simple but so much fun and every decoration that came out year after year became more and more beloved with every passing year.
Soon enough tradition was broken when in 1967 my husband and I married two days before Christmas, during a leave he had from the Navy. It was not ideal and far from my dream of a spring wedding, but we took the date when we could and this was my first year away from home on Christmas and mighty hard even though I was happy to be with my true love. We took a tiny fake tree with us on our honeymoon and I strung a strand of colored lights around the mirror in the bathroom of our hotel room. I laugh at that first Christmas we had together and the simple joy we experienced!
Then came years of creating our own Christmas traditions and gathering our own tree and home décor. My husband’s inability to get the lights on the tree in any kind of fashion became part of the “tradition” and was a source of much laughing and joking, something that remains to this day. We spent years of hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas, having our family and parents each year.
Then came the first year when our oldest son could not return for Christmas. That was devastating to this Mom who really loved all the Holiday doings for both Holidays. He was working at a ski resort and arranged a family rate at the Hotel chain’s San Francisco location for us. It turned out to be a great idea as a dear friend from college found out and invited us to their house where we had our first ever west coast Christmas dinner of amazing crab legs and artichokes! Such fun!
Then came other Christmases with a son or two missing or happily with the addition of wives and grandchildren. But they changed over time with these fluctuating additions and subtractions. Our precious parents left this world, we welcomed in new daughters in law, and two dear grandsons. We are so rarely all together any more but each Christmas and Thanksgiving seems to work out perfectly, once I let go of my expectations and my desire to keep “everything the same”. If I open to possibilities and to new experiences I find that each experience, though different, can be joyous, full of love, and totally wonderful.
This year Bill and I were “alone”. The family had dispersed to be with the wives’ families and son Bill is in Costa Rica, arriving tomorrow with his girlfriend to visit. But today, Christmas, we were just the two of us, just how we started out 44 years ago. And you know, it was glorious fun. The sun is shining here in Florida, we swam and walked and went out for a delicious buffet where we met and talked with others like us and with families as well. We’ve had a glorious wonderful day, enjoying our phone conversations with our loved ones, and being in the moment.
Which has all come to teach me to let go and enjoy what is. I have learned I cannot change reality, but I can change my reaction to it. It’s not come easily or all at once but rather has been a process, and one which will probably keep going for years to come. Now we never have a year where the Holidays are the same. And we are richer for it. We have fabulous memories and experiences and enjoy the crazy quilt of our Holidays.
There is certainly nothing wrong with tradition but if you, like me, are forced by life’s circumstances into creating new experiences, I’m here to tell you it is a lot easier if you let go and allow them to come to you in joy rather than resisting and being sad that things ARE different. Been there, done that. Now I look forward to what comes next, knowing that life will be bringing us adventures unknown today.
May each Holiday be for you an adventure that opens your heart and deepens your joy. Blessings to all!