Traditions have always been a big part of my holiday celebrations. We always use our good china for the meals at Easter and Thanksgiving, my Christmas tree is lit with the old-fashioned bulbs of my childhood, and champagne must be served on New Year’s Eve. I go a little overboard when decorating my house at Christmas, but the actual process goes quickly because I put the exact same decorations in the exact same place every year.
I suppose I like my holiday traditions so much because they remind me of the happy celebrations of years past. Carrying on traditions of my childhood might also be a way of honoring family members who have passed. (This could be why it was years before I was able to ignore my father’s strict rules about decorating a Christmas tree: smallest ornaments on the top, biggest ornaments on the bottom, a white light bulb at the top of the tree, and if icicles are used, only one strand may be placed on each branch. I felt like true rebel the first time I hung a large ornament near the top of the tree and dared to put three strands of icicles on an especially bare branch.)
But for whatever reason, I’ve always held on tightly to my holiday traditions, and only changed them when I had to in order to accommodate the changes in my growing family. But then the year 2020 happened, and I decided that it’s rather pointless to try to hold on to traditions in a year when the world has been basically turned upside down.
So this year, we had our family dinner with just our kids on the night before Thanksgiving, and my mother joined my sister and her husband for their own separate dinner. My husband and I spent Thanksgiving day putting up our Christmas tree and hanging our outdoor lights, adding a new string of Christmas lights around our patio. While I have absolutely no idea how we’ll be celebrating Christmas this year, I do know it will be very different from years past.
And you know what? I’m mostly okay with it. Sure, I worry about my 90-year old mother’s emotional health if she has to be alone on Christmas, but I’ll do everything in my power to prevent that. (Because when you’re 90, “staying apart this year so we can be together next year” has a very hollow ring to it.) But I’m also learning that different doesn’t always mean worse. And there’s something kind of liberating about knowing that I can’t keep up with all my traditions this year, because that means that I’m free to think of new ways to celebrate the holidays that work in these strange and trying times.
I’m truly hoping that next year we will be able to celebrate the holidays however we please. But this year, I’m going to have to rely on a major change of attitude and expectations to get me through the season. And who knows? In the midst of all this craziness, I just might just find a new tradition that is worth keeping long after this pandemic is gone.