The days after Christmas are quiet. The fireplace makes the house snug and the pace is slow. Before the calendar moves full steam ahead again, I enjoy finding time for reflecting. This post began, in my thoughts, as three things I learned during Christmas. I started a mental list of “notes to self” that had become clear to me over the last few weeks of Christmas – and holiday celebrating, in general. I like to process, to ruminate and, yes to over-think things. But these notes were good things and helpful – not only for my family but, particularly, for me.
As my list began to take shape, it quickly became obvious that my thoughts, and lessons learned, easily all fell into one category. Change. Not simply change, but my willingness to not only accept change but to embrace it. Even to enjoy it. For me, this was huge and it had a major impact on our holiday.
The first one, or two, or five Christmases after you lose a loved one are hard. They are forever different and it can take several holiday celebrations to process the changes and to establish the new. Of course, this was true for me as a grieving mom. Christmas would never be the same – but there would still be Christmas, and even the reason to celebrate Christmas. It just took me quite awhile to reconcile that in my heart and to find the ways my family could “do” Christmas differently.
But grief is not the only thing that can bring change at the holidays. It might be that married children want to stay at their home, begin their own new traditions, or even spend the holiday with “the other side.” Numerous other changes in family dynamics – divorces, marriages, new babies, etc. – can impact everyone. Perhaps a job or other move has you continents away from what is familiar and “traditional” for you at Christmas. Finances, health or other circumstances might force you to do things completely different. For someone like me who not only thrives on routine but really depends upon it…these type of changes can threaten to do more than drain your holly-jolly but they can truly rob your joy.
One silly example for me, this year, was food. Food has always been a cornerstone of celebrating in my family – my family growing up and my family now. The place might change. The people around the table might even change from year to year. But, the food. The food you could depend on. I’m not a cook and I’m not even claiming the food I serve is amazing – but it is a huge part of traditional celebrating. For years, I have been battling to save the tradition and still please my family of “diverse” eaters. My grown children do not eat like they did when they were younger. Nor do I make them. Our house can quickly become a paleo, vegan, sugar-free, meat-lover, dessert-lover, gluten-whatever nightmare. No two agree and most are completely opposite of another. This year was different. It was not about the food. Yes, I served food. Only one food purely for sentimental purposes. The rest was…well, interesting. And, it was fine. Truly, I think everyone was relieved that the “white elephant” of another holiday buffet had left the room!
The real joy was not in the food served – or what was not served – but in being able to enjoy a holiday that did not fit my mental image and expectation of the perfect Christmas. Yes, change can be hard. Change can even hurt. But sometimes, change be okay. Even enjoyed – and the beginning of something new. One more note to self: some things, however, are sacred. Cinnamon rolls, with Tyler’s recipe, will never change.