The Roundup -

Reinventing Holiday Traditions


As we age and the years continue to pass with increasing swiftness, we understand with great clarity that the only constant in life involves change. We grow up and move away from home, our children spread their wings and follow new paths, we switch jobs or careers, we purchase larger houses and then swap them for something smaller as we scale down, fortunes wax and wane, relationships twist and turn, we retire and begin a new phase of our lives. The list of changes never ends, and those changes inevitably affect how we celebrate holidays throughout the years.

Change by its very nature means we cannot return to what we took for granted last month or last year, and this includes how we handle our holiday celebrations. What worked as a child may not work as a young adult, and as life shifts around us we need to adapt and find new ways to enjoy special days. Christmases past often do not resemble how we celebrate Christmas present, and how we choose to spend our present holiday season may in no way resemble how we will spend Christmases in the future. That's OK, as long as we continue to honor holidays, keep those traditions alive that mean something to us, but at the same time have the desire and the courage to adopt new traditions as time moves on. Time and change do provide us with new opportunities if we have the desire to grab hold and see where the ride takes us. It often proves great fun to celebrate holidays in ways quite different from how we honored those special days in the past.

I have had to reinvent holidays, Christmas in particular, several times during the course of my 66 years of enjoying various holiday seasons. As a child, I loved Christmas and anticipated its arrival when the calendar flipped to the last month of the year. We did not start any sort of holiday festivities for the Christmas season until we had enjoyed Thanksgiving and appreciated all the November holiday had to offer. No stores of my childhood ever bombarded us with the trappings of the Christmas season until at least December first, nor did we have to listen to canned holiday carols or see any sort of Christmas special on TV before the first weekend in December. On reflection I appreciate that, as Christmas remained fresh and exciting during my childhood and we truly anticipated all the holidays had to offer as the season arrived each year.

Grandparents came for Christmas Eve dinner; we opened our gifts to one another on Christmas Eve as well, and then we went to midnight candlelight service at our church. On Christmas morning we hastened to see what Santa had left us in our stockings, and grandparents again came for the Christmas Day feast. We did all this as a family; we were not allowed to go downstairs on Christmas morning to check out the loot Santa had left us until my parents got up that morning.

After I grew up, married, and moved halfway across the continent and into Canada, I needed to remake Christmas. I tried to incorporate traditions from my childhood with my new husband's expectations of how he expected us to celebrate Christmas. Parts of that makeover included shopping in Winnipeg those first few Christmases. Even the name of that Manitoba city sounds enchanting and special, so finding gifts when strapped for cash posed no problems since we had the good fortune to shop in a city with such a wonderful name. How could the gifts not be special?

We compromised on when to open these gifts, as my husband was horrified at the thought of opening gifts on Christmas Eve, when to me, that was the proper time to dive into the presents sitting under the tree. We lived so far away from family that we never had the pleasure of family members to share Christmas with us, which also proved a huge adjustment for me. However, family members did send us gifts as the holidays approached. My husband and I agreed that we would open gifts from our families on Christmas Eve, and we would save the gifts for each other to open on Christmas morning. Other ways to celebrate, what to eat, how to handle our differing outlooks and expectations all had to be considered, but as Christmases came and went, we did develop our own traditions and found ways to handle the holiday season that satisfied both of us.

The relationship eventually soured, I left Canada and moved back to the States, settling in eastern Montana a mile and a half from my dear sister. This started a whole new era of holiday traditions that provided fun and gave us family togetherness. The round of festivities began early in October. I started the winter holiday season by hosting Canadian Thanksgiving, held the same day as the US Columbus Day. My sister then invited me to her house to help devour a US Thanksgiving feast; I provided Christmas Eve supper, she cooked Christmas Day dinner, and I held the New Year's meal. It worked wonderfully well, we began new traditions that became yearly rituals, and the last quarter of each year passed in a revel of high spirits beginning with that second Monday in October and lasting through the first day of January. My sister and brother-in-law both celebrated January birthdays, so that gave us two more special days to look forward to that helped lightened up the otherwise dreary dark winter month of January.

I remarried three and a half years ago. This caused change again as I had to factor a new family member into the equation, a family member who brought his own traditions and ideas to the marriage. My new husband also celebrated a Halloween birthday, so this opened up a whole new spectrum of fun for us, as I hosted a Halloween/birthday party each year to commemorate the occasion. My sister and I took great pleasure in perusing Halloween menu items, and a few favorite dishes arose from this celebration, such as Big Foot, pickled brains, and shrunken heads, all very tasty menu items but fitting the part of looking simply spook-tacular. This additional annual celebration provided great fun and good times with loved family members.

As we know, life keeps changing, and I have begun the process of once again reinventing Halloween and Christmas. My sister retired and moved to Dayton Washington in April of this year, and my husband and I relocated to Virginia City a year ago. Thus ended seventeen years of joyful holiday celebrations with my sister and brother-in-law.

Christmases and Halloweens past are truly past, and cannot be recaptured. However, Christmases and Halloweens present and future hold a ton of potential for great times and new experiences with wonderful fresh opportunities for creating holidays with meaning and memories.

I started the reinvention process last December. I understand that no family member will likely ever visit us again at Christmas, due to distance, unpredictable weather, and mountain passes, so I have come to terms with that. I also know that we cannot sit and think about Christmas past, so last year I stepped outside my safe little box. I visited every farmers' market, held each Saturday in December until Christmas in Virginia City, and sampled the tasty items on sale, which included breads, cookies, cakes, and other assorted homemade treats. I thoroughly enjoyed attending these markets, and have every intention of making this part of our new Christmas traditions here in Virginia City. I also stepped outside my comfort zone and attended an annual Christmas party for VC residents hosted by the Pioneer Bar. I met a wonderful lady at that party last year, a lady who has become an exceptional friend, so you better believe attendance at the Pioneer's Christmas party will become part of our new way of celebrating the holiday season.

The week following the Pioneer's party, the Elks hosted a community pot luck Christmas party which my husband and I attended. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and will attend again this December. Christmas will be great. We may not have a whole lot of excitement happening on the actual day itself, but we have tremendous opportunity to enjoy the holiday season in ways that will benefit us and bring us joy and contentment.

Some traditions fall by the wayside. I did not celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving this year for the first time in decades, and I expect this yearly ritual will follow in the footsteps of the dodo. It worked in the time and circumstance in which I found myself, but it no longer works in my present lifestyle and situation, so I will lovingly let that part of my life become a cherished memory. As well, I did not cook anything special for US Thanksgiving. Instead, we enjoyed a quiet meal at the Café. We may in time begin new traditions to celebrate the day, or we may not, but either way, we will remember and honor Thanksgiving.

Change happens. How we deal with change remains key. I guess what a little older lady wants to convey is please continue to enjoy holidays when they arrive, whatever your circumstances and the changes you may have seen in the past year. Celebrate. Enjoy the season, or the birthday, or the occasion. The present situation may in no way resemble past situations, but continue to honor and keep special days in one fashion or another.

Happy holidays to all of you, whatever your age.


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