I don’t consider myself a person bound by tradition.
Usually, I’m all about change, encouraging people to change and looking for ways to change myself. I generally think that new experiences make life both more memorable and meaningful.
Except for Christmas. I want Christmas to remain exactly the same.
Nearly every year of my life, Christmas Eve has been celebrated with my father and his family. My dad has only one sister, my Auntie Jo, so this has been relatively easy. My father and his sister each had two children, and I am the oldest, so the logistics remained simple.
But this year, logistics finally caught up with us and I will celebrate with my parents and my sister and her family. Auntie Jo’s family will have their own celebration, and at my age, I should be incredibly grateful that the tradition held as long as it did.
Instead, I’m a little sad.
If you read advice columns at this time of year (and I do), you know they are filled with families feuding over where to spend Christmas. The more distant and strained the family relations are, the more fiercely they fight. I read these columns every year and tut-tut along with the advice giver and yet I take for granted that my Christmas will remain unchanged. I like to imagine that—while everything in the world changes—Christmas somehow magically remains the same.
“I’m sad!” I told my mother when she told me the news.
“I know,” my mom said. “But things change.” Of course, my mother is right.
Hanging onto Christmas traditions is important. Letting them go is even more so.
Things change and that is not a good thing or a bad thing. It is simply what happens if you are lucky enough to live as long as I have lived. It is asking too much of Christmas to hold all the relationships and all the changes. It is asking too much of one short day.
Instead, on the 26th of December, we will get together for a brunch. My Auntie Jo is hosting, so I know it will be wonderful. Everyone will be there, and no one will be worried that they are neglecting some other part of the family, or that they will have to rush to another Christmas event. We will chat and eat all the cookies we want (because what else are you going to do with Christmas cookies on the 26th of December except eat them?) And it will be something new.
“Hey, Sister,” I said. “When are we going to make Christmas cookies?”
We made Christmas cookies together last year for the first time. We both mixed a huge amount of dough, and we made a giant mess of her kitchen and put her son to work minding the oven and her daughter sprinkling sugar and we ended up with an amazing pile of cookies.
This was how Christmas traditions survive—not by hanging onto one special thing, but by making new special moments. This tradition, now two years old, is part of Christmas. My job is to treat it with all the respect a two-year-old tradition requires—to honor it and celebrate it and make it the best day possible.
“Where did you get this recipe?” my mother asked, trying one of our cookies.
“From you!” I told her.
And it’s true. I got the recipe for Christmas from my mother, and my father, and my Auntie Jo. Now all I have to do is to remember to make it on my own every year.
Till next time,