I’m a big believer in tradition. From trimming the tree to summer vacation and back again, my family and I have marked the passage of time with cherished memories of times gone by. I have photos of the first day of school, pictures of my children sitting on the porch of the orchard’s general store where we go apple picking, and on the many beaches we travel to from Maine to Cape Cod and everywhere in between. Events, holidays, celebrating the seasons—it’s all become a big part of our family history.
I have embraced some traditions with a full heart, and I have quietly said good-bye to others. I’ve even tried some on for size that didn’t quite fit, so they didn’t last very long. For several years, my best girlfriend and I would attend the Nutcracker after work, complete with a champagne toast. But once I moved out of the city, and eventually out of Massachusetts, it stopped. There just wasn’t enough time to do it all. However, we did keep one tradition alive—our annual Christmas tea. Each year, we both head into Boston for a day of eating, shopping, and eating some more. After 22 years, I think this one’s a keeper.
When I was a child, I looked forward to attending church on Christmas Eve at the quaint little chapel just outside of town. I can still smell the English oak, the pine boughs, and candle wax. You could hear a pin drop during the service as a peaceful hush landed gracefully on our shoulders while we sat and prayed.
When we returned home, we were allowed to open one present. Every year, my sister and I received a new nightgown to wear just for the occasion. It was my mother’s way of making sure we went to sleep in style and that sugarplums would surely dance happily in our heads.
And just like my mother, I served turkey with all the trimmings for Christmas dinner for years. I couldn’t conceive of serving anything else. If it was good enough for Nat King Cole, it was certainly good enough for us. Until one year I didn’t. Now I serve up an entirely different menu that my family thoroughly enjoys.
I can feel more changes coming my way, too. This was the first year we didn’t take the girls trick-or-treating, the first year we won’t hang the Christmas countdown to Santa, and one of the last years we’ll have most of our family home—together. New traditions are starting to work their way in as I struggle to let go of the past. I’m not a big fan of change, so it’s been especially hard for me to let go of childhood traditions that I have protected and held onto for as long as I could.
But there may be a silver lining on the horizon. David and I shared a knowing glance when we went out to find this year’s Christmas tree and he picked one and I picked the other as soon as we turned the corner—done, just like that. It won’t take us long to find our tree when it’s just us. We’ve lived through enough Christmases to know that you can’t sweat the small stuff….or stress over finding the “perfect” tree. We spent the rest of the time playing hide-and-seek while our girls diligently took up the hunt. And after spending last week cooking, cleaning, and decorating, I spent this past Sunday in my pajamas recuperating from it all. I know I’ve done this to myself—my standards have always been high, but it’s a lot to do in a relatively short amount of time, and I can now see how, perhaps, a little downsizing is in our Christmas future as well.
When I look back on my childhood at all of the celebrations—both large and small—I’m so happy that I have taught my children the importance of tradition that I learned all those years ago. My daughters (and my son) will hopefully nurture some of them, and like me, they will take the traditions they hold dear and pass them on to their own children—and create new ones just for them.