I read another blog today about post-Christmas blues, sadness about packing away the decorations, etc. It started me thinking about something.
When my children were young, of course I decorated and lavished every gift and accoutrement on them. The tree usually went up the weekend after Thanksgiving. We spent real quality time making homemade ornaments, decorating the house, making lists, visiting Santa at the mall, the works. We did Christmas Eve services at church, made the family's favorite holiday foods, took pictures as if another Christmas would never happen. A big deal was made about leaving the snack for Santa and having some special foods for our breakfast. We played Christmas music a lot through the holiday season, but especially Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We pretty much did it all.
After Christmas, the tree stayed up till New Year's Day. Then we all got together and while the kids took the decorations off the tree, I sat at the table and wrapped or boxed each one, packing them into storage boxes and ultimately storing it all away till the next year. It was all organized, routine, and it gave us plenty of time to talk about the holiday, the gifts, remember about who made which ornament, etc.
Following the usual pattern put parenthesis on each end of the holiday. I sometimes had some holiday blues, but not much. It was a little sad to pack it away, but it was nicely tied up and neat. Now we had the house back to normal, clean, and life as usual is back.
As the kids grew up and moved away to begin lives on their own, I found that following that same pattern didn't give me the same feeling of completeness. Even if the kids, and eventually the grandkids, were there for the holiday, it was different. The "parenthesis," the beginning and ending rituals, no longer included the traditional processing of the events, the chatter, the fun of past years as when we did these things as a family. The decorating and un-decorating was left to my husband and me or sometimes just me. The decorating was not bad, but the disassembling of it all was very saddening.
In the last few years of his life, my husband and I didn't decorate every year. If we weren't having any of the family home, it just wasn't that important. To be honest, I didn't want to do it because it was so much trouble and made me even more aware of not having kids with us. Since he passed away, I've come to a new understanding of the holiday. It is totally up to me to decide how I celebrate, and I've come to a real peace with it all.
Since he passed away, I've celebrated several different ways, different places, different degrees of decorating. This year, I did nothing. Seriously, nothing at all. Interestingly, the holiday has come and gone and I have zero letdown! I've enjoyed myself a lot through the holiday, spending time and dining with friends. I've listened to the music at times, enjoyed decorations in town. I've made some of the traditional foods. In many ways, this has been the best holiday season in a long time, because I have had fun, but I haven't stressed out over the details. It has been nice.
After reading that other blog, I thought about this for a while. I've remembered different years and thought about how I celebrated and how I was emotionally responsive to it. Times when the tradition was followed and the whole family was present, it was good. Without the majority of the family to join the set up and break down, it was just that .... setting it up and breaking it down. It wasn't tradition. That often made me sad. These days I don't have much tradition. I do whatever strikes me. Interestingly, I don't have the post holiday blues.
I've spent these last few Christmases in a variety of ways, and I haven't followed much of the tradition, but I've spent every one in happy circumstances. Even this one, I've been without family at all. I didn't decorate a speck. However, I spent more time in thoughtful retrospection. I've had quiet, spiritual times, and I have come out on this end feeling like I'm in a good place. Even dealing with the health issues, I've made it through with minimal blues. It seems to me the less hullabaloo that goes on, the more I'm able to relax and connect with the spiritual part of the season.
Tradition is good, don't misunderstand me. It is what connects generations. This year, while listening to "Silent Night," I sang harmony to the voice coming out of the sound system. I used to sing harmony at candlelight services, and my daughter loved it. That is one place where she feels a strong connection. And some sadness, too. But it is good. My own tradition of singing harmony gave her something that connects us and will until we are both gone from this earth. But if tradition takes over and consumes you, leaving you sad at the end, is it good? If those traditions overpower the "reason for the season" is it worth it? My more spiritual times are do very dear to me, and I'm glad I found more of them this year.
And there is the question. How do you spend your holiday? Do you have a lot of tradition? Is your holiday season filled with activities and hoopla? Do you crash and burn at the end, much like the end of a sugar rush? How much does your spirituality enter into your holiday? Are you passing a tradition of hype or hope? Understand, I'm not judging, 'cause I've been at both ends of the continuum myself. I'm just curious about how people celebrate and what traditions are coming out of their practices.
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