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When Christmas Changes

There’s a time and a season for everything...

We love routine. It’s comforting knowing what’s going to happen. We know that every Christmas season, we make a list - check it twice or maybe three times. We look for sales. We shop for specific groceries for our traditional food. The familiar dishes will all be on the table – mom’s homemade buns, the jellied salad dad loves, cabbage rolls, the dressing and gravy and even the specific pickles. And, we know who we will sit with at the table and who will help in the kitchen.

Perhaps Grandpa always handed out the gifts. Or the grandparents arrived early Christmas morning to open the gifts with the family and enjoy morning breakfast together.

Change can be difficult. But when it involves family, it becomes personal. When we remember the celebrations as a child, or when our own families were young, we recall our many traditions. So many memories.

We loved Christmas as a kid, and we all have certain memories of our family tree, ripping open gifts, and then later sitting around a table of food.

As we grew up and left home, there was often a drive over to our parent’s home to celebrate together.

When we had kids, maybe the grandparents joined us in the morning for the gift exchange.

But then those kids grew up and left home. Now what? What if they live in a different city?

Then the grandparents are gone. Now what? How do we continue to celebrate with all the changes? It seems so different? We don’t want to focus on our grief and who isn’t there. But what can we do?

Its life’s guarantee - time does manage to change things. Kids grow up, get married. Then the couple split their time between their parents. Our parents get older. We get older. Family move away or maybe there’s an empty chair this year.

How do we manage with the changes?

Here’s 5 ideas that will help:

1. Your activities - Write down all the traditions that you really enjoyed in the past. Sometimes we do activities because we always did them. Even though we never did enjoy them, we just did them because … well because we always did. Little changes can make a big difference. Choose to spend time doing the activities you really enjoy and don’t have any guilt letting go of the rest. Do you enjoy attending the local community orchestra concert? Or watching an old movie? Perhaps it’s watching the Nutcracker ballet or driving around looking at lights. Did you always make gingerbread houses with your kids? Maybe they loved it, maybe they didn't. When change happens, this often allows you opportunity to decide how you’d like to celebrate. It might be to attend a church service or volunteer with a local agency. This year, make time for the activities that you can enjoy! This year you can take care of you! Do you enjoy the outdoors? Walking? Skiing? Maybe this would be a good time to take a winter retreat? Get caught up on rest.

2. Your food - The jellied salad - well - only dad liked it. Did you enjoy baking and decorating those cookies? Then continue your baking! If you bake too much, there are always neighbors or others who would welcome a special home made treat! If your family is attempting the gluten free, keto or vegan meals, try to offer a couple of regular traditional food dishes as well. Our memories bring us comfort with the familiar tastes, especially when it’s been a difficult year.

3. Your gifts - Maybe instead of purchasing gifts for everyone, make a donation in their name to their favorite charity instead. (We can really learn about a person when we know about their interest.) Or by creating a gift limit will prevent seasonal financial overload. If you no longer have children to buy for, there are always kids who need a gift that may not otherwise get one. Operation Shoe Box is an example of an organization that helps children in need. Or volunteering as a shopper for Christmas Cheer might be fun for you.

4. Your hospitality – Would you enjoy hosting the Christmas Day meal instead of the annual gathering at another family member’s home? Or maybe you’d like to open your home to include friends for Christmas meal? Do you have a family member who stays too long. Advising them of your boundaries is healthy and its good for everyone to know what is expected.

5. Your decorations – Maybe you don’t want to use the decorations from the last season of your life. That’s okay. This is a new time, a new home, a new city or a new stage in your life. You may want to include something in your décor that is symbolic of your family, something that holds the memories. Whenever I have moved, I end up with a different Christmas tree. One year (when I lived in an old character home) it was covered in lace and strings of pearls with burgundy ribbon. Next, it was more of a traditional look with red and green plaid ribbon, red berries and birds. This year my tree has become white – ribbon, snowflakes and all ornaments are white. It’s a new season. Some people decide to not put up a tree at all, but I love it so I do it just for me. I find decorating an important part of the celebrations, but that 's just me. For you, it could be something else.

There was the year that the children’s tree wasn’t needed. They had become teens and their little tree with the homemade ornaments seemed child-like, not representing who the family was any more.

For years, I drove 2 hours to my parent’s home to decorate for them. Everything had to be placed in exactly the same way as last year. It was fun to see their faces enjoying their décor. Since they are now both gone, we’ve kept a few of their items for display, but most are gone.

Time changes us. But instead of looking back to see how life has changed in a negative way, let’s look ahead. How can you make changes that you'd enjoy? What parts of your traditions did you value? How do you want to celebrate and what do you want to focus on in this season? When you discover what really means the most to you, then focus on that!

What? and Who? and How? do you want to celebrate this year?

May you find the true gifts of peace, hope and love this Christmas season!

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