When I was a child my family had traditions for every holiday. I took comfort in always knowing that Thanksgiving Day would be spent at our house with my Dad barbecuing the turkey, and Christmas Eve would be a gathering of my father’s family at the home of one of my Uncles. There was never any question of where we’d go or who would be there, although there was always interest in what new boyfriend or girlfriend our teenage cousins would bring along. Even after I married, my husband and I lived near my family, and he fit into the established pattern. When we had children, they just fit in too.
Then my husband and I made the radical decision to move to Oregon, and I was worried about what I’d do without the traditions that had defined the holidays for my whole life. My fears were unnecessary since my parents soon decided to retire and move here too, as did two of my Aunts and Uncles. With some modifications, we once again had the comfort of the traditional routine. Thanksgiving was at my parent’s house, with barbecued turkey and playing pool and watching football in the basement. Christmas dinner was at our house, with my husband barbecuing another turkey. New Year’s day was ham at my Aunt Carol’s, and Easter was family brunch at the Country Club. It was a comfortable yearly tradition that gave our holiday structure and that we raised our children on for 20 years.
However, in the past few years, our children have grown and moved away, my mother, father, Aunts, and Uncles have died, and the big old house with the pool table is now a lovely memory.
So here I am, wondering what does one do to celebrate the holidays. I must admit I wasn’t prepared to deal with this new dilemma since I naively assumed everyone would always be here and things would just go on as they always had.
Since our children moved away and my parents died I’ve taken each holiday as it comes and tried to find the true meaning in what the day represents. Before it was always about family, but now that my family is dispersed or gone, what does that mean?
I’ve come to realize that there are many definitions of “family”. It’s not just the people connected by marriage or blood, but it’s also the people to whom we’re connected by friendship and love. In these past few years I’ve looked around and realized my husband and I are blessed with lots of “family”. Our dear friends, who travel with us and put up with us at all hours of the day and night (even those grumpy morning hours), our friends who play cards with us, and with whom we laugh late into the evening. The women I’ve connected with on a deeper level since we’re no longer spending time parenting, and so have time for each other. All of these and many more are family, and on every holiday I do what I can to gather together as many of these wonderful folks as possible.
Of course, the “tradition” has changed. There is no routine anymore. Every holiday is different, depending on who is available to share the day. I’ve realized that tradition isn’t really about what we eat or where we go. The thing that continues to make each holiday “traditional” is that it is a gathering together of people who care about each other. I now know it’s a time to celebrate one another and remember once again how we are all family.
Sandy Abell is a best-selling author, life and business coach, speaker, and Licensed Counselor. She specializes in working with professionals, entrepreneurs, and people dealing with life transitions, and is the author of the Amazon bestseller Feeling Good About You and Moving Up To Management for New Supervisors (both available on Amazon.com). Please visit Sandy on her website at www.insidejobscoach.com to check out her books and free resources, and sign up for her free newsletters.