When I was a kid, I took it for granted that Christmas would always be spent with my family. This has been the case for the most part, but with variations over the years. There were the years without my father, the years with the additions of my brother-in-law, my niece, my partner (now ex), my father (in a different role), my first born son, then the deletion of my ex with the addition of my second born son.
The deletion of my ex from my own family’s Christmas wasn’t as difficult for me as the deletion of me from his family’s Christmas. We had the perfect situation since he celebrated a Polish-Catholic Christmas on Christmas Eve and I celebrated Canadian Christmas on Christmas day. We never had to have the discussion of whose family we were going to spend Christmas with. His family quickly and warmly embraced me into their Christmas Eve traditions and I celebrated with them for about 8 years. That was 8 years of spending Polish Christmas with people I loved. My children still celebrate with my ex and his family but for me, not having him or his family, on Christmas Eve anymore left a void to fill. Our first year separated, we tried celebrating together as a “family”, but it was very awkward and tense, and it also meant that it would be the 2nd time that I had to give up being with my own family for Christmas. It was time for me to find a new tradition for Christmas Eve.
I got together with two friends the other week and, knowing that major life changes had meant finding new traditions for themselves, decided to discuss the topic of my upcoming blog with them. One of my friends told me that once her kids were grown and she was divorced, she found the tradition of taking off with friends somewhere hot and sunny for the holidays quite rewarding. My other friend has adapted to many new Christmas traditions over the years due to illness. It wasn’t until later in her life that her family found a tradition that worked for them. When my friend and her siblings grew into adults, and her siblings married and had children of their own, it was time to find a new tradition. Rather than having to arrange who was spending Christmas with which family each year, her family decided to have their Christmas on the Thanksgiving day weekend. For them, Thanksgiving is held on the Saturday and Christmas is held on the Sunday, her parents then head south for the winter and her siblings have only one Christmas to celebrate over the Christmas holidays. I asked my friend if celebrating Christmas on Thanksgiving leaves her satisfied over the Christmas break. She replied that her Thanksgiving/Christmas with her family is satisfying, but spending the holidays with friends or family is very important to her. So, her tradition has been created, she spends it either with friends, basking in the sun, or with her friends and their families around a Christmas tree. I like the attitude of my two friends, after all, friends are the family we choose ourselves.
This year, she might join me in my Christmas Eve tradition, not wrapping gifts, watching Christmas movies and feeling lonely like my first year alone, but sharing it with others at mass, followed by a delicious fish dinner by candlelight, and wrapping it up in front of the T.V. watching holiday movies, without the loneliness. It is fulfilling, warm, and when the boys come home after Polish Christmas, they are welcomed home with an inviting smile.
What are your Christmas traditions and how have they evolved as the years have gone by?