Thinking back a bit, I really sank my teeth into the holidays this season. Not in a frenzied, super rushed way, but a kick-up-your-feet-and-relax kind of way. It’s so easy to get stressed out this time of year, but for some reason all I wanted to do was knit things and smell the Christmas tree.
I know my daughter has a lot to do with my relaxed mentality. Not just because she keeps me living in the moment, but because I get to witness her first moments with twinkle lights and wrapping paper. There's something undeniably magical about a child’s reaction to all this Christmas stuff when they experience it for the very first time.
When I was a kid, I thought our Christmas traditions were set in stone. I thought all families celebrated the holidays like we did, and that we would continue those patterns for the rest of our lives. Granted, I didn’t think much about death, but I guess I assumed the younger generations would continue to carry out the family's traditions once the older generations had passed on.
I was wrong, of course. At least as far as my family goes, the holidays look different now than they did when I was a child, and it feels a little displacing. Similar to how it feels when the home you grew up in is demolished and the land is turned into a housing development for 20-something new cookie-cutter homes (true story). To cope, you create your own home base, your own traditions, your own sense of family and magic.
A lot of things are fluid right now, and I’m just going with it as best I can, but I think I’d eventually like to settle down into a solid yearly routine. It’s comforting to have these things to rely on, these people you know you’ll make the time to see, these activities surrounding the holidays that make it fun and special.
I went through a phase where holidays didn’t mean much to me. They were just a day or series of days where people made a meager attempt to be kind to one another and give each other things, and I thought why shouldn’t we be like that with each other all the time? And that’s true in some ways, but I think the frustration I was feeling was compounded by the fact that certain things were expected of us. I felt I was supposed to spend a certain amount of time and money, of which I had neither, and it made me feel like a failure, which made me feel resentful, which made me feel ashamed, which made me feel…
Regarding the money, I’ve learned to adjust my expectations on both myself and others about what's involved in our gift exchange, and it has made a huge difference in my attitude. Regarding time, I think that’s what it’s really all about. You take this time every year to focus on your relationships with others, and to invest something of yourself toward them. That’s the part of it that’s special, and the part I willingly partake in.
Time doesn’t have to come in the form of expensive gifts (though if that’s your jam, go for it). For me, it comes in the form of helping my mom and her partner decorate their home for their Christmas party, knitting a hot water bottle cozy for my friends and family, baking the cookies, making a long drive out to my dad and step-mom’s house, waking up extra early to be with the in-laws for breakfast Christmas morning. Time given is what I wanted to focus on this holiday season, and for every season hereafter.
Hopefully the traditions we want to solidify and revisit each year will naturally follow.