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Holiday Traditions

13 December, 2013

Let me start with this: I love the holidays. I love Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice. I rejoice in the returning of the light and the Light. I adore Christmas music. And strings of lights. And trees (real, if I can get it!). I adore candles and wreaths. And the special food, which in my family means either hearty New England fare or scrumptious Italian delights. Or sometimes both.

I love that the tradition in my family is a quiet and peaceful one. We usually go to a candlelight service on Christmas Eve, then go home for a nice dinner and stuff stockings before bed. On Christmas morning, I am usually the first one up and I relish the time I get to spend alone examining the tree’s lights and ornaments with the wonder of a child. Each year the tree is a little different and I have a little different perspective on it myself. Once I’ve turned on the lights on the tree, I make a pot of coffee and wait for the aroma to wake my parents. When they’ve finally woken up and joined me in front of the tree, we start the morning off by unpacking stockings.

This has always been one of my favorite Christmas traditions. We take our time and open them one at a time, looking at and admiring the others’ treasures. It’s a great way to appreciate the smaller things in life: toothpaste and deodorant are favorites, as well as little delectables, and sometimes even something sparkly or a great bit of music. Any way it goes, it’s always fun. After stockings, we take a break to make breakfast and shower, taking our time and just enjoying the quiet. We put on Christmas music, which often involves Mannheim Steamroller or Paul Winter’s Wintersong, sometimes the Squirrel Nut Zippers or even the local Christmas radio station, but never, never the television. It’s our one rule for Christmas. We don’t turn on the television all day… unless someone gets a movie as a present and we then watch it all together as a family, but that’s the extent of it.

We spend the rest of the day reading, playing games, enjoying a late afternoon dinner. And when we were really young, my brother and I almost always got Lego sets for Christmas, so we would put together our Lego castles or pirate ships or whatever. Always a family activity.

Now, let me say this: I usually get very excited for the holidays and I am excited to spend them with my family this year. However, I am also still recovering from a devastating breakup and the death of my uncle. I know that it will be hard to feel happy at times and that I won’t necessarily be the joyful, smiling elf I usually am. But, something that’s been helping me is making wishes of others come true. I have been giving to my friends things I know will make them happy, I have been sending strangers gifts, and even participated in two gift exchanges with groups I belong to. It’s been wonderful taking the attention off myself and focusing on sharing the joy and wonder of the season with others.

Remember to express your love as often as possible. With those you know and love and with the human race broadly. Remember to enjoy life and smile. Remember that we are only on this planet so long and to appreciate everything around you.

May you all have lives full of love and laughter this holiday season and always.

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