Most families have some sort of holiday traditions during the winter months. As humans, we tend to be creatures of habit. Our traditions are familiar, we know what to expect, and they remind us of special times. Holiday traditions are habits that give us a sense of belonging and comfort. One of my favorite traditions has always been decorating the Christmas tree. When I was a child, it was a big production in our house. My dad would wake us up in the middle of the night and put us in the car all bundled up. We slept as he drove us to the country to pick out and cut down a fresh tree. We would arrive just as the sun was rising, ensuring we got the best tree on the farm. When we were back home, he set up our tree up in the basement near the fireplace. We would decorate it and then admire it until New Years Eve.
In the last six or seven years my tree decoration tradition has changed quite a bit. My Grammy stopped having trees in her house because they were “too much trouble,” however not having a Christmas tree didn’t feel right so I started a tree tradition with her. I decided to get a fresh tree and decorate it with her.
Earlier this year my Grammy made her transition, and though I still love decorating the tree I can’t really bring myself to get one without her. It is heartbreaking for me to love something so much, yet have it be so painful to continue the tradition. I’m sure it is a feeling that people who have lost a loved one share, especially during the first holiday without that person.
Fortunately for me, I have a great best friend who invited me to New York to help her family decorate their tree. My cute little nephew and I gladly joined them for a Christmas gathering. It was a real gift to have a new way to celebrate. It also created a new space for me to enjoy a tree and family time, without the awkwardness and void of Grammy’s absence.
I have definitely learned that family traditions are special memories that bring comfort and familiarity. When they change, whether due to the loss of a loved one or a change in circumstance, being open to new possibilities can warm your heart in a special way.
Dr. Daemon Jones