Building new traditions

Holidays are often built around traditions that are passed down from year to year, generation to generation. The ornament that your mom put on the tree when she was little, that your son is putting up now. The movie you watch with your dad. The book you read with your grandmother. It’s part of what we all look forward to. 

We didn’t have a lot of traditions for the holidays when I was a kid. It’s no one’s fault. We moved a lot and my mom had to work. Somehow ornaments and decorations got lost in the shuffle of the moves. And most of my movie watching was done alone. But there were some traditions. 

My mom always did the twelve days of Christmas, letting me open one gift a night up until Christmas Eve. We opened everything that night because we were going to visit my grandmother and great grandmothers on Christmas day. My mom always told me I’d opened everything. But on Christmas morning there was also one last gift. Usually the best one.

We always made potato candy and fudge. The cats always hid in the tree and attacked us while we put up ornaments. And we always always sang together.

I don’t do any of those things now. My family moved away and I was left on my own. So I made new traditions. 

This year, most of our traditions are going to be unsafe. We can’t get together with our family. We can’t travel, can’t go to parties. I usually go holiday shopping with my best friend, but we’re sure as hell not doing that. Another buddy and I always get coffee together for Yule. Another thing that won’t be happening. Ditto Light up Night in Pittsburgh. I don’t have to tell you that this is hardly the first time we’ve faced this in 2020. 

Fuck you, 2020.

That being said, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to build new traditions. And I’m far from the only one. 

There are holidays after the death of a loved one. Holidays after a move across the country, after a divorce. On a less depressing note, there are births and weddings. Buying new houses, getting new jobs that require moves to exciting new cities. 

Life changes, it evolves. We change too, and our traditions change with us. Sometimes it’s going to be painful. Life is painful sometimes, and that sucks. Nothing I can say will change that. 

But life goes on. This holiday won’t look like other years. It can still be great. This might be the year you find a new tradition you love so much you do every year from now on. It all depends on how you do it. 

To help you out, here’s a list of things I’m doing this year that cost little to no money. You can do them alone, or with family and friends in your bubble. 

Please note that I celebrate Christmas and Yule, so these ideas are kind of all from those holidays. If you celebrate something else, I would be thankful and honored if you’d share some of your own quarantine friendly traditions. 

Since I can’t go to a coffee shop, my buddy and I are doing a virtual coffee day. Zoom and coffee while we (hopefully) open Yule gifts that arrived in the mail. 

I do lots of mailed gifts since most of my family doesn’t live near me. I love that so many places can just deliver right to my loved ones without me ever having to touch them.

Of course, no holiday would be complete for me without a few books. I read A Christmas Carol every year, starting on Black Friday. Spoiler, you can usually find A Christmas Carol as a free e-book download. It’s a beautiful story read either to your family or on your own.

I love collecting ornaments for my tree. So one gift I get myself every year is a new ornament. Only one, though. Otherwise, it’s way too hard to stop buying them.

Since we’ve been home so much more, I’ve been crafting a ton more than I ever have. Wooden stars covered in silver and gold. A new crochet tree skirt, glass jars turned into candle holders. Several handmade ornaments. I’m painting a box we got from Hickory Farms as a gingerbread house. All together I bought some yarn, wooden stars and battery lit candles. It’s been fun, and my house is just filled with decorations. I can’t recommend getting crafty enough. 

We might have to spend this holiday season apart, but doing so will help ensure more of us are here to celebrate next year. Let’s make some new traditions and have a wonderful holiday season apart, together.


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