BY: JENNY JURICA
When it comes to the holidays, I’m all about tradition. You can keep your perfect, themed Christmas tree that looks like something straight out of a department store, and also your inverted tree that hangs from the ceiling. Call me boring, but in my home, our Christmas tree looks the same every year, with each ornament having an origin story that we retell as we decorate the tree together.
We have ornaments from different places, purchased on family vacations; ornaments that represent each year of my children’s lives, and ornaments for each of our pets. We even have a priceless, beaten and battered aluminum Santa Claus ornament, with a frayed bread tie used in place of a hook that hung on the tree at my husband’s grandparent’s humble farmhouse in Corpus Christi.
Now that my kids are older, they can tell most of the origin stories about our ornaments, and it makes me swell with pride and hopefulness to know that maybe our stories and traditions will live on in them.
Nostalgia, Comfort and Stability
Holiday traditions offer not only nostalgia and comfort, but also stability. I don’t know about you, but the first few notes of “Christmas Time is Here,” from A Charlie Brown Christmas, make the hair on the back of my neck stand up, a small lump form in my throat, and I’m instantly catapulted back to my childhood, somewhere in the late 1970’s. We know that we’ll hear the same songs, see the same family members, and eat the same foods every holiday season. It’s these small things that remind us that even though the world might feel unpredictable, some things never change.
Creating New Traditions
But, what do holiday traditions look like amid a global pandemic, when we are urged to stay home and not to gather, during the most congregational time of the year? Obviously, some holiday traditions are out the window this year (Ahem, like canoodling with a stranger under the mistletoe!), but with a little creativity and care, we will find ways to uphold our treasured holiday traditions and maybe even start some new ones.
Natalie Tate, a local small business owner (www.phloxpartners.com), and mom of two, is thankful to live in Texas during the winter holidays, as her family is trying to plan as many outdoor holiday activities as possible to keep her family safe.
“Only in Texas could we think about putting up a badminton net in December,” remarked Tate.
With family members in fragile health, many are grappling with new, creative ways to connect to those who have been isolated during this time.
“We’re all proactively thinking about how we can protect each other,” said Tate, whose mother recently completed treatment for cancer.
“As we watch COVID numbers, we may decide that the exposure isn’t worth the risk. Our plan then is to host our annual Christmas BINGO game over video call, with each family contributing our usual fun and silly items,” she added.
Tate feels that fostering such relationships between her children and family members is as important–if not more so–than the other traditions that often go along with the holidays.
“Our children are young and are most excited about spending time with each other and about getting a few toys. We can make it magical for them by spending time together and scheduling our work obligations in a way that makes the most of their holiday time off,” said Tate.
Unity for the Holidays
Holiday traditions help to unite us. Feeling united as a family or a community feels extra important this year as we come out of a contentious political season, compounded by the hardships that the COVID crisis has created in our lives. During the holidays, we are reminded that we are still family and neighbors (first and foremost), regardless of our political leanings and other life choices.
A sense of unity is also important for families who might be separated during the holidays due to divorce. Amy Lynn, a mother of four and founder of the blog, Maker Mama (www.makermama.com), as well as Dog Friendly San Antonio (www. dogfriendlysanantonio.com), knows first-hand how challenging the holidays can be for divorced parents who share custody of children. She finds solace in creating handmade gifts for her children.
“With sharing custody of my kids during the holidays, it’s been a grounding tradition and we all look forward to [the handmade gifts] each year,” said Amy.
At the end of the iconic children’s book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Grinch has an epiphany when he realizes that he didn’t ruin the Whos’ holiday by taking away their gifts and decorations. In fact, he only strengthened their resolve and brought them closer to one another. Maybe we’ll look back someday and realize that COVID did the same for us, in requiring us to think outside of the box, pair-down our expectations, and take care of one another.
“What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more…”