By Julia Prentice
From the great song Traditions to the trite word traditional, I often think about traditions during the holiday season.
Some are from my own childhood: the orange in the stocking left on our beds (in an effort to postpone waking up my parents for opening presents on Christmas Day) that we never ate, the exotic dried fruit: dates, figs, apricots and pears that arrived in a wooden tray each Christmas (so sweet and very special), and singing holiday songs while my mom played piano—a break from the classical music we were so used to hearing. I also have to mention the obligatory Christmas photos, wearing fancy dresses, sometimes matching, as my sisters and I squirmed while Dad fussed with the camera.
These are some awesome memories, and the presents waiting under the tree were fantastic: a rocking horse, a bicycle and Barbies were some of the best. Though I know I was fortunate to have such things now, then it just seemed like tradition to expect longing to be fulfilled during the holidays.
I reminisce about my children’s Christmas traditions.
The stockings were on the mantle, like the Christmas story and I used to put oranges in them (never eaten, they got put back in the refrigerator for juice later). When my eldest son learned about Santa Claus, we told him the “secret of Christmas” and that now he would help keep the secret by being Santa for his younger brothers. Later when the youngest, Stephen, learned the secret, we let him be Santa then, distributing presents to each family member from under the tree.
After everyone was finally in on the secret, presents still showed up under the tree labeled: From Santa.
I began singing in the Church choir, and I asked the whole family to attend. The boys loved sitting in the loft pews, and holding the candles when the lights were out, the choir singing Silent Night. There were cookies and mulled cider in the parish hall, with people dressed in their holiday best.
We can fondly remember some things, while dreading the memories of other traditions: my parents Holiday Party, where adults drank to excess and we were hugged by too many, too drunk party goers. Sneaking downstairs the next morning and drinking the dregs of sticky liqueur out of fancy glassware. The night the power went out (I was really afraid of the dark) and candles became necessary lights instead of festive decorations. Driving through blizzards to visit grandparents, and being fearful of accidents.
Longings aren’t being fulfilled much this year.
I haven’t seen my mother in a year, as she lives in assisted living in Florida. I haven’t seen my sons, though we do talk (or FaceTime) and text more than in past years. There won’t be a choir to sing in, the candlelight Silent Night will be on Zoom, as the church building is closed. No holiday parties or visiting friends nearby—visiting anyone isn’t happening.
We are hunkered down in our fortress, armed against the virus with masks, cleaning materials, sanitizer and lost traditions. Depression is held at bay with support groups, wellness tools, meditation and breathing exercises. These issues are the new normal.
The tree is up, decorated sparsely and slowly. Garlands and lights strung, inflatable decorations deflate every night one by one as we gaze around our neighborhood. I also feel deflated, flat and fearful for loved ones working in the public.
And we are getting a cosmic messages: less is more, at least some people believe. Distance makes the heart grow fonder. I reject these messages. I reject the fear though sometimes it creeps back anyway.
2020 is almost gone…and here’s hoping we can revisit some of those cherished traditions in the New Year.
From the Connecticut originally, Julia now lives in North Carolina, US with her soulmate and their furry companion. Past careers include ASL interpreting, preschool teaching and tutoring. Currently she is a passionate Peer Supporter of persons with mental health challenges, a certified W.R.A.P. Facilitator and Certified Peer Specialist. In her spare time she’s a writer, knitter, crafter and singer. Her poetry is published in seven books, and several blogs.
Editor: Dana Gornall/Michelleanne Bradley
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