Dynamic Woman — Changing Times
Is this the year to jettison timeworn traditions? In response to a call for a Christmas-themed inspirational article, I pitched a piece about celebrating the season when traditional customs begin to fray under the stress of life changes. No takers, no surprise. They wanted cozy tales of Christmases past and lists of tried and true rituals for readers to adopt.
Our family celebration is tinged with sorrow. Divorce and death have wounded us deeply. I find it helps to view Christmas as a season, not a day. To go for the Norman Rockwell, happy-faced generational gathering around the dining room table twice within the space of 29 days stresses our downsized family. My gift? To design hallmark moments, tiny experiences that sparkle in the light, small moments of joy that infuse our weary spirits with hope.
This year, we weren’t able to gather together around a bounteous Thanksgiving table. The grandchildren went off on an adventure with their father. Here in Arizona, we two dug deeper into the meaning of the holiday. We watched Saints and Strangers on National Geographic and American Experience – The Pilgrims,which left us with a sense of awe and wonder at the tenacity of William Bradford’s vision in face of the odds against him. On Thanksgiving Day we saw The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay – Part 2, a good choice. While the settings are wildly divergent, the themes are eerily similar. After that, we joined other diners at a restaurant that served up turkey, ham and all the fixings.
In the Northwest, our son stepped off an airplane to join his sister for dinner for two in an elegant Seattle restaurant, a hallmark moment that warmed our hearts. The tiny experience was the text exchange of photos that put them at our table and us at theirs. No one felt abandoned and alone, for which we are deeply thankful.
Heart preparation can prevent hurt feelings that pop up, seemingly out of nowhere. Advent calendars and devotional booklets help us focus more on the meaning of Christmas and other seasonal traditions. Mindfulness can protect us from traps like overconsumption and triggers that hijack our emotions. This year I’ve chosen an advent activity to carry me through this minefield. I am focusing on our choir’s preparation for our Christmas pageant, Journey to Bethlehem. I am chairing the committee that is choosing the readings, which gives me plenty of opportunity to contemplate the meaning of Christmas.
Wounded hearts require a mix of healing solitude and the loving intimacy of family or friends. Rather than repeat our traditions, doing our best to triage the gaping holes in our small body, the now six of us–nana and grandpa, brother and sister, granddaughter and grandson–will spend the Christmas holiday surrounded by the beauty of quiet Hawaiian island Kauai. No gift exchange this year, this experience will be our gift to each other. Our agenda is to just be together in a place that needs no decoration to cheer us, although I imagine there will be more than enough tinsel to satisfy the children. We’ll rest, read, snorkel, find a luau to attend and a church service for worship.
This year, I am grateful for the freedom we have in Christ to throw off the yoke of unreasonable expectations we conform to long after they have lost all possibility to make us happy. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (ESV)
Do you have traditions that need to be packed away, at least for a time? This Christmas, amid the high expectations placed on us by culture and tradition, consider what will truly feed your soul and bring you joy.
However you celebrate, I wish you peace and joy.
© Sydney Avey