Holiday Memories and Traditions

Christmas card large
With Christmas almost upon us, memories of Christmases past always seem to be flooding in for me.  Some of them are wonderful, others are bittersweet.  The photo above was my Christmas card the first year Buckley spent Christmas with Amber and me.  It’s still one of my favorite photos of the two of them together.  (And yes, it is photoshopped, but not the part about them sitting side by side looking out the window – the original photo was taken in October of that year, and they were watching the birds on my deck).

Many of my favorite Christmas memories revolve around my childhood.  I shared some of them in my recent article Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree – Memories of Holidays PastOther favorite childhood Christmas memories include baking cookies with my mother.  Mom’s Christmas cookies were elaborate creations – nothing I’ve come across since has topped the intricate combinations of flavors and textures, not to mention the decorations.   While I have most of her recipes, I, sadly, have absolutely no talent when it comes to baking, so all of my attempts to recreate even a remote resemblance to her cookies have ended in failure over the years.

Childhood Christmas meals hold another special place in my heart.  We were a small family, most years, it was only my parents and me, but Mom went all out both in terms of cooking and in terms of setting special holiday tables for us.  Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner was usually fish – something I wasn’t too crazy about as a child, but it wouldn’t have been Christmas without it.  Christmas Day dinner was usually turkey with all the trimmings.  To say we ate well would be an understatement.

After I left home and got married, I tried to recreate some of these holiday traditions.  My former husband came with few holiday traditions of his own, so I had free reign.   It wasn’t the same – while we had some wonderful Christmases together, I was never able to recreate the magic of those childhood Christmases.  After I got divorced, it was time for yet another reinvention of my Christmas traditions.  My mother passed away the same year I got divorced, so that made for a very difficult Christmas.  The temptation was to just skip the holidays altogether that year, but I knew that it wasn’t what Mom would have wanted for me.  So I decorated the house, I fixed a special Christmas dinner, and I spent a quiet holiday remembering happier times.

In more recent years, Christmas has been about spending time with friends and getting to know other families’ Christmas traditions.  I enjoy being absorbed into someone else’s family celebrations, and I’m always made to feel like part of their family.  And of course, my cats figure prominently in my current Christmas traditions .  One tradition that started with my soulmate cat Feebee after I got divorced was the nightly ritual of putting on some soft Christmas music, turning off all the lights except for those on the Christmas tree, and then I’d simply sit by the tree with a purring cat in my lap, enjoying the lights, the music and the profound peace that this experience brought.  After Feebee passed away, Amber took over as Christmas lap kitty, and eventually, Buckley and Amber would both share my lap for this lovely holiday ritual.

Last year was a difficult Christmas.  I had just lost Buckley Thanksgiving weekend, and I wasn’t much in the mood to celebrate anything, let alone the holidays. I ended up spending a quiet Christmas with Amber, simply remembering Buckley, and just being.  Losing a pet during the holidays can be especially difficult, and I needed to just let myself grieve.  But even that Christmas, I made sure to make the day a little bit special for myself.  Mom taught me well.

This Christmas, I’ll be spending time with Amber, and with friends, celebrating the feeling of community, peace and beauty of the season.  I’ll remember those who are no longer with me in this physical dimension, and I’ll allow myself plenty of moments of stillness so I can really feel the eternal connection with my departed loved ones while celebrating the gifts and blessings in my life.

What are some of your favorite holiday memories and traditions?

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