Traditions & Memories

My most favourite, special, dearest time of the year has arrived once again. I have been excitedly waiting for the most appropriate time to hang my Christmas lights in my cold, little suite as it brings about a coziness that I cling to in these weathered winter months. I am eager for all the festivities with my family and friends that include too many carbs and sugary holiday drinks. I have been googling gift ideas since October and have pulled the trigger on purchasing presents that I can’t wait to give. In every way Christmas has been a season that I have held closely to my heart since I can remember and as an adult now, I am still searching for the why. Each year, an abundance of sweet memories are added to my nostalgic mind and I come upon this season with delights of years past. This time of the year brings a collection of rose-coloured thoughts of family filled gatherings, gifts of gratitude and big belly laughs. I rejoice in recounting these memories as the years go by and work extra hard to feel that same sense of joy with each passing year. Each tradition and every symbol of Christmas has the power to create misty-eyes and toothy smiles as I hold fast to what I may consider the simplest, most loved moments of my twenty-four years.  

Since I can remember Christmas has always been my most cherished season of the year. I wait in anticipation to enjoy every moment in the name of tradition and in the name of glee. I wait readily to pull out my special ornament box and hang each dainty piece on my crisp triangular tree. I bubble up looking through our old Santa photos and seeing the cringe-worthy transformations of my blue sparkly eye shadowed preteen years and yet they are hung proudly on the white cabinet shelves because that is where they belong throughout the month of December. The season that is christened with an advent chocolate and completed when we ring in the New Year. The season of Christmas has always been about tradition for me, to the point of paralyzation when we have deviated from what has always happened.

As I unfold the years of my twenties, it has become more apparent to me why I hold so tightly to each aching tradition. You see, each familiar custom is bound up with a series of memories. Every ornament I have received on the night we decorate our tree was carefully picked out by my parents to represent an interest we had that year. I have a box full of delicately wrapped pieces that tell the tales of sports and instruments I played and milestones in my life such as the VW bug ornament I received when I bought my first car. As I unpack the boxes of Christmas decorations I am blasted with thoughts of remembrance. Every ornament is filled with a “remember when” comment that desires to be told. Remember when Uncle had to shuttle our family from across the better half of Vancouver late Christmas Eve in the midst of a snow storm just so we could all join together at my Aunt’s famous holiday party? Remember the first year Matthew joined us for Christmas dinner? It was stressful and exciting all in one. I have wide, teary smiles for the years my brother and I played hide and go seek in the Triple Tree Christmas greenhouse while my parents hunted for the perfect Douglas Fir to fit in our living room corner. I am reminded of the years when my childhood dog would eat our advent calendars and anything with a scent wrapped tightly under the tree. I am humbled by the memories of losing my grandma one week shy of Christmas day. Even that year, one of goodbyes and losses is remembered as special for a time of coming together to honour someone so important to us. To this day, this season yearns for her to be commemorated in my thoughts as she was my first earthly goodbye. Each Christmas, as tradition ruled the nest, it was most certainly mandatory that my mom bake the holiday sweets because what would Christmas be if I didn’t taste a Nanaimo Bar or butter tart? How could we proceed in the Holiday spirit if my brother and I didn’t carve out an hour to do an inventory of each present under the tree? Even at the age of twenty-two I was waking up at the earliest hour to nudge my brother out of bed on Christmas morning. It was for the sake of tradition, for the sake of recreating every memory because every year they are just as special to me. Christmas isn’t just another holiday for me, it is the holiday. It is so wound up in the exceptional moments that come over me in sugar dusted nostalgia that I can barely contain myself as I hear the first rings of Christmas commercials on the radio and see those twinkle lights begin to shine on rooftops.

So how would this year look if that was all removed? Would I mourn the loss of a Christmas without tradition? Could I find the joy in the given year without a shiny new ornament or chocolate square? Could I possibly share my wealth with my new family members? I am realizing that without the items, or repeated events I still have the memories. They are so near to my heart because of how whole they were in their day, but by putting everything on the line to ensure they happen again, in the same fashion, sets up my hopes for disappointed. I was shattered the year my brother no longer wanted to play hide and seek in Triple Tree, though being sixteen it was perhaps time to retire that game. I felt defeated when my dad finally gave in and bought a plastic pine. You can imagine the blow the first Christmas without my grandma. It was not only her absence that was missed greatly but it was the first year that things shifted out of my control and I had to adjust my mindset that traditions would continue without her. Even my first Christmas as a married woman, as excited as I was to create new memories with my new husband, a part of my self ached for the years now buried in the past. That I would no longer wake up on the twenty-fifth yanking on my brother’s bed covers to get him up and out to open stockings. Poor Matt, he was scrambling in the month of December to try and recreate all my favorite customs, even asking me what usuals my mom would put in my stocking so that it didn’t veer from the norm I was expecting.

Each year is different, and though I don’t want them to be, each annual ritual is different in some form. We become older, our ambitions change, the people whom we celebrate with change and perhaps my motivation for celebration needs to be redirected. I can find satisfaction and joy in decorating our tree without Mariah Carey’s Christmas album blaring from the speakers, although it still will forever be my favourite holiday track. I can share in meaningful conversation with my family at dinner without the necessary amount of traditional appetizers on my plate. I am beginning to realize that my focus is directed on the past, and I can’t entertain the right now moments because I want my memories to come alive each and every year. My first few Christmases kid-free and newly married warrant fresh experiences that can be savoured for years to come, they don’t have to be the same as always. As I begin to create my new experiences, I can feel a sense of gratitude knowing that I have enjoyed good, wholesome holidays. That though pieces of my life will evolve, I will have my memories forever. I can entangle my new traditions within the others to create a masterpiece of seasonal satisfaction. For the sake of tradition fosters disappointment but with a bright outlook on the years to come I am able to soak in all the goodness that is this sacred holiday without letting my past impede on my today. I can invite new friends into my Christmas heart because they want to commemorate this time with me, not ruin it. I can foster new moments of reflection on why I even celebrate this month and I can wrap my memories around me for comfort when I am feeling overcome by change. I need not to dismiss the past, but let it be the reason I desire the new. I should be able to allow those who are now close to me to share in the things I enjoy most about this part of the year. If I truly love them and them love me, they should be apart of the new traditions. I want them to be apart of my traditions. I can vividly remember a tree decorating day a few years ago where my mom took it upon herself to invite my sister-in-law to-be to join us in the sprucing of the tree. I was already bent out of shape over the fact that we were decorating on a Sunday after church rather than the usual December weeknight (seriously Alex). I felt utterly betrayed and was horrified at the idea that my mom would open her doors to a family member, and dear friend of mine to be apart of of this day. How dare she? Doesn’t she know how this is supposed to go? I was so closed off to the thought of someone I loved creeping in on my family’s tradition. My poor sister-in-law, I pray she has forgotten my glares that brisk day. I lost sight of my purpose and the purpose of this coming together. My exclusive day reeked of rejection rather than the joy it’s supposed to gladly bring, a day that should be remembered as a thrilling new mark on our traditional festivities was tampered by my own greedy attitude.

As for this year, I am longing to let this one be a year for the books not because it will be a repeat of the last twenty years, but because as I create new traditions and comfortably dwell in the ones of years past, I will be receptive to the development of this season. As I unpack my boxes of carefully wrapped ornaments I get to reflect on how I still get to keep those memories, and if all is lost, I still have what I have held in my heart. I will forever cherish the days of hide and go seek but I will also expect greatness in the cutting down of Matt and I’s own tree as we struggle to fit it on top of our older green Nissan. We will only have a 2018 Christmas once, and I have the choice to make it a year that I will carry with me later on in life or I can mull over the past. This will be the year glittered with thanksgiving for all those precious memories and a time to celebrate all that will come next.

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