Holiday Traditions

I did something I’ve never done before for Christmas this year.  Now, I’m big on tradition.  I take it so far that I duplicate the side dishes my Mom made on holidays even though I’m not that fond of those particular recipes any more.  So this was a big step for me.

For 15 years since my Dad passed, I had spent every Christmas with Mom.  Since I’m single and don’t have kids, I would join Mom as we alternated between my two brothers.  After Mom passed in 2003,I felt some comfort in knowing that I still had this family to be with during the holidays.

So basically I have spent every Christmas of my adult life travelling to be with family.  Since 1983, it’s been travelling cross country.

What did I do this year?  I stayed home! I had some concerns about the decision.  Would I wake up in tears on Christmas morning when I didn’t get to see my niece, nephews and grand-niece opening gifts?  Would I miss the cooking together and the Yorkshire pudding?  Would I miss connecting with each of my family members and catching up on their lives?

Well, I did miss connecting with them in person and I got to talk with each of them on the phone.  I still cooked to contribute to a meal with friends.  I still had cookies and eggnog while I opened my gifts.  And then I went to my friends for one of my most enjoyable Christmases yet!  There were ten of us, including some parents who weren’t with their kids for various reasons.  We had a terrific meal and wonderful conversation.  At one point, I looked around the table at these dear friends and thought “Where else would I be able to have conversations like these — conversations about things that really matter to me? Certainly not with my family.”  Someone mentioned a phrase that I am keeping in mind:  “Family of Friends”.   How lovely to expand my thinking about family to include my family of friends.

My friends who were hosting play the crystal and Tibetan bowls (see for info) and we finished the evening with an impromptu concert of soulful and ethereal music.  It was the perfect finale.  I left feeling full physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Is it the new tradition?  Probably not.  Is it the start to a new normal for me?  Yes!

What have you changed about your holiday “traditions” since you lost someone you love?  How have you built a new normal?  Do you have a “family of friends”?  Please share your experience.


  1. Most years since my husband died, my daughter and I spend Christmas together having our favorite snack foods and mimosas all day long. Sometimes her friends would come to visit, and sometimes my friends would come to visit. It was all so very unplanned and small.

    The Christmas of 2011, though, was awful for a variety of reasons, including the death of my almost 99 year old mother-in-law. Somehow we needed a change this Christmas. Neither one of us wanted to go through such a terrible experience during the longest of our infrequent visits together. We initially thought of going to Greece for Christmas, but thought better of it. This Christmas (2012) she brought her roommate with her from Boulder, CO, and we picked up her ex-boyfriend in San Francisco. On Christmas morning we had 4 people in the house to open presents with and share our snacks and mimosas. Later in the evening her friends showed up. Lots of them. We had such a wonderful time, and some really great memories. I should have taken more pictures, but I’m really hoping the “family of friends” that Pat talked about will come back to our house again next year. Our past Christmases were just too small. We needed something BIGGER.

    • Oh, Charlotte! What a wonderful new way to celebrate! May all your Christmases be so merry. With your snacks and mimosas and your warmth, who wouldn’t want to come back?