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By Mel White 

New holiday traditions

On the Bright Side


My childhood was pretty traditional, generally speaking, and our holiday celebrations were no exception. Through college, winter holidays were spent with my family – some years at our house, some years at G'pa and G'ma White's house, some years at G'ma and G'pa Larimer's house, some years at the home of my dad's sister and her family (with whom we were very close).

Thanksgiving always meant dozens of people (large extended family) and a huge home-made farm fresh feast, and if Green Bay was playing (after my uncle got a TV), that's who we were cheering for. As we got older we played our own football games in the front yard of whatever house we were all gathered at.

Some part of the Christmas holiday was also always spent with lots of aunts and uncles and cousins around. We kids would spend part of the day sledding down a big hill to the west of Grandpa White's house, skating on the pond, or playing board games if the weather was too bad.

When I was out of school and off on my own, my family and I came up with a sort of new tradition: I usually spent Thanksgivings with friends and then went home to family for Christmas. The best of the friends' Thanksgiving get-togethers was always when a bunch of us got together and each of us brought our favorite dish and shared our blessings. (Oh yes, and still we played football in the yard or the park.)

While we managed to maintain the old-fashioned family Christmas celebrations, we also lost family members through the years, and each year got a little quieter and smaller as my immediate family was now in California, far from all the Iowa relatives and the failing health of my sister, my one remaining grandma and my father.

I have such wonderful memories of most of those years, but, as life is wont to do, eventually my mom and I were the only two left, and the first approaching Christmas without everyone else was going to be difficult. We decided to come up with a new-to-us tradition: we went to Monterey for that first Thanksgiving weekend, and we liked that idea so much that we went to Morro Bay for the following Christmas weekend. For three years, until her death, we went somewhere on the coast for all the holidays, creating a lot of wonderful new memories. I loved that tradition.

After mom passed, our family friend Dolores, with whom we had also shared many holidays and other occasions, and I decided to go to the movies. We both loved films and our tradition became a double feature (with lunch in the middle) on any given holiday (including birthdays!). I was amazed at how many other people showed up regularly at the movie houses, but the holidays always feature great new movies so we always had fun. We did that for several years, until Dolores passed and I had to come up with another new holiday tradition for myself.

These days I prefer a quiet day, with a friend or two or by myself, as I really don't need the big old celebrations. A good meal, a walk in the woods with the dogs, perhaps a movie, perhaps not, but just delighting in a day "off" with no demands or responsibilities is a tradition I really enjoy now. Meanwhile, over the winter holiday season, certain concerts and activities with friends have become a new tradition too, one I treasure and look forward to.

It doesn't really matter what your tradition is, and no matter how hard you do try to keep up your favorite traditions, some or many of the details are bound to change as life goes on. People die or leave or make other choices, new people are born or get adopted or marry in; locations change, abilities change. There's nothing wrong with holding on to the old traditions as long as you (and everyone else you're involved with) can or want to, but there's also nothing wrong with going with the flow and making new holiday traditions and new kinds of memories.

The best parts of any holiday tradition are, after all, feeling good and happy and loving, and spending the day where everyone involved feels loved and appreciated... and that can be accomplished in any number of different ways.

Happy Holidays to all of you.

© Copyright 2017. Mel White, a local writer/photographer, has been writing "On the Bright Side" columns for various newspapers since 1996. She is also co-owner/founder of the unusual and eclectic Treasure Trove in downtown Tehachapi; she can be reached at [email protected]


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