Author photo

By Mel Makaw
contributing writer 

Ever changing holiday traditions

On the Bright Side


December 17, 2022

Mel Makaw.

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 the grandparents' houses. 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 or 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, 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 each of us brought our favorite personal traditional dish.

While we managed to maintain the old-fashioned traditional family Christmas celebrations, we also lost family members through the years, and each year got a little quieter and smaller as my extended family was several states away and not particularly close anymore, and my immediate family eventually got down to just me.

I've experienced several changing holiday traditions through the years, and I don't really feel done yet. That's life sometimes, isn't it?

I know I'm not alone. Especially these last couple of years, many people unexpectedly changed holiday traditions and celebrations due to the pandemic. Sometimes life affects all of us in big ways, and somehow most of us adapt, even when it's hard.

This year it seems more like times in the distance past, with more people planning to travel to be with loved ones. Family and friends' get-togethers are planned, work celebrations are planned... in many ways it feels like we're getting back to more normal times.

That is, whatever normal is. I often feel that I can hardly figure out what normal is these days.

This year is also presenting new challenges, with weather predictions affecting some plans, and prices and availability of goods and food stuffs affecting others. The pandemic isn't quite over, and new strains are popping up. And new challenges often mean changing traditions again.

When it was just down to Mom and me, we started traveling for Christmas, and that turned out to be a wonderful new tradition. After my mom passed and I found myself facing my first Christmas without family, our friend Dolores (with whom we had also shared many holidays) 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 Christmas Day. We did that for several years, until Dolores passed, and I had to come up with another new holiday tradition for myself.

For many years I've preferred a quiet day, with a friend or two or by myself, as I find in my more mature years I really don't need the big all-out holiday celebrations. A good meal, a walk in the woods, perhaps a movie or a good book, just delighting in a day with no "have to" or "supposed to" is a tradition I really enjoy.

The thing is, trying to recreate traditions for traditions sake – i.e. traditions that are no longer fun or easy or even possible – can make a person crazy. Sometimes changing a tradition, especially if it means less worry and stress – or if it actually brings more peace and enjoyment – can be a good thing.

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 make other choices, new people are born or get adopted, or people marry in or divorce out; 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 changing things up and making new holiday traditions and new kinds of memories as the opportunities arise.

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.

However you celebrate this year, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all.

© 2022 Mel Makaw. Mel is a local writer/photographer and has been writing "On the Bright Side" columns for various newspapers since 1996. She welcomes your comments at


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