The Wisdom of Changing Holiday Traditions During Tough Times
Many people find a sense of security in the traditions they have either created or been a part of. It’s been year after year of doing the same things and being with the same people for Thanksgiving and Christmas, for example, and they love it. It has created an indelible, comfortable mark on their family, friends, or coworkers. Then something happens, and someone who has been a staple of that tradition is no longer there—perhaps has passed away. Some people allow that to make every holiday from then on a reason to retreat, but I am seeing others choose, instead, to refurbish the holidays, so to speak, do something different, and in so doing, they find other ways to enjoy the day in spite of the loss.
In an ever-changing culture, there is certainly something to be said for holding on to traditions, but there is also something to be said for being willing to start anew when necessary. I have witnessed people making that decision this Thanksgiving. The loss of loved ones is difficult, and when the holidays roll around, especially the first ones following the loss, it is easy to want to crawl into a corner and stay there until it all passes or to gather as usual, minus the ones lost, but accept misery. I wrote a column a few years ago to encourage people that they don’t owe it to deceased loved ones not to enjoy holidays. In fact, those we have loved and who have loved us want us to persevere and to continue living and to be happy in doing so. We have not betrayed them by celebrating any moment. I was surprised by the number of responses I received—even mail sent to my home. I had no idea how many would be able to relate and would feel to thank me for what I wrote.
This year, a few people I know chose to do things differently. Some of their Thanksgiving gatherings involved different people than usual, different locations than the past, even different food. A friend who has suffered loss shared with me that they did not go the turkey route this year. They went with beef Wellington. They made some other changes as well—not in sadness, but they, instead, chose the joy of one another and the comfort of the present, rather than mourning the loss of the past, though they easily could have.
We do not get to choose much of what life throws our way. Sometimes, things come to us that, frankly, just suck. But we do get to move forward in hope and joy. It may not be easy, and it will require a decision to do so. Traditions are great. Let’s hold on to as many of them as we can, but we cannot worship them. Wisdom sometimes instructs us to let go of some traditions so we can hold on to our peace.