Strange Holidays and New Traditions

Beach Chair Santa from istock.jpgI’m embarrassed to admit I have almost every Christmas tree ornament that’s ever come my way.  My husband, who just cleaned our attic, knows this is true since we have too many boxes filled with sagging salt dough drummer boys and flaking gilded walnuts.  I saved every ornament my children made or bought for our tree, planning to present them to each one as he or she left home.  I still have them all, despite an empty nest.  My children claim they want their treasures on “our” tree, because that’s where they’ve always been.  I’m afraid this is a tactful way of saying that no sensible person would still put these relics where they can be seen.  Luckily they know when it comes to the holidays, I’m not sensible .

For me, all holidays are about traditions and memories.  Each Christmas I bake the same chocolate chip studded bishop’s cake, the pecan ‘turtles” my mother made, the same cranberry-orange bread for Christmas morning.  I put out my ceramic houses, including the mirror pond my husband made from a garage sale find on that Christmas years ago when we couldn’t afford so much as a wreath to add to our tiny house collection.  That was the year all the children’s Christmas gifts came from garage sales, too, spruced with new paint and repackaged.  It was one of our best.

This holiday season we won’t be at home.  Since my husband is still on sabbatical, we’re heading south to Florida, where we were raised.  We have lots of extended family there, some we must see because of ill health, some we’ve just missed.  After Thanksgiving, we’ll settle into a rental house for December and January.  I’ll finish my next mystery and walk the beaches early in the morning, looking for Wanda and Tracy, Janya and Alice.  I’ll research Sunset Bridge and think about new book ideas.  My husband has a “to do” list as long as his arm.  I expect these months to be productive and pleasurable. 

But traditional?  Not at all.  We’ll be away from home with none of our Christmas memorabilia, and none of our children, most of whom will visit in January.  I’ll probably forget to bring my recipes.  Our gift to each other is Florida itself and plane tickets to our children, so shopping at crowded malls?  No need. 

How will we make this sojourn a happy Christmas memory? I’ve given this a lot of thought.

First, I’ll look for concerts of holiday favorites.  High school, local churches, community choruses, the more off key the better.  I’ll check for Christmas Eve services, where I can hear the nativity story retold, and look for ways to give back to my new community. I might buy a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, that last sad little tree nobody else wants, and decorate it with popcorn and seashells.  Those recipes?  Online, of course, if I need them.  Turkey and all the fixings at the grocery counter, with a few shrimp thrown in for ambience.  Plenty of fun new shops to stroll through, if I feel the need.  Hot spiced cider if the weather allows.  Hot chocolate even if it doesn’t.

Most of all I’ll be sure to unpack gratitude and spend time admiring it.  I’m convinced where we are or what traditions we observe are immaterial to the holiday spirit. Beginning with Thanksgiving, this time has been set aside to remember our blessings and the gifts we received throughout the year.  The trappings are fun, but I can put them aside this year and concentrate on the meaning behind them.

How about you?  Have you been away from home on your favorite holiday?  Did you find a way to make it special anyway?  One of my most memorable Thanksgivings was spent in Australia, where we had a delicious no-fuss pineapple pizza instead of turkey. I enjoyed my family instead of laboring silently in the kitchen all day.  Have you had a holiday like that? I always enjoy your comments.

Remember, too, that if you do comment on any November blog and tell us a special moment of good fortune in your life, I’ll enter you in my November happiness keychain and Happiness Key giveaway.  



  1. Lisa G on November 13, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    I was away one Christmas when I wass 18 and I felt terrible. I know you will miss being with your children but there is such a thing called web-cam. It’s not the same as touchable children but they will be visible. DO decorated this rental house with thing that might remind you of your kids when they were younger, add the smells of home and I wish you the best.

  2. Emilie Richards on November 13, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Sage advice. It sounds like you learned from your own experiences.

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