I’ve never felt so unsure about Christmas. I mean, I’m sure there IS a Christmas, but I’m not sure WHAT it is…to me, anyway.
I grew up in Newfoundland, and in my little family, there were clear and steadfast rules when it came to our Christmasses. Mom and Dad always put up and decorated the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, and it always came down on January 6, or Old Christmas Day.
There was no opening of gifts on Christmas Eve, but my Dad was the first one up Christmas morning, usually before the break of dawn, to wake Mom, my brother, and me up so he could take pictures on a real old-fashioned camera. Being a parent myself now, I know the joy of watching children opening the gifts they wished for but weren’t really expecting.
My parents split when I was 19, and I moved away from Newfoundland when I was 21. My mother eventually moved here to Alberta in 2004, so I got to enjoy about six Christmasses with her and my own family until she passed away on Christmas Day in 2010.
Being married in a blended family, and having to share our Christmas seasons with the in-laws and my stepchildren’s family, it was becoming impossible to continue with the traditions I grew up with. My husband likes to put up the tree a week or two before Christmas, and we eventually slipped into the habit of opening our gifts on Christmas Eve night, saving just the stockings for Christmas morning.
Losing my own traditions leaves me secretly yearning for something more meaningful to do at Christmas. Over the years, we had invited lonely shut-ins for dinner and adopted needy families to bless with gifts, but it feels forced. I’m no longer religious (that’s a whole other blog) so going to Christmas Mass or church service isn’t what I’m looking for.
Maybe I’ll find it this year. It will be the first Christmas in 25 years that I will be spending Christmas with my dad. It won’t be on Christmas Day because I won’t see him until the 27th of December. And there won’t be snow…we’ll be visiting him in Florida where he winters.
Right now we are planning on having a big Christmas celebration on the beach in Clearwater. Maybe this will become our new Christmas tradition. Who knows. But it better be a pretty special day on the beach if it’s going to satisfy this need I have.
December 25th will always be a bitter-sweet day because it will always be the anniversary of my mother’s death. It’s a struggle to keep that particular day joyful. December 29th is the anniversary of the death of my husband’s father, who passed away in 2011, so for the same reason, that day seems to belong to his memory.
Is it wrong to celebrate the spirit of Christmas on any other day? Maybe that’s what’s missing…a whole new day that is earmarked for us to celebrate the pure joy of Christmas, unblemished by the memories of our parent’s horrible deaths.
I’ll let you know what Day we choose to celebrate Christmas when we finally do choose. Maybe Christmas on the beach in Florida will give me some clarity.