“The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water moulds itself to the pitcher.” – Chinese Proverb.
Immigrating to the United States, I brought along my favorite Christmas traditions. When my children came, I wanted them to experience the wonder I’d felt growing up. Christmas was about remembering baby Jesus, love of family, a new dress to wear, and one piece of clothing. To this day, memories of the Christmas season fill me with joy and gratitude.
However, my determination to keep my Christmas traditions was no match for the force of change, one after another.
For a while, I managed to keep some of the traditions. I baked cookies, played Christmas songs on the radio, and shopped passionately for the right gifts. After my two boys went to bed on December 23, I wrapped the gifts and decorated the Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve day, we dressed in our finest, and the smell of spices that were symbolic of the season filled every nook and cranny. After dinner, we sang Silent Night as we walked around the tree, then finally, we got to open our gifts.
After Tim and I brought our blended families together, opening gifts moved to Christmas morning. Decorating the tree on the 23rd tradition was a hit and miss. When the two youngest chose to spend time with friends over helping mom decorate the tree, one more loved activity ended. Instead of singing together, Tim read The Little Matchgirl, a part of his tradition. After the three older children married, our blended traditions of dressing up and opening gifts remained intact. Until one Christmas Eve, my younger son and his wife showed up wearing jeans. I recall feeling hurt and angry. After all the efforts I made to make Christmas Christmassy, my son and his wife found dressing up to be too much of a burden. My righteous indignation flashed red.
I could talk to my son, but instead of fighting inevitable changes, I let it go. My jean-wearing son, like it or not, signaled his changing priorities. Today, Tim and my Christmas traditions have little in common with yesterday. Tim no longer complains about hanging up the outdoor Christmas lights because we gave them away. The wreath goes on the front door and Mr. and Mrs. Santa come out of storage. That’s it!
Now that it’s younger people’s turn, they are say Ho Ho No! on roasting chestnuts on a roaring fire.
Christmas cards are fading away. Sitting on Santas lap has lost its charm. Christmas music? No thanks, mom. If I never hear All I want for Christmas again, I’m okay with it. White Elephant parties may still be popular with the older crowd, but not with younger people. Hallmark movies are blasé. Giving more stuff is out; new experiences are in. Young people are flocking to Christmas-themed events. Christmas caroling is fun for the singers, the younger generation dreads hearing the bell ring. Kissing under the mistletoe in the #MeToo era is getting swept out to sea. The obligation to get together with family is slackening its hold.
Traditions, like people, are born and die. Customs are reshaped for a better fit with a changing world. A century from now, the Christmas season will have little resemblance to what we experienced or what our offsprings created. When we adapt to new circumstances, go with the flow, life gets easier. Letting go of what was, we are free to create new Christmas traditions, one more fitting of our family today. Ho, Ho, Yes!