By Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher, Young Adults
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! The Christmas tree is up, nativity sets are out and our outdoor lights depict a candlelit walkway with oversized presents and trees.
No other holiday quite conjures up the same festivity or reminder of tradition. This year, we set about figuring out how to keep alive the traditions we started when we married, while adding a few new ones to share with our boys. Over the past seven years, we had settled into a familiar routine with familiar settings: our Christmas tree farm, holiday events at the symphony and botanical gardens and get-togethers with friends that felt like family.
This year, we were reminded pretty quickly that we were in new surroundings. Where could we even find a local tree farm? We’ve not yet had time to explore our new city, so we also had no idea about any holiday events. And, besides, we told ourselves: would we really want to drag our 4-month-olds out into the night and within the crowds to look at lights? Maybe not this year.
At first, it seemed like just another reminder of how different our lives have become in the vast changes of a single year. All of those places and faces that had come to be reminders of our home were gone. In its place, however, were opportunities – opportunities to find new spaces to continue our holiday traditions and to start new ones.
As we tromped around the only remaining family-owned tree farm in Montgomery, we toyed with the idea of cutting down our own tree. With the boys in our arms, we traversed the farm, ultimately deciding to save the saws for a later time when the boys could help. Instead, we opted for a simpler alternative: a pre-chopped balsam fir. Sitting around the fire pit on the farm, I thought ahead to our yearly pilgrimage and the finding of the perfect tree for our home. My mind jumped from toddling little boys grasping our hands to moody teenagers, home for the holidays, simply putting up with our traditions (but secretly enjoying them).
From finding a tree to finding Santa, we moved into the age-old tradition of Santa pictures. Dressing the boys up with their bow ties, we found a pretty perfect Santa Claus who reminded us of the double blessing we have. Without tears or fussing, we found ourselves back at home admiring our photos of the first visit to Santa and imagining the years ahead as we pull off the roles of Santa and Mrs. Claus.
This year, the spirit of Christmas rings loudly in our home and in our attempt at keeping up family traditions. Though we’ll probably save the lights and crowds for the future, we’ve found that it’s not about recreating the same familiar scenes each year. There’s always next year for holiday lights at the zoo. Instead, it’s about relishing each moment of surprise and excitement as our boys take in new surroundings, of creating meaningful memories, and anticipating the survival of those traditions in the years to come.
Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.