Making Way For Changing Traditions

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One of the hardest parts of any change is making peace with traditions.

Traditions are a wonderful way to mark the various holidays and occasions. But often, people forget that as their lives change, it's reasonable to expect  the traditions will too.

Traditions are only good so long as they serve the needs of the people participating in them. Holding on to a way of doing something, because that's the way they've always been done, causes emotional pain when things are changing.

This upcoming Thanksgiving marks for me yet another way of living the three days to mark this national occasion.

Six years ago my father died on Thanksgiving. Frankly I don't remember much about it, other than making travel arrangements to get back to my hometown.

The following Thanksgiving I was in the midst of my separation. I needed a place other than in the home I was still sharing with my husband, so once again I was making flight arrangements. I took a quick holiday, out of country, to spend the time with close friends who live in the U.S. It wasn't Thanksgiving there (Canadians celebrate in October, Americans in November) and so I bypassed the holiday, which suited me fine. 

Since then the weekend has been celebrated with various friends, a partner for several years, and as possible with my adult daughter. Every year, different but no less satisfying.

And this year? 

Thanksgiving, in the time of Covid

In a rare set of circumstances, 2020 is creating a globally shared experience of adjusting to creating new types of experiences.

This is when you get to examine what you actually enjoy, what you want to ensure happens again and what you might be ready to let go of, or adapt.

Consider too, that this creates a feeling of connection. This is a time when everyone will have something to relate to and a story for "remember when."

Dare I say that the best tradition we can carry forward, from year to year, is gratitude? 

For instance, think about  how technology, where available, means we can share a meal, or memories or both. How lucky we are to have that option.

Where there's a space of what was, lies a place of what could be

As odd as it might seem, you are joined by millions of others facing the same types of choices and changes. And, I think it's worth remembering that you aren't so alone that you can't reach out, for your benefit or those of others. 

 If your day isn't going to be consumed by travel, cleaning and cooking, then how about looking outside of yourself to see how you can make a difference in the lives of others. Again, likely not in a traditional way, but one in which you can create just as strong an impact. 

Whether it's someone you know, or someone you don't (seniors in nursing homes, women's shelters..) consider the types of things you can do that would brighten their day. An unexpected note in their mailbox, a floral arrangement, or ordering special treats from a local bakery. 

Call me a rebel, but I think there is something to be said for changing what happens during these special times. Any number of things can and do change as time moves on. Children grow up and may move away. Parents age and yes, eventually die. Jobs, houses, locations, everything changes.

Whether you are joining in or creating your own way of doing things, isn't it better if new ideas can blossom? Blending old and new, much like what happens within families. Siphoning out what is really important and letting go of those things that have become an unspoken burden.

It is up to us to create what we want

A Thanksgiving meal for two is only lonely and sad if you decide it is so.

Don't get me wrong, there are things that I love to do or be a part of, if the opportunity arises. That's not always possible, so it is up to me to create what I want. My mantra has and will always be “People before things” and frankly, traditions are things.

Traditions shouldn't be so firmly set, that not participating in them leaves you feeling sad and depressed. Nor should they be used as a place of judgment with right and wrong indictments of those taking part. Instead, opportunities exist to create a new version of how you spend your time.

I grew up in a large family, married into a large family and with children of our own, became accustomed to big celebrations. Life changed, as it does for everyone.

Some changes I created, but mostly, it has been the natural evolution of life. My options were to try to hold onto what was, surely causing myself and others grief and heartache. Or, to accept, embrace and create new opportunities.

As the year winds on and more holidays come our way, you will be presented with the realities of a most unusual year. Perhaps it is time to ask  what traditions are truly important and if it might be time to make some changes.

Have you changed any traditions or ways of doing things? In the past, or in the months to come? Please leave a comment. Who knows, you might just have the spark that creates a whole new tradition for someone else.

2 comments

This year, I celebrated Thanksgiving on the other side of the world. I prepared a huge, traditional thanksgiving meal and introduced a Canadian holiday to over 20 friends and family who had never had Thanksgiving before! I asked everyone to participate by bringing a small side dish or dessert of their own, and we had some delicious and traditionally Aussie dishes at our table. I managed to incorporate all the things I love about my family's celebrations in Canada: the food, the big group of people, and the casual atmosphere, into the holiday in my new home overseas :)
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Well how fun is that? A new tradition born from an old one and a way of bringing together people ready to celebrate your roots. Well done and thanks for sharing.
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