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Challenge: Your Special Traditions

When Traditions End

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For 56 years the Monday following Thanksgiving marked the first day of buck season. In my area, school is always closed to allow youngsters to try their hand at hunting. But this year the first day of hunting starts on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I’ve heard a few hunters were upset with the changes although I’m not sure why? From someone who doesn’t hunt, I see it as a welcomed change – extra days of hunting, supporting small business over the thanksgiving holiday, maybe school is in session on Monday. But from those who do hunt, I hear the change in days disrupts tradition. Who knew a change in tradition could elicit such emotions?

With the holiday season in full force you probably have routines you follow including specific recipes, how and when you decorate, and with whom you spend your time. These are the moments you look forward to each and every year. You may be teaching your traditions to the next generation. Some might say that this is what makes the holiday magic.

But what happens when traditions end?

Ten years ago my hands down favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. For twenty five years my family followed the same routine. The adults would have bloody Mary’s and set the table. The kids would play basketball or other games. My uncle would sit at the head of the table say Grace. I remember cards after dessert. It had that feeling of “togetherness” and love. Twenty Five years of the same routine.

And in November 2009, my Uncle, the head of the table, passed away.

It’s easy to say he WAS Thanksgiving. It was HIS holiday and we loved it as much as we loved him. My aunt, his wife, wanted to continue with the tradition. She wanted to keep his memory and traditions alive. It was a beautiful first holiday after his passing but it wasn’t the same. The tradition had ended.

Similarly, my husband’s family hosted Christmas Eve. As die-hard Notre Dame fans – I mean, Catholics – his family takes tradition serious. I can tell you exactly what food would be served, who would be there, and who would start the political talk at the table. My husband’s grandfather would hand out the Polish tradition of Oplatek. Their traditions became my new norm and Christmas Eve quickly became my new favorite holiday.

A few years ago my husband’s grandfather, Mr. Tradition, suddenly passed away right before Christmas. He was one of my favorite people on Earth. That Christmas carried on like the others with a few added tears but he was sorely missed.

How do you handle a change in traditions?

It is going to take time to grieve the loss of The End. Maybe you’re grieving a person, an empty chair, a change at the “head of the table”, or someone new starting prayers. Maybe you’re grieving a location thereby seeking a new place to gather or this year may be your first time hosting. Maybe you're looking to reinvent the tradition by escaping to a completely new area. The holidays can feel very isolating and lonely when these traditions end but you're only option is to adapt.

For some, traditions can feel like glue that keeps families together. For others, traditions can feel suffocating. You never know when you’ll have an empty chair at the table so stop putting pressure on yourself and just enjoy the time you have. Traditions may have an expiration date, but if hunters can accept change, so can you.

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