Commentary – Choose your Christmas adventure

Pearl Lorentzen

I love Christmas, but it is bittersweet. Especially, as I contemplate my second year of not going home for Christmas.
I choose to look at this as an opportunity to focus on essentials and make new traditions. It’s kind of like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book.
Last year was my first solo Christmas. It was very different from any other Christmas, but I managed to make it special. Being an introvert helped, but it could have been very lonely without video chats with family.
I still haven’t ironed out the details, but this year won’t be quite as solitary. However, I won’t be seeing my whole family in person.
Even without the pandemic, Christmas can be a tough time. Both of my Seattle grandparents died the first week of January, after we’d been down to visit for Christmas. However, I have wonderful memories of both of them and my two remaining grandparents around Christmas time.
I think one of the reasons that my solo Christmas last year was a success is that I’ve never had a typical Christmas. We enjoyed Christmas, but we were flexible about Christmas traditions.
Growing up, we often drove down to Seattle to see my mom’s family during the Christmas season. We’d also have an immediate family Christmas sometime and get together with my dad’s family. One year, we had three Christmases by Dec. 23. We did our Boxing Day shopping on Christmas Eve, and just hung out on Christmas Day.
Another year, we met halfway in Idaho and stayed at some cabins in the woods. It was likely the ‘Hallmarkiest’ Christmas I ever had. We sang Christmas carols and Beach Boys songs on a sleigh ride. I greenstick fractured my collarbone while snowboarding. We almost slid off the side of a mountain because of icy roads. All that was missing was Mr. Right. The cartwheel with my shoulder as a pivot would have made a lovely ‘meet cute’ but life isn’t a Hallmark movie.
Other years, we did other things. Family was always a part of the mix, but not everyone could make it. There was always lots of food, but it wasn’t always turkey. Beef roast and Yorkshire pudding was a favourite.
My favourite Christmas tradition is the Christmas Eve Service. I love the candles, the carols, and the completion of Advent. Generally, the service ends with the lights dim and everyone singing Silent Night a capella or with limited musical instruments.
One year, my parents’ church had a new pastor. He didn’t speak with anyone about how the Christmas Eve Service was run. He ended the service with Joy to the World. The entire balcony was upset. I cried. There was more behind my tears, than a breach with tradition, but it highlighted to me the emotional importance of traditions such as Christmas.
Last year was really hard to wrap my head around. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were good but I had to face a lot of emotions as I prepared, celebrated, and in the weeks following.
Last year, I prioritized the essentials – Christmas music, Christmas movies, a Christmas Eve Service, some contact with family, and good food.
Christmas can’t be perfect, but don’t let the pandemic rob it of love, joy, hope, and peace.

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