This past month has been difficult with two of my relatives having very serious health concerns. It's the been the type of health stuff that makes you jump a little every time the phone rings. We always say that this time of year is stressful - and it is! - but this year, I find myself taking a good amount of refuge in traditions of the season.
It was easy to say goodbye to some of the more fussy and time-consuming traditions (those advent calendars!) and surprisingly calming to take part in others (tree decorating!). The holiday cards and letters, with so many bright and cheerful photos, are hands-down my favorite tradition. I treasure every single one. I string them across the room like prayer flags on a rope. I use the cards from last year until the new cards arrive. I can't bring myself to throw cards away. Now that we've collected several years worth of cards from multiple friends and family, it is a true joy to look back over the years. This year, it is especially grounding.
This year has also given me a new perspective on traditions. I think for many years, we've been really busy establishing traditions. This is NOT relaxing or calming work. It's stressful. You haven't necessarily figured out the best way to decorate cookies with children. Or you don't know where and when to go see Santa. Or maybe you don't know where to put the tree, and when you finally decide, you discover you have run an extension cord all the way across the room. There's also The Constant Change Phenomenon of children: this year, for the first year, Noah was a cautious, thoughtful and helpful tree-decorator – until the moment Mattias woke up from his nap and started to help as well. And so it goes: you're busy planning and adjusting and figuring it all out and trying to enjoy it at the same time. It's stressful.
But then, after several years and repeats, you kind of know what you're doing. It's not just establishing tradition, it is tradition. And maybe it starts to feel calming.
Or maybe you just need the perspective of life-and-death staring you in the face to make you appreciate it.
In any case, Fritz took off from work on Friday, and we're moving in slow motion getting things ready for Christmas over a long, four day weekend. Some cookies, some visits, some hot chocolate, some decorating. It's exactly what we needed.