Skipping On Tradition

It’s no big secret: 2016 has been a rough year around the Goldman household. I had hoped by the time the holiday season rolled around, I’d be in a better headspace and I’d welcome the idea of celebrating Thanksgiving just like always. Last week, before everyone started shredding each other apart over the election, I was flipping through my recipes so I could order wine and I just put everything down. 2016 is not just like any other year.

More than a decade ago, my great-grandmother died a few days before Christmas. My family has always been huge on Christmas, celebrating old traditions they brought over from Germany. That year, my grief-stricken grandmother canceled Christmas. Fortunately by then, nobody in our family was young enough to believe in Santa, so there weren’t any huge implications by not celebrating the holiday. On top of mourning the death of a loved one, I found myself missing the tradition of gathering everyone on Christmas Eve. There was no Christmas music or laughter, just silence in front of the television with an undecorated Christmas tree in the corner. It was depressing, but I understood why it had to be that way.

In August, someone brought up the fact that this would be the first year without my grandparents. I stood in my garage for an hour staring at the boxes filled with my grandmothers' Christmas decorations and announced to my husband that there would be nothing traditional about this years festive celebrations. In fact, I even booked a cruise over Christmas just so we wouldn’t be home. I need a year to process the fact the holidays will never be the same and figure out how I will uphold those traditions with my own spin on things.

Then a few weeks ago as turkey season approached, my husband asked what our plans were. For a brief moment I was excited and looking forward to getting back into the swing of things, but late last week I admitted to myself that I wasn’t ready. In years past, I’ve enjoyed the whole production of Thanksgiving beginning with the marathon drinking while I prepare the turkey for the big day. This year I couldn’t even look at a brine recipe without feeling sad. 

“We can just go out for dinner,” my husband said, obviously annoyed by my lack of enthusiasm and planning.

“I don’t feel like going out.”

Late last week, as I laid wide awake in the middle of the night the solution came to me: I’d order dinner. I want to do as little work as possible. I want to be able to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in absolute peace as I enjoy a cup of hot cocoa curled up on the couch in front of a fire we don’t really need. 

Since I’ve ordered our Thanksgiving dinner, several friends have graciously invited us to join their holiday celebrations. “No thanks,” I say. “I already ordered our dinner.”

“What do you mean you ordered your dinner? Who orders Thanksgiving dinner?”

Just like your political choices, I shouldn’t have to defend my decision to take a massive step back from our normal tradition and regroup. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I just want to be thankful for my family and that we’ve survived the last seven months without being committed or too heavily medicated. For $167 (not including the wine), I have the peace of mind that all I have to do is turn on the oven and reheat and cook a couple of things. I can take a nap, look through old pictures with fond memories and drink an entire bottle of wine if I want to. Most importantly, I don’t have to entertain anyone. I don’t have to smile as I open the door every time someone arrives and I don’t have to pretend not to be sad.

Who knows, maybe ordering Thanksgiving dinner will become our new tradition (gasp!

I do not feel like I owe anyone an explanation as to why I’m not carrying on with my life as if nothing happened, yet I find I am constantly having to defend my decision. Fortunately, my family gets it and supports my decision. Friends however, haven’t been so understanding. 

“You need to continue living your life.”

“You can't break tradition just because you're sad.”

“I know you're sad, but you’re going to wake up and regret it.”

Maybe so. But I am choosing to do what is best for me and for my family. I shouldn’t have to defend that.

How have you celebrated the holidays after a tragedy-filled year? Have your traditions changed since losing a loved one?