Holiday Blues: Letting the Past Go

Once upon a time, Christmas used to be the one holiday I sooooo looked forward to -- especially Christmas Eve. My parents held the most magnificent parties on that night. We kept up an Italian tradition where we did the Feast of the Seven Fishes. The night before Christmas Eve, Dad would prep and cook all of the seafood until 5am and then crash for the rest of the day. I miss smelling boiling shrimp on December 23rd, in prep for the big party. There are no more smells of lobster and crabmeat salad being mustered up, no more delicious aromas of garlic and breading for the stuffed clams wafting up into our area while we all slept (or tried to) 2am in the morning. The next day (or evening), Mom would start frying shrimp and yellow tail around 6pm, batting me off with a spatula as I tried convincing her that I'm the "taste tester". She made this amazing antipasto, along with Italian bread, assorted cheeses and a ton of chips just to nosh on before the real deal came shuffling out of that tiny kitchen. That was all I have known Christmas to be. Family, friends, food, laughter, togetherness.

I miss my dad so much...
But it was never about the expectation of my parents cooking that huge feast or presents being given. It was about togetherness with my family and bringing in our closest and dearest friends to celebrate with us. My views on Christmas are much different these days, or perhaps, I'm taken aback by how Christmas has morphed into a huge financial win rather than the appreciation of those who are in your presence, even if without presents. It's become more of a superficial holiday filled with high expectations and very low levels of appreciation. It's become a shallow event to show off riches, as opposed to showing off how much you love one another. For me, I felt like Christmas had sort of died out the day Dad left us to be with God. But it really didn't -- it was just a "new normal". Our family seemed closer when Dad was still with us. Little by little, our relationships are dwindling down into only seeing one another on "special events" and "holidays" -- even though we only live less than 15 minutes apart. But, change is inevitable and I fully accept that. And of course, sometimes you just grow apart.

Today, and for the past few years, Christmas holds new traditions for us. My wife and I go out to dinner and have our "Christmas martini" and appetizers at our favorite restaurant. We come home and we sit by the fire and watch our beautiful Christmas tree listening to holiday music. The next day is the important day now. We cook, lounge and appreciate being together as a family. Sometimes we'll both go in on a present, like a much needed flat screen TV or something that we need and stocking stuffers -- but it's not expected nor the importance of the day. It's just togetherness that's appreciated. Even that isn't expected. But it comforts me knowing that I'm not spending Christmas with people who feel obligated to spend it with me just because I'm "listed" as a blood-related family member. We sometimes feel that we "should" attend the family functions, when in reality, family does not have to be blood-related. We choose who we want to be our "family" -- or who we want to spend those special moments with.

Be with people who want to be with you. Spend time with those who appreciate you. Never fake a smile or keep someone at arm's length until those "special events" and "holidays" come rolling around. Be genuine. Spend time with those who choose to keep close all throughout the year -- not just for 'party filling' traditions. Otherwise, Christmas will turn into a meaningless event just to pacify your grieving past that you haven't fully let go of yet. New traditions are wonderful. New friends are wonderful. Be happy to be spending time with chosen family, whether blood or not -- family is a sense of togetherness; a unity of appreciation and love. It shouldn't be anything less.

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