Thanks especially to my Mother, holidays are meaningful, always special, not just because they often came with goodies and gifts, but because of the ritual that gave us a sense of family continuity and appreciation for the gift of celebration… Whether we were celebrating Christ’s birth, or His Resurrection, or a birthday or anniversary, or a graduation or promotion, my mother made sure we all took a moment to be grateful, and to honour the true meaning of the day.

It isn’t that Mom celebrated with a great deal of ritual, in fact, the traditions evolved and changed over the years as the family grew and changed… Mom’s rituals were unique to her, and to our family… traditions, that in one form or another had been passed down through the generations and would be passed on to the next.

Christmas was the one time of year when Mother would bring out her special fruit cake, delicious tourtieres and dozens of other delectable sweets that appear only once a year… and then there were the decorations, a brightly lit tree laden with ornaments and tinsel, the crèche that my father made, the red and green ribbons, the music and the Santa Clauses…. we didn’t have a lot as kids, but we had the holidays and the traditions and rituals that marked them as occasions to be remembered.

Celebrating the holidays is a celebration of life – even when we’re not exactly in the mood – the sad celebrations remind us to appreciate the better days… When I was 15, I ended up with the responsibility of cooking the Christmas dinner because my baby brother has taken a chunk out of my mother’s eye the day before. She couldn’t see, but she could still direct the preparations and be sure we had the Christmas dinner we’d all been counting on. Mom’s eye healed and she soon forgot the pain, but we all remember that Christmas and how we pulled together to make it happen. Two years later I was the one to spoil the family Christmas… before I went into the hospital earlier that month, the doctor had promised that I would make it home for Christmas and be back to school with my mates in Jan… but when I awoke from the surgery, I was told I would have to spend the next 2 months on a Stryker frame while the fusion took hold in my spine… so the family spent Christmas with me at the hospital that year, a sad time for all of us. I finally managed to make it home just in time for Easter. That was the year Dad went out of his way to make that a very special occasion for me, brought home the biggest stuffed bunny he could find for me … In retrospect, even the sad occasions are remembered with a smile, when we notice how a setback was eventually transformed to produce growth.

One of my saddest Christmases ever was the year my son and I could not get home to be with the family. No matter what I did, I couldn’t lift the depression in me. When I found myself crying all the way through my son’s first Christmas concert, I prayed desperately for something – anything – to come along to lift my mood… the next day my prayers were answered … my dearest friend set herself up for an awesome practical joke that had us all in stitches for days – and years – after. Thanks to Janice, my mood shifted and with a more upbeat attitude, I saw that it was time for me to start setting my own holiday rituals. Many years passed before we could be with the family again for Christmas. So my rituals involved our extended family, bringing together anyone who might spend the holidays alone, preparing late night turkey dinners and spending hours in canasta, backgammon and scrabble tournaments. Along side the turkey, I served of course, tourtieres, fruit cakes, and thanks to Mom’s old recipes, many of the same special treats I had grown up with… the traditions are the same, but different.

However you celebrate the holidays this year, celebrate, with gratitude and joy. Make the holidays your own… whether you are in the mood or not, give yourself and those around you the gift of ritual and tradition by marking the occasion in your own unique way. Now my brothers and sisters spend Christmas with their own families, but we all look forward to Boxing Day when gather around Mom’s feast… Once again, we will each put our worries and cares aside to celebrate together, to remember how much we love each other and to remind ourselves that our moods will pass, but the love is with us through all our lives.

Wishing you all a Warm and Loving Holiday Season….

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