I am typing on the deck, surrounded by the tropical vegetation and blue skies of Key West. The image (from a tourist site; you'll have to wait for mine) is what it's like at night. So much for Christmas tradition.
A number of posts today have brought to mind the contrast between Christmases Past and Christmas Now. RevGals talks about how churches handle Christmas traditions, and PresbyOpia picks up the theme with a post on letting go.
For two decades, our home was the Christmas Dinner destination for our friends and, sometimes, parents who ventured in from out of town. QG's post about holiday hostessing got me counting and remembering: for a number of years, there were 11 families, meaning a minimum of 22 adults and 23 kids. There was the year we decided to go Mexican (hence the two pinatas). There was the year that Gregarious Son threw up hot chocolate and another dad and I dragged the dhrurrie rug up to the bathroom to try to wash the stain out in the tub (we failed). The kids remember a hallway light crashing to the floor in response to the joyful tromping of little feet upstairs; if that incident actually occurred, I blotted it from memory immediately.
Year after year, the same families brought the same chairs, the same extra silver, the same food (except for the Mexican year). Musical Friend, sometimes with other women and girls, sang O, Holy Night! as our grace. The tables were always decorated with holly and very cool candles from North Carolina, the piano was always out of tune, and we always sang the same songs around the fireplace after dinner.
It was different only once: the year that Chicago Son spent in France and we joined him there. That December, the Christmas Dinner migrated to Musical Friend's and. from what we heard, she actually got the kids to act out a nativity pageant ~ something I could never under any circumstances have accomplished.
This year, we decided that we could not bear it. We have so many traditions asociated with Christmas, and several of them are particular and personal to our beloved Chicago Son and me. He was always the one willing to respond with a "Sure, Mom, I'll go with you" whenever I came up with a new idea that caused the others to roll their eyes and hunker deeper down into their reading chairs. Without him, I could not imagine any way that it could be Christmas unless, perhaps, Christmas happened somewhere else and in some other way. And so the Christmas Dinner has moved, with four of us in Key West and the rest at the home of our group's own Hostess with the Mostess (who is still going to pull off the usual New Year's Eve gathering a week later, as she has done for two decades as well). In two places we will mark the loss of Musical Friend's Husband and Chicago Son. We will be sharing the same readings across 1500 miles, and we will talk on the phone, and we will acknowledge that almost everything is changed ~ and some of us will hope that one thing has not.