The Long View: Holiday traditions can be a gift that keeps on giving

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Holiday rituals are naturally a mixed bag. 

The children may love attending the local tree lighting ceremony or annual Santa Claus Parade downtown, but their parents bemoan the challenge of bundling up the brood, finding parking, and fighting the crowds at these events. You might adore the secret Santa tradition at the office, while every year I agonize over what to give the name I've drawn. 

Holiday rituals are naturally a mixed bag. 

The children may love attending the local tree lighting ceremony or annual Santa Claus Parade downtown, but their parents bemoan the challenge of bundling up the brood, finding parking, and fighting the crowds at these events. You might adore the secret Santa tradition at the office, while every year I agonize over what to give the name I've drawn. 

There are those who cannot wait to bake twelve different seasonal sweets for holiday visitors, and those who give out drugstore candy canes when carolers come to call.  Some of us joyfully compose a handwritten note for each Christmas card on our extensive list. Then there are others for whom phone calls and a blanket Facebook post will suffice.

Some of us delight in filling our homes with friends and loved ones, but others just wish for a moment of heavenly peace and quiet. And for every road warrior eager for an over the river, through the woods pilgrimage to grandmother’s place, there is a slightly Scrooge-like homebody who wishes their holidays did not include long hours of travel.

Still, we do our best to honor what traditions we can, despite the added chores those traditions require.

As a kid, I reveled in Christmas time treks to see friends and relatives. Of course, I didn’t have to make the arrangements or pay the tab. I eagerly anticipated holiday table feasting, oblivious to the cost and labor required to prepare, serve, and clean up said feast. And at church or community parties, the sugar plums dancing in my head were oblivious to the hard work of planning, procuring for, and pulling off these often elaborate events.

I must admit, there have been times in my adult years when I longed for a less active Thanksgiving through New Year's. But lately I am thinking it is good to go to all the trouble of so much holiday hubbub.

Spent a couple long days on the road to be with friends for Thanksgiving. Though this was a departure from being with my children and the driving to and from was tedious and tiring, it was quite satisfying to share the occasion with people I hold dear. We honored each other with our presence, and who knows when we will have that opportunity again?

At my fraternal organization’s Christmas party, I am annually asked to lead the group in singing carols. I used to think of this as a chore, something I must organize my music for and drag my guitar to.

But looking over the crowd this year, I noted the absence of some faces who in the past joyfully raised their voices and were unfailingly full of Christmas cheer. It made me realize the traditions of this season, when we choose to honor them, yield memories more lasting than any gifts we receive.

Now is the only Holiday Season you and I will have in 2014. Here’s hoping we spend it well.

 

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com