I can say that this year, for the first time in years, I am excited for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But this year is different and let me tell you why -- it's been a process that had to happen.
The first thing that started the change in me was moving. Not all of us can move. Some of us who have lost dear ones will continue to live in the same place that is filled with memories of our family members. It's hard not to sense that grief when the loss is so obvious amid the celebrations. Yet, even last year in our new home, I had some very hard moments during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This year though the holidays have completely changed because we're going to have new people involved. I'm thrilled to have my daughter and her husband come home for Christmas. And I'm eagerly looking for more people to invite for Thanksgiving. So, my first tip is to add some new people to your holidays to share joy and love and peace with. We are meant to be in community. God created us to be interdependent -- not independent. Americans especially need to learn this. There's a kind of joy we can only experience when in the presence of others. That joy is God's will for each of us.
The second tip is to create new traditions. Yes, there is a bit of sadness knowing that the new traditions you have don't involve your loved one but that's okay. Death is a reality we all face. And yes, it sucks! It's horrendous and awful. Yet, new traditions really, really help. Be creative.
What does my family do? We play cards and bet with candy (though this year we'll use wrapped candy. No one wanted to eat the M & Ms after Pete touched them). We go to Christmas Eve service at our church. My two oldest children have been helping with the cooking. This year I hope we can do some sledding (not downhill -- being pulled in the calf sled behind a vehicle).
It's easy to give up on the holidays. It's easy to say they don't matter (especially when there might be so much sadness). But they matter. No, Jesus very likely wasn't born in December, but that doesn't matter. Celebration traditions are times set aside by the world to enjoy family and friends. And our world needs as much of that as possible.