I've always loved the many different holiday seasons; summer heat fading into the crisp winds of autumn, orange leaves soon to be covered by snow. And yet, as you grow older, holidays will take on different meanings, and the magic of childhood might start to fade away. As I've grown older, I have found it harder to connect to the holidays, as the traditions I once knew begin to drift farther from me. I've felt like I've never had a real Thanksgiving or Christmas my whole life. My parents always remark about how they would spend holidays surrounded by family; rooms filled by grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I've never really spent these holidays with family all over the country, it's either been my little family unit, or the military family we made along the way. It is a great blessing to have such small, intimate gatherings.
But sometimes I feel like I don't understand the appeal.
Growing up with ever-changing houses and neighborhoods means a life full of ever-changing traditions. I've never spent the holidays with all the same people. I've never done all the same things. The weather has never even been the same, with a white Christmas being traded for a cold, windy day. We went from eating turkey sandwiches with my Uncle Scott and Aunt Kim, to having traditional Thanksgiving food with my Uncle Randy and Aunt Cherise. Sometimes we spend Christmas at home, watching Elf and the Polar Express, eating mozzarella sticks and chicken nuggets. Sometimes we travel to Florida to spend the holidays with Mickey Mouse. In a life full of change, sometimes I envy the people who spend the holidays in the same ways they always have. In ways that feel traditional, in ways that feel normal.
It's another way I have felt isolated from my peers, another way I feel like I don't understand them.
Yet, there have been traditions in my life that have stuck around that remind me of how special my holidays are. Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Dog Show with a stomach full of delicious food. Spending the whole day decorating the house for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, since my dad hates putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. Playing the Muppets' Christmas album, while we put ornaments on the tree. Finding the messes our Elf on the Shelf, Christopher, makes every morning. Matching Christmas pajamas with my family, always arguing over whose turn it is to put up the baby Jesus on our advent calendar.
Then one day, I'll be putting up my own Christmas tree, with all the ornaments my parents have saved for me. Making my own traditions, bringing a new kind of magic to these holidays.
Sometimes I have to remind myself, that the excitement of the holidays doesn't come from having a "normal" celebration. I've found beauty in the small, quiet moments, and I hope to find more of those special moments, in the cracks and crevices of holiday seasons.