Just the right way to decorate the tree, to set the table or roast the ham…
Christmas is one of those holidays steeped and simmered in family traditions.
Familiar rituals, ones we have known since the childhood, are more than just get togethers. They are part nostalgia, part family history and part magic, rooting us inside our family’s safety net.
So it is no small wonder then that we feel uprooted and misplaced whenever our traditions are challenged, or worse yet – cancelled.
I have experienced this feeling of being uprooted twice before.
The first time when we moved from Soviet Union to Canada in 1994.
You see, growing up in USSR, we never celebrated Christmas.
New Year, yes; but never Christmas.
Christmas is a religious holiday, and there was no religion in the Soviet Union.
So for a while our little family was trying to adopt Canadian traditions.
I thumbed through Martha Stuart magazines and produced giant roast turkeys with all the trimmings…. But we felt torn away from our families in Russia – the feeling particularly amplified during Christmas; the way-too-big turkey carcass stayed in the freezer all the way till Easter, and kids much preferred borsh, olivie, and beliashi (still their favourites to this day).
Eventually, with time, our family Christmas tradition evolved into something that – well – just worked for the four of us. It wasn’t grand, and we still missed our families… but it worked.
And then the unthinkable happened.
The marriage and our family crumbled to pieces right over Christmas of 2004.
My then-husband moved to a different country. Kids and I were left to pick up pieces and figure out how to move forward.
I don’t remember the first few years after the break up… Everything felt like a total haze while I was climbing out of the dark hole of despair and depression.
After a while though our now-smaller family started to sprout new traditions.
Left to their own devices, these new rituals formed organically – kinda like the hoar frost that grows on tree brunches of its own accord whenever the temperature is right.
Our new family traditions grew around things kids and I cherished. Even as kids moved away, even as our family struggled through sickness and addictions, we still got together for our annual backpacking trips and Christmas ski adventures.
2020 has been so unthinkably hard.
Our family, too, have experienced the scare of COVID and loss of a loved one.
Christmas will never be the same without the ones we’ve lost.
Can this Christmas be the beginning of a new beginning?
What if something beautiful can grow out of this chaos, out of fear, disappointment and despair?
May you and yours be blessed in all ways and always.
Hey, my name is Julia
Living with chronic pain has taught me to look for solutions in unlikely places – places where most people see only problems.
Over the years I’ve gotten to be pretty good at this problem-solving and silver-lining finding thing.
So good that I felt compelled to share what I’ve learned and help others to find their sea legs while navigating, living, and winning their battle with chronic pain.