As I sit here at the computer contemplating the upcoming Christmas season, I note how the old or should I say “my” Christmas traditions are slowly being replaced by new ones. Not a bad thing, just different and it has taking me some time to get my head around these changes. Then just when I think I have adjusted to the new rituals along comes COVID and throws all the customs, both old and new, out the window. I like to refer to Christmas 2020 as “the Christmas that never was.” Well now it is Christmas 2021 and things once again are in a state of flux.

When I was a child some 70 odd years ago, Christmas was always a magical and exciting time. For one thing, it was the only time, other than your birthday, that you received presents. There was so much activity in December – baking so many different types of squares and cookies that you wondered if you were feeding the whole community, decorating the home, attending Christmas concerts, picking out a tree, cutting it down and decorating it, visiting friends, shopping and wrapping gifts, making gifts, sending and receiving Christmas cards which were then strung up around the door frames. Your senses would almost explode as you took in the sights and smells of the kitchens.

Well holiday activities have transformed over the years. Everyone has experienced modifications to or the outright abandonment of once cherished routines and practices. These shifts have been brought about not only by events, some beyond our control but also by the way we view celebrations as we age. Let me tell you about some of the adjustments I have made regarding holiday customs around Xmas meals. (Changes to other traditions will be in my next post).

The Christmas Meal:
When I was a kid, there would be a large gathering of aunts, uncles and cousins at someone’s house for the Christmas feast either on the 25th or 26th of December. Everyone took turns being the host and everyone brought food. What a great time. (Although, I could never understand why the men ate first and the women and children were automatically delegated to the second sitting. It wasn’t like the men served the women. They were too busy having a sleep on the couch or playing games.) Thank goodness the younger generation has changed this. Today men are pitching right in helping with the cooking and cleaning up. What a lovely new tradition!

I am happy to say that some parts of the above “old” tradition still exist in the Connell family, that is until COVID hit. Up until two years ago, every November my extended family (approx. 30-35 people) would meet, bring food and sleep over in order to celebrate this holiday. It was a time I enjoyed so much. At least once a year we would get to see everyone. It wasn’t just a sleigh ride down the road either. Some flew in from Halifax and Sault Ste. Marie and others had a one to two-hour car drive to arrive at the destination, but everyone came and we ate, drank, visited and laughed. Oh, so much laughter, so much fun. I fear this tradition may now be lost forever as COVID has changed so many things.

Changes have even occurred in our nuclear family’s way of celebrating the Christmas meal. Tammy and Steve are developing their own family traditions and this has affected Chuck and I in a very nice way. We now go to their places for Christmas dinner and brunch. I no longer cook the big meal. At first, I resisted the idea as it seemed like I was giving up a very important and sacred tradition, the family gathering at the homestead, the turkey, etc. but then I came to my senses. I thought, “Lynda, you twit, go for it. Put your feet up and relax.” And so, I have. We seniors have done our bit.

And finally, the last tradition I will talk about regarding food is baking. This was always a major holiday activity. The freezer would be overflowing with every type of cookie or square imaginable just waiting to be served with a cup of tea to anyone who dropped by to offer holiday wishes. I did very little baking and I certainly never made a plum pudding like my mum always did, so I guess I kicked that tradition in the teeth a long time ago. I’m sure it still exists but many of my “senior” friends go to Costco, buy fancy cookies and desserts, cut them up, display them on their best china and pass them off as homemade. Makes perfect sense to me. It’s not that we are lazy, we are just plain tired.

I wish I had the energy to paint the town gold, red and green during the holiday season but that is not the case. I’m so grateful that the younger generation is picking up the torch, establishing and putting into practise their own ideas for celebrating the holidays. A little pampering for the older generation is very nice.

Part Two to follow.