Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, when cases were soaring in our state, we had to suspend several of our long-held Christmas traditions.
The first one that went by the wayside was what is affectionately referred to as the “cousin party.” This is a tradition in my wife’s family where all her cousins, and their children get together at one of the cousin’s homes for a festive potluck dinner and a visit by that jolly old man in a red suit who passes out gifts to all the children, a role I played on our very Christmas in our new home over 20 years ago. This is such a long-term tradition, that it is now the cousin’s grandchildren who are receiving those gifts.
The second change was how we celebrated our anniversary which occurs just three days before Christmas (yea our parents couldn’t believe we got married three days before Christmas either). In 2019, we were fortunate to celebrate our 40th anniversary a week earlier in Hawaii.
But in 2020, we couldn’t even go out to eat much less travel. We did go down to our midtown condo where we watched the sunset from our balcony…
…and enjoyed a fine dinner we had picked up along with an expensive bottle of wine.
It was the first time in nine months that we had even spent the night at our condo so in spite of technically “staying home”, we had a nice reprieve from the pandemic.
The third tradition to be skipped was our annual family breakfast out together on Christmas Eve morning. My wife and I have been doing that for the entire 40+ years of our marriage and had only missed it one other time, in 2011 when our two oldest kids got married and our youngest son was heading out to CA to start school. Instead of going out, I fixed a big breakfast and took it over to our son’s house where we enjoyed it in the safety of his home.
The last tradition that was missed was attending Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve. In 2020, instead, I sat in front of my computer and watched it live stream on the church’s Face Book page. The only good thing about that was I didn’t have to worry about finding a normally scarce seat. Or finding a place to park my car.
So, what was this year like? Well, when I originally captured many of these thoughts last year while they were still fresh on my mind and hoping by the end of 2021, that we would have returned to some sense of normalcy, I had optimistically started this post with: “Wow what a difference a year makes!” And yet, even with the promise of widespread vaccinations becoming available last December and their aggressive rollout in the new year, it is sad to see that we are not out of the pandemic “woods” yet.
For the second year in a row, the cousin party did not occur. And we also skipped our annual Christmas Eve breakfast out as we felt it would not be safe with the latest surge in cases for our youngest grandson, who is too young to be vaccinated. Christmas Eve mass was once again celebrated in front of my computer screen.
But having both received vaccinations and most recently, boosters, my wife and I were able to recapture at least one of those missed traditions.
The afternoon of our anniversary, we drove downtown to spend the night at what is known in Memphis as the “South’s Grand Hotel.” While the lobby bar area with their fountain and iconic swimming ducks was too crowded, we managed to find another secluded bar off the main floor, almost vacant, where we could enjoy what we refer to for our grandkids as “a spicy drink” to begin our celebration.
We then walked a block to a new restaurant which also was not crowded for a celebratory dinner where we began reminiscing about our many years together and the wonderful times we had had.
After a comfortable night in our cozy room, we enjoyed a nice breakfast out, just the two of us, exactly how it was 42 years ago, on the morning after our wedding, prior to heading off for our honeymoon.
So, even though we again missed most of our Christmas traditions this year, it was nice to enjoy at least one.
The Christmas star, as seen in its brightest in 2020, serves as a reminder that Christmas is a season of hope, and my hope is that next year, we will be out of the pandemic woods and able to return to many of our long-held traditions. Maybe you too have had to forgo some of your own family traditions—possibly for the second time. Hopefully for all of us, next Christmas will be the most joyful in over three years.