Many families spend the holidays in the same place every year. Whether the season is spent in front of your home fireplace or at your family’s lake cabin, repetition has an important role in creating tradition.
But I have moved nine times in the last five years.
My family has had to get a little bit creative when it comes to securing familiarity and the holiday spirit.
My childhood was fairly stable. I lived in the same home from ages six to 15. We always went to the same farm to choose our Christmas tree, and we always went to the same restaurant every Christmas Eve. When my dad lost his job during my sophomore year of high school, our family left my hometown of Seattle and moved to California. I love California; it’s my favorite place in the world. But one thing that you won’t find in California is stability. It’s a very transient place, due to extremely unpredictable employment and a constantly rising housing market. Case in point: I just finished my ninth move since making California my home.
I’ve learned to enjoy getting to know new people and places, but moving has made the holidays less than traditional.
I’ve spent the last five Christmases in different locations. I could say that it’s not where you spend the holidays, but who you spend them with — but it’s hard to get into the Christmas spirit in a completely new environment.
Sometimes my family actually moved in December, so that made our regular household traditions impossible. We weren’t always able to get a live Christmas tree and our stockings were often in the back of a storage unit. So we started simplifying the traditions: We could always find a time to drink eggnog together, and my sister and I made sure to harmonize our favorite Christmas songs at least once over the holidays. No matter where we ended up opening our presents, we still opened them in the same clockwise order, starting with the youngest. These small repetitions became the foundation of our holiday.
A big part of inevitable holiday stress can be attributed to the pressure of creating a perfect holiday environment — but moving so frequently has given me a more minimalist approach to life.
Instead of relying on excessive fanfare and decorations, I’ve learned that hanging just one special ornament can be enough. Suddenly, without the added strain of running Christmas errands and decorating, December became a lot less taxing. My family and I could relax and focus on ending the year positively. Even though our location constantly changed, I have always had a relatively small family. Therefore, I was already used to pretty low key celebrations. While surrounded by the three members of my immediate family, I celebrated Christmas without the added hassle of maintaining elaborate holiday rituals.
It was oddly freeing.
No matter where you spend the end of the year, it is fun to have reliability to look forward to. The unavoidable instability of life can get in the way, but I’ve always found small ways to make the holidays feel cozy and familiar. Whether it’s eating a specific cookie or dancing around to your favorite Christmas song, little activities can spark your wintery spirit. Holiday traditions don’t need to be a big production — and sometimes streamlining your holiday routine will ease your tension and make time with your loved ones even more enjoyable.
In spite of the unpredictable (albeit exciting) nature of my life thus far, I have always managed to feel the soothing warmth of the holidays. Most importantly, I know that no matter where I am, I will always have a wonderful season with the people I love most.