Redefining Traditions

 In Change, Relationships

When I was a child, my family had traditions for every holiday.  I took comfort in always knowing that Thanksgiving Day would be spent at our house with my Dad barbecuing the turkey, and Christmas Eve would be a gathering of my father’s family at the home of one of my Uncles.  There was never any question of where we’d go or who would be there, although there was always interest in what new boyfriend or girlfriend our teenage cousins would bring along. Even after I married, my husband and I lived near my family, and he fit into the established pattern.  When we had children, they just fit in too.

Then we made the radical decision to move to Oregon, and I was worried about what I’d do without the traditions that had defined the holidays for my whole life.  My fears were unnecessary since my parents soon decided to retire and move here, too, as did two of my aunts and uncles.  With some modifications, we once again had the comfort of the routine.  Thanksgiving was at my parents’ house, with barbecued turkey, playing pool, and watching football.  Christmas dinner was at our house, with my husband barbecuing another turkey.  New Year’s Day was ham at my Aunt Carol’s, and Easter was family brunch at the Country Club.  It was a comfortable yearly tradition that gave our holidays structure and that we raised our children on for 20 years.

However, in the past few years, our children have grown and moved away, my mother, father, Aunts and Uncles have died, and the big old house with the pool table is now a lovely memory.

How To Celebrate Now

So here I am, wondering what one does do to celebrate the holidays.  I must admit I wasn’t prepared to deal with this new dilemma since I naively assumed everyone would always be here and things would just go on as they always had.

Since our children moved away and my parents died, I’ve taken each holiday as it comes and tried to find the true meaning of what the day represents.  Before, it was always about family, but now that my family is dispersed or gone, what does that mean?

I’ve come to realize that there are many definitions of “family.”  It’s not just the people connected by marriage or blood, but it’s also the people to whom we’re connected by friendship and love.  In these past few years, I’ve looked around and realized my husband, and I are blessed with lots of “family”.  Our dear friends, who travel with us and put up with us at all hours of the day and night (even those grumpy morning hours), our friends who play cards with us and with whom we laugh late into the evening.  The women I’ve connected with on a deeper level since we’re no longer spending time parenting, and so have time for each other.  All of these and many more are family, and on every holiday, I do what I can to gather together as many of these wonderful folks as possible.

Of course, the “tradition” has changed.  There is no routine anymore.  Every holiday is different, depending on who is available to share the day. I’ve realized that tradition isn’t really about what we eat or where we go.  The thing that continues to make each holiday “traditional” is that it is a gathering together of people who care about each other.  I now know it’s a time to celebrate one another and remember how we are all family.

Sandy Abell is a life and business coach, best-selling author, speaker, and Licensed Counselor. She specializes in working with professionals, entrepreneurs, and people dealing with life transitions and is the author of several books. She is also the co-host of a great podcast called Your Personal Power Pod  and is excited to share it with you. You can hear it wherever you stream your podcasts or at You can reach Sandy at  She’d love to hear from you.

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