There were nine of us around the elegant table in a sumptuously decorated house built in 1850–one of Rochester’s oldest. The house is filled with antiques, beautiful traditional art, and a sense of tradition. The menu was traditional American and served in elegant style with beautiful china, silver, and crystal. Over appetizers in the garland-laden living room, we commented about the many dinners held in this historic house over the last century and a half and made up stories about children sliding down the bannister of the long staircase and imagined the many Christmases celebrated here. My friend who now owns the house is the first owner after the original family. And he grew up playing in this house, so he, too, has a history here. Indeed, visions of Christmases past were all around us.
So it was an evening that, by appearances, was steeped in tradition and an “old-style” of grand entertaining. Yet at the same time, there was a wonderful sense of looking ahead to the future, creating new possibilities, new ways of doing things, and an awareness that there were new things soon to be discovered. For me, it was a wonderful reminder of the comfort and support that comes with tradition when we are not attached to it or burdened by it, and when we are clear that we can let it go when its time is done.
These year-end holidays can bring up lots of traditions and lots of unspoken pressures and expectations that things should be a certain way because “that’s how we’ve always done it.” In my family, we’ve kept some traditions that we love, yet each year we have also done something different. It’s kept these holidays alive and full of meaning for us. Our focus is on each other and the time we have together, on celebrating with wonderful food all made in our own kitchens, and on taking time for phone calls with family and friends around the world.
For my partner and I in particular, we take time to focus on the beliefs, practices, habits, and traditions of the past that continue to nurture and support us, and which ones it is now time to shift to something new. We look toward the new year with a clear sense of intention and awareness, even if we don’t know for certain what the new year will bring. We just know that, in order for us to make the most of the year, we must do our best to be fully aware of what opportunities the year is waiting to show us and be ready to respond.
And so as you celebrate your version of the year-end holidays, may you delight in the traditions that feel right to you and let go of the ones that seem no longer appropriate. May you celebrate what has been and look forward to the gifts and opportunities that are waiting in the wings. May you be grateful for the heritage that has helped to shape you and be emboldened to start the new traditions of tomorrow.