I've never been big on celebrating holidays. I don't really care for any of them, but particularly not Christmas. I'm not sure where my disdain for celebrating holidays comes from. Perhaps from my mother, who'd spend the whole month of November preparing for Thanksgiving and then spend the week of Thanksgiving shouting, nervous that the food wouldn't be done in time. Or it could be the fact that as soon as Thanksgiving was over, she'd immediately get all the Christmas decorations out of the garage and set us to work on decorating the house. Most people assume that maybe I hate the holidays because my ex-husband and I are divorced. They think that maybe I hate the holidays because they're lonely or because we fight about who'll spend time with whom. They're wrong. Yes, we are divorced, but we spend the holidays together.
I think so much of my distain for the holidays stems from the fact that we place so much emphasis on the giving of gifts, on being "cheerful," and on forcing the fact that this should be "the most wonderful time of the year" down each other's throats. I've always hated being bombarded with red and green as soon as Thanksgiving ended, expected and told from every conceivable angle to buy, buy, buy, but also not to forget that this time of year is meant for spending time with my family. So I decided, few years ago, before I even had children, that if I ever did have a family we were not going to celebrate Christmas or any holiday for that matter. At least not in the traditional sense.
When I met my ex-husband, Leif, he shared a similar disinterest in celebrating the holidays the way everyone else did. So we began our own traditions. For seven years we kept our holidays low key. We focused on each other, making sure that we never got caught up in what the holiday is supposed to look like. Instead built our holidays around our family, and around what was important to us.
This year, though, our family looks different. Leif and I are divorced, and our two children split time between our two homes. But spending the holidays apart was never an option for us. I don't think it even crossed our minds. Even though we weren't keen on the holidays, we'd come to love them when we spent them as a family, and that hadn't changed solely because Leif and I had ended our partnership. For better or worse, we are still a family, and together we'd turned the holidays into something magical and intimate. Divorce, for us, didn't mean letting go of any of that. It meant adjusting, possibly including new partners into the mix, and remaining, at our very core, us.
Without even discussing it, we knew we would be spending the holidays together. Despite our indifference to the holiday season, our personal traditions had become integrated with this time of year. The only thing our kids asked was whether or not we'd be doing the celebrating at my house, or their dad's. But they knew that we would be together. I think that, for all four of us, there's an unspoken importance to be together. Part of it, I think, stems from the fact that the past year was so emotionally-draining and life-changing for all of us. The other part is because that despite all that's changed, we still feel like us. Celebrating the holidays together is an opportunity to return to something that once was. I think we're all looking forward to that.
Over the years, Christmas Day has grown on me. I actually look forward to it now. For our family it means no presents get opened. We usually don't have a tree, or any decorations up. We eat a large breakfast, we lounge in pajamas, we cuddle in bed. Then we venture into the city — Portland — where its completely quiet. There's something so very eerie and beautiful about it. The kids run in the open square, and you can't help but smile and be grateful for what your life is. This is my life. And though the face of it may change from year to year, my family is still that: my family. Someday we might do separate holidays but this year, we're spending it together.
Images Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen (3)