This is a time of year when we are able to enjoy our traditions. Some of our holiday traditions have been passed down from our grandparents and parents, others are ones we have created.
Holidays are also when we think of our loved ones who have died and how their memories can become part of our traditions. In our home, we eat holiday dinners on dishes that my mom gave me that she had given her mom when she was 18. She bought them as a gift for Grandma the Christmas she had her first full-time job working in a law office. She was proud of them and I love them. They are smaller, as in the late ‘30s people did not eat on the large plates we do and as a result were also skinnier! There are only a few of these plates left and I make them a special part of our dinner setting. Recipes are also a delicious and comforting way to share traditions.
My father always put oranges in our stockings, another special tradition from his youth. Oranges were such a treat in the early 1900s and getting one in your stocking was a real treasure. My mom carried on after Dad died, and we still do it. My mom used to help Santa out and would mail a back-up stocking in case Santa couldn’t find me in my gypsy days, and always an orange was inside. I believe I heard at Dr. Art Sovereign’s funeral a story about Art delivering boxes of mandarin oranges to his patients during the holiday season. Such a nice man, I miss his smile and gentle manner.
When the boys were babes we started the new PJ’s on Christmas Eve, opening one gift on Christmas Eve and going for a walk on Christmas Day. Simple traditions that are ours.
I have decorations that were gifts from my mom, or I bought on my travels, with my darlings and or the boys made and have become a history of our life. Our tree is always eclectic and filled with these symbols of our life.
Sometimes I say we live with ghosts, or angels, but I am comfortable with ghosts. Garett, my darling’s son; Gord, my mom and dad, my darling’s dad. Their love, memories, photos, stories are inter-woven in our lives and I am glad for that. The deep love we have for those who have died does not end with their death; it carries on and becomes part of the fabric of our lives.
I don’t fight it — I let them all in.
This time of year our feelings are intensified. Take those moments to remember and honour your friends and family who are no longer present. Our first Christmas without Gord we went to Ontario to be with my family — we needed that diversion. We have since always celebrated Christmas Eve and the morning in our own home with our own celebrations and traditions. Many times we have dinner at a friend’s home and this has been very special, as it feels like we are with family and those we love.
From my home to yours, may you have a wonderful holiday season surrounded with love.
Michele Blais has worked with children and families in the North Okanagan for the past 29 years. She is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, appearing every other Sunday.