I grew up in a dual-ethnic household. My maternal grandparents emigrated from Italy while my paternal grandparents came from Austria. At Christmas, we spent half of the time celebrating the Italian traditions, and the other half of the time, we celebrated the Eastern European traditions. Christmas Eve started with a dinner with my father’s small family (11 of us) and ended with a raucous party with my mother’s family where 35+ of us gathered to play games, dance, and exchange gifts. 

Around the Fire Pit Our Spiral Tree

Once I married someone who is not of Italian descent and moved across the country from family, the holidays changed. No longer close to family, Mike, our son Jason, and I spent holidays alone until each of our mothers spent alternating Christmases with us. The four or five of us celebrating the day together was a lot quieter than anything I had experienced growing up. 

Our holidays became even quieter once our mothers passed and our son graduated from college and moved to yet another part of the country. While Mike and I occasionally traveled to spend the holidays with our son and daughter-in-law, we spent many of them alone. Last year, we decided to move back across country to be closer to them, and made the move from Nevada to Florida in October. 

The pandemic has, of course, changed any real plans we had. Because we have moved from a large house to a smaller condo, we won’t have a large tree. Instead, we’ll have a lighted spiral tree in the living room and a few decorations on the balcony. If it is warm enough to spend time outside, we’ll probably go to see Jason and Sandra for a few hours. Jason will light a fire in the fire pit, and we’ll sit around it instead of a tree to exchange gifts. We may or may not have a regular holiday dinner; perhaps sandwiches will suffice. Perhaps this will become our new tradition.  

It would be easy to convince ourselves that all of these changes, especially this year’s, are depressing. The truth, though, is that holidays can be stressful. There were many years that I could not wait for the season to be over so life could go back to normal. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that family is the most precious gift we have. I am in no way denigrating fancy dinners and huge celebrations, but while life spins on outside of our little piece of the world, we’ll enjoy a glass of wine around the fire pit and embrace the quiet time together.