Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Virginian In Vermont: Christmas

It is my second Christmas in Vermont.

There is something strange about celebrating Christmas in a new place. Whether it is a new place physically, like a new home or a new town, or a new place emotionally, after a death or divorce, there is something missing, a feeling of displacement, and often, loss. The traditions of the past are broken. The place the tree always went is no longer there. The ritual of putting together the Christmas villiage is changed. The children are no longer with you, living their own lives and creating their own traditions, while your tradition has changed.

Last year, I was new in Vermont and new to Quarry House. I felt alfloat without Christmas tradition. I put out my favorite Christmas decorations, but somehow they looked out of place. I had not found a church home, and although I went to church, I may as well have been in a foreign land.

It was not a bad Christmas. In fact, it was lovely. I had good time alone with Rona, and she fixed a magnificent feast, the kind of feast that was as beautiful to behold as is was to eat, the kind of meal that belonged on the cover of Southern Living or Yankee magazine. Having a holiday, with less people in it has an unexpected dividend - you get to spend more focused time with the people you love, and that is a blessing.

Another blessing came of the change. After over 25 years of doing Christmas the same way, in pretty much the same place, when you find yourself in a different place, with your traditions changed by either choice of circumstance, you rediscover the adventure of building new traditions. You could dwell on the change as loss, or the change as adventure. I have found it surprisingly freeing, at 54, to live in a new place, to celebrate less extravagantly, to find new places for the decorations that are part of my Christmas. But this year, I know where my favorite Lenox nativity looks good. I have a church I go to regularly. I am learning that here in Vermont, a white Christmas is the norm (and yes, there is snow on the ground.), and learning to love it.

Things are still in flux. My daughter, a senior in high school is with me for the first time in years, and with her here the house, there is suddenly baking and the house is full of good smells and sweet calories. And Rona, the woman I love and who I moved to Vermont to be near, has been in Florida helping her sister deal with sudden sickness and a new baby, so we did not know until a day or so ago whether we would celebrate Christmas together or 23 hours apart, and so there were no plans, something odd for a planner like myself. And it is only my second year here, and I am still learning the local traditions and things to be a part of.

I have learned this, something I knew in my head, but now know in my heart by experience. Christmas is a celebration that knows no bounds. Traditions are nice, but they are not the celebration. The celebration is either in our hearts. If we open our heart to celebration, we experience it. If we let external circumstances, like loss or change, close us to celebration, it does not exist for us. We make that decision, not life or place. There is adventure in change, chances to grow, to learn new ways to celebrate this most holy of days, to realize how universal it is, no matter where, or with whom, or even alone, we celebrate it.

This is part of what God wants for us I think - a better realization that if we focus more on him and less on the external, we are not "better" people. We are simply people who have learned that the power of joy is always available to us, if only we keep our focus less on the external, and more on the holy, on God and God with us.

May you all have a blessed Christmas, where ever you are.



The picture is of the "Christmas Tree" my daughter made of our gifts.


Lita said...

Thank you, Tom, for that beautifully written post. I know and feel it came from your heart. Randy and I are learning that life is about change but Jesus is constant. Merry Christmas from Virginia!
Love, Lita

Derrick said...

I'm glad you have found your new traditions, Tom and can enjoy Christmas with your daughter. I wish you increasing happiness for the coming year.

FireLight said...

Tom, I always find insights and inspiration in your reflections. You, see, it WAS meant to be that your daughter would be in Vermont this winter.
Believe it or not, there was snow on my lawn by Christmas Alabama! An absolute first white Christmas for us!
Peace be with you.

The lady in Red said...

Dear Tom, the celebration is really in our hearts. You are really open -minded. Thanks for sharing! Best wishes!

Tess Kincaid said...

Warm and woolly wishes for 2011, to you and yours, Tom! xx