A second wind: Traditions and Transitions

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By Mary Petersen, Signal Staff Writer

The Christmas decorations have been taken down and carefully packed. 

The lights have been removed and boxed until next year. The tree languishing at the curb has been collected. Furniture has been repositioned and each item is back in its place.

But despite its tidy order, my house feels sad and bare.

Each year, we decorate, shop, bake, cook meals and make preparations to gather with friends and family over the holidays. It’s a hectic scramble to get everything done. And then, in a flash it’s over.

After hosting a houseful of visitors for ten days, my home is eerily quiet with only echoes of festive holiday voices. This takes some adjustment. 

There is a peaceful relief to getting back on a routine, getting back to normal, whatever that means. But for me, accompanying this is a sort of melancholy ungrounded feeling, like what now?

After an especially celebratory holiday season, we had to say good bye to my son-in-law’s family visiting from England, including his nephew who turned one year while they visited.

We shared our holiday traditions — baking cookies and watching Christmas movies, making grandma’s Jello recipe and fresh cranberry relish. We compared stuffing recipes and Christmas meals.

They shared their Christmas traditions from across the pond: Yorkshire pudding, mince pies and fruitcake with cheddar slices. The mulled wine was delicious. Sitting down together for a traditional Christmas dinner filled me with gratitude, and I reflected on the importance of cultural and family traditions.

Traditions are the glue that bonds families and cultures.

Bedtime routines, family dinners and annual summer vacations create lasting memories for children and form deep bonds that are comforting and stabilizing.

Religious and cultural traditions provide a shared history and common identity which is especially important for children. Knowing their family’s stories and rituals provides them a sense of security and belonging.

It is the foundation for the family’s values and unites young and old family members. 

Winter with its cultural holidays is brimming with not only traditions but transitions. This season is signaled by the winter solstice, which marks the shortest day and longest hours of darkness. It is a time of quiet energy, dormancy and rest.

But the winter solstice also heralds the return of the sun, longer days and spring’s hope for rebirth. In a personal way, the winter solstice is our time for patience and quiet introspection so necessary for growth. It’s a time of refocusing, of letting go of the past and embracing the unpredictability of the future.

So as I sit in quiet melancholy, poised to take a step into the new year, I take comfort in knowing that this is a natural part of the steady rhythm of life’s seasons. In the blink of an eye, we will be celebrating spring with its holidays, then summer and fall. All too quickly, the Christmas decorations will be hauled out of the attic for next year’s celebration in the ongoing cycle of life. 

Mary Petersen is a retired COC English instructor, 30-year SCV resident and two-time breast cancer survivor.

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