Holidays are so magical when you are little. But aside from that, they are EASY. When you are a kid, the hardest part of the holidays is dealing with the itchiness of that god-awful Christmas sweater and staying in bed until you are allowed to get up on Christmas morning.

We all have our own traditions and they change from family to family. We spent every Christmas at my great-grandparents house in Tellico Plains and then later at Neena’s house just a quick 5 minute drive from our own house. As far as the itchy sweaters went, we usually lucked out because pajamas were de rigeur for Christmas Eve from about 6:00 on. And my sister and I had a hard-fast rule for the getting out of bed trick… you see, Neena’s house was across the street from a Weigel’s (think regional convenience store, sort of a kid’s version of the bar in Cheers where everyone knows your name) and they were open from 6 am till midnight, 356 days a year. So if Weigel’s was open, we were allowed to come downstairs. Luckily… we could see their light from the bedroom window at Neena’s house.

And of course as soon as we saw that light click on we would race downstairs to see everything all sparkly, because nothing sparkles like Christmas morning and we would race up to wake up mom and dad who, bless their hearts, had been up since 3 am making everything so freaking sparkly. And it amazes me that they were able to keep opening one eye and grumpily snarling “no shit Sherlock” as we shook them awake with the urgency and ferocity that would normally only be equaled by the most pressing need to escape a burning building.

So as we would lounge in our pjs, (matching, natch) comparing loot and emptying stockings and just generally rolling around in Christmas, the biggest breakfast you’ve ever seen would be under construction in the next room. Every bit of it from scratch. Once our bellies were full, we would all roll into the living room for another obscene display of Christmas, with even my parents receiving bags from “Santa” until it was time for the four of us to pack it up and head home where, amazingly, there was one final round of Santa to encounter (but not until we had showered and climbed BACK into pajamas, obviously)

But this long diatribe is just a way for me to explain to you that my Christmas traditions have always been something I’ve guarded fiercely. I can’t imagine that I was an easy person to marry as I’m so unwilling to compromise on what Christmas activities take place. But compromise I must. And then as our families undergo the changes that are to be expected as the years tick by, people aging and eventually passing away, siblings marrying, cousins finding their own ways, divorce, remarriage, and, of course, our own marriages and the addition of new families and new sets of traditions. Nothing stays the same. And you don’t realize that when you are 7 years old and every year is the same but still spectacular and maybe there is even snow.

But things do change. New traditions are created. And learning to roll with the punches is kind of vital. This year has been the most un-traditional of years for us and I was dreading it because there has been so much upheaval in our lives the past couple of years. That safe and sparkly house where I spent every Christmas for a good 20 years doesn’t even exist anymore. And nobody that lived there is still with us. So you adapt. You come up with new plans. You crash your daughter’s in-laws Christmas dinner and find out it isn’t so bad. You plan Christmas for a few days later. Stretching out a holiday isn’t exactly bad. As I type this, I haven’t even had half of Christmas yet.

And guess what? We’ve done just fine. It’s alright when things are different. When change becomes necessary. And maybe its even a good thing when your new traditions aren’t anything like your old ones. Maybe that’s not so bad. The only part of it that matters to me is that it exists. That there is a day, sometime in the winter, when we all manage to come from our different corners of life and sit down and just enjoy each other. When we can relax and tell our same stories and pretend that they are new and we can curl up on the couch together and read a book or watch “A Christmas Story” and pretend that none of us have ever seen the whole movie at one time and drink hot chocolate and just be a family. Not because we have to be but because we are lucky enough to be related to each other.