A Sisters’ Christmas: Embracing New Traditions

We both knew that with my relocation to the South, things would be different. A mere three  months in and it was already the holiday season.

“You’re coming for Christmas, right?”

“Well no, I mean there’s Alex’s wedding in January, so we’ll all get together then.”

It was hard to push back on the logic. But when Christmas – the extravagant, highly-personalized, and memory-imbued FAMILY CHRISTMAS PARTY which I launched in 1992 rolled around, the sting of loneliness took root. Glued to my phone, I waited for their call and what I thought would be an avalanche of real-time photos captured throughout the joyful, often raucous day. I got the call and longed to be right there with them. Photos arrived well past my bedtime.  A year later:


“Hey, it’s me. I just booked my flight. I’m coming for family Christmas.”


“You know I’ll be there!”

And so it went until COVID once again found me glued to my phone, far from the action.


“Count me in!”

And so I have gone. But you know how it is… things are never as we imagine they will be because nothing stands still. There is no “Go Back” button to press. A lot changes in just a few years, and in our case, the next generation had grown, evolved, and happily taken over. The only thing we had to do was to show up for the all-day Family Party.  The rest of the time, we sisters could savor as we wished.

We were giddy with a strange sense of “freedom” that first year. As this new “tradition”- ably and creatively assumed by her grown children – has taken hold in the fabric of our sister-story, we’ve evolved how we spend this precious time together and made a few key realizations along the way:

Let go of how it used to be…move gracefully into your new role

It’s the “know when to lead and when to follow.” It doesn’t matter that you are no longer the hostess with the most-est or that no one bothers to make that three-tiered chocolate truffle that was YOUR tradition. Know when it is your place to hand over the reins and let those behind you experience the joy and the hassle of running things without interference, judgment, or second guessing. No helicoptering or nagging. Let it be.

Roll with what is…keep perspective

It’s a beautiful thing to observe yourself exercising the discipline of holding your tongue and  not clinging wistfully to how things used to be. When you remind yourself that this holiday is about reconnecting and enjoying the company of those you love, it’s easier to focus on what’s good now, not what’s missing.

And about that alone time with your sister…

Re-embrace the things you’ve enjoyed over the course of your sisterhood

It’s crazy how easy it is to feel 15 again – without all of the drama and insecurity, that is! We watch a Hallmark movie, eat chocolate chip ice cream, sit around, walk the dog, nap…whatever we want to do. No one’s watching. And even if they were? It’s about you two in the here and now.

Balance serious talk with some frivolous fun

For us, it is easy to go deep, to tap into any point in each other’s story and hang out there for a while. That’s a good thing but make a place for fun – however you two define it.

Make new memories

After just a few Christmas seasons, we have this down! The night I arrive, we eat out in a cozy place – often a family-owned ethnic restaurant. The next day is shopping, shopping, shopping. Not Christmas shopping; shopping for us! The following day is the Family Party, which includes some old and always some new and emerging traditions. Did someone say pin the antlers on the reindeer? It goes on forever with more laughs and clever surprises than I could possibly count. Last day before departure: we sleep in, go out for a leisurely lunch and debrief the entire experience against a backdrop of holiday music, Christmas lights, and the familiar waves of the Atlantic Ocean in December.


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