When I really stop to think about it, it’s the traditions and ritual that I grew up with that I love most about this time of year: cutting our tree, singing by candle light at midnight mass, cross country skiing under the full moon, getting piles of new books and the flannel nightgown my mom would sew for me every year as a kid. Now I find myself far from my family that’s spread across the country, with a partner who’s significantly less puddlesome than me when it comes to holidays.
The other night, after decorating our tree and talking with my mom on the phone about how we wouldn’t see each other over the holidays I started feeling terribly homesick, but not for any one place or person, I was feeling homesick for a feeling, homesick for tradition.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about the traditions I can continue or build that will make the holidays feel like the holidays no matter where I am. Traditions and ritual give us a way to celebrate the things that are most important to us, elevating what we value in common, making it special through intention.
I’m sure it all started as some brilliant marketing ploy, but the movement to Opt Outside on Black Friday, the day the holiday season starts for many, has all the makes of a wonderful new tradition for me. In fact it somehow manages to combine many of my favorite things in life: spending time with great people, exploring beautiful places, avoiding crowds, crisp fall weather, stuffing, and pie.
This year a group of Outsiety ladies and dogs hiked up to Strawberry Lake, just north of the Jewel Basin in the Swan Crest. Starting in a lush cedar and fir forest and climbing up to knee deep snow to eat leftovers next to a frozen alpine lake was pretty magical. But so was the fact that a group of people, some of which were strangers, all came together intentionally for a new holiday to celebrate something that’s important to us: the natural world and outdoor sports we love.
Maybe it’s too early to call it a tradition or to get all sentimental about it, but I’ve still got a pretty fuzzy feeling about it and a hunch that it’ll become a regular part of the things that make this time of year feel special to me.