They say that you can never step into the same river twice.
You can never experience the same thing twice because something about the experience has invariably changed. Even if it were possible to hold all external factors constant, the fact remains that the first time you experienced it, you were somehow changed.
Every time I have tried to step into the same river– repeat an experience hoping for the same result– it was never quite the same.
Most notably, celebrating Christmas.
I’m sure I’m not the only adult who basks in the nostalgia of Christmas, the fond memories from childhood plucking at your heartstrings as you remember when the event held so much magic for you.
My husband would typically give me a wide berth around the holidays because having lived 25 years overseas, my vain attempts at recreating my cherished yuletide memories in a Muslim country were more like a crazed ritual of epic proportion that left me utterly exhausted and somehow still unsatisfied. I would increase my efforts each year, typically baking more than 250 cookies (five varieties) while listening non-stop to Christmas standards: Bing Crosby, Elvis, Canadian Brass… Even with my Santa hat, Christmas apron, elf attire, and every other holiday affectation, I remained uncheered. And because I couldn’t recreate the feeling of Christmas, that week would leave me depressed and maudlin.
There was no way I was ever going to be able to step in that river again despite the most valiant efforts.
Fortunately a solution presented itself.
My parents moved from snowy Michigan down to sunny Florida. That was it.
When my husband and I decided to start spending Christmases with them, my holiday blues evaporated completely.
Sunny, hot Florida whose temperatures were beach-worthy even on Christmas Eve, was a place where our Northern traditions couldn’t possible fit in, anyway. What is Christmas without snow and cold? These palm-tree tropics were the antithesis of every iconic Christmas image etched into my memory. There was absolutely no way to transfer my expectations and traditions to this equatorial climate.
So, we dropped them. Just like that.
Every. Single. Tradition.
We started new traditions that suited our beautiful new location.
Jimmy Buffet sings us Mele Kalikimaka, the Hawaiian Christmas Song. Instead of the customary heavy Christmas dinner, we do surf and turf and key lime pie. Instead of ice skating or cuddling around a roaring fire with hot cocoa, our Christmas Eve is spent on the beach, watching the sun set into the Gulf of Mexico. After the sun sinks and the sky turns from pink to purple to black, we join the tailgate party through Victoria Estates, an entire neighborhood whose residents try to outdo each other with their holiday decorations. It’s such a spectacle that the traffic is bumper to bumper.
Our new traditions suit us perfectly. We don’t even miss the old ones. In fact, it’s easier to look back and appreciate them when you know you aren’t obliged to live up to them each successive year.
I’m not trying to step into the same river anymore. Instead, I have an ocean.