Holiday Joys, Decorations, and Traditions — What if a Loved One is Missing?

Every year at this time, there comes a point at which we stop our hustling and bustling to do everything on our lists of things to do in preparing for family and guests to join us for the holidays. It may be only a brief stop as we realize that we forgot to get a gift for Aunt Emma, who never fails to bring gifts for all of us. Or, we might have left the grocery store with nine bags of ingredients for Christmas dinner, but we forgot the eggnog. Something has to give. Is it just me or do you find yourself thinking back to when times “seemed” simpler and easier to navigate?

Yet, was it really that simple a time, or were we simply more satisfied with how we were accomplishing everything on our list? It seems that the families who begin decorating their homes for the holidays right after Turkey dinner is over are the happiest about seeing Christmas arrive. They embrace their “inner Christmas” spirit, and out comes the outdoor lights and because there is typically good weather, it’s perfect to climb around on the roof and connect all the bulbs from last year. One of my favorite commercials this year is a family home decorated with outdoor lights that take the word “Extreme” to a new level. The house right next to it has one simple word blazing in stand-up lights: “Ditto.” Poignant.

What are we trying to say to ourselves and to our families by the traditions we make? Do we string the Christmas cards we get across the mantle or place them atop the mantle to keep track of who has communicated with us? Even though greeting cards are being sent more often these days, there’s something special about holding a card we’d rescued from the mail stack of boring bills to bring a smile and a promise to renew our hearts and mind about the reason for the season of giving and glorious and unconditional love. How many stockings hang in our home this year?

In the Bryan-College Station area, we have seven counties that our outreach impacts each year at this time. The Salvation Army has its annual angel tree. This year, all of the angels in need (student and Salvation Army families alike) have the opportunity to grow up and believe In the kindness of the people where they live. Countless bikes, toys, jackets and other wearing apparel that these children not only need, but want, are gathered and assembled by volunteers. This means something special to us as we shop for the children whose names we pulled. Let’s face it, when we know that what we do matters, that we can help others in need really makes a difference, it’s a great feeling. Our volunteering matters.

Are you missing a loved one for the first time this Christmas? Some families like to represent the missing family member with an empty chair in the place where they always used to sit. There’s a significance in the absence of that person. Other people have a tradition where they invite someone who is all alone at the holidays to sit in the “missing you” chair. It fills two opportunities to make someone alone feel less lonely and to fill the empty space at the table.

Every passing of a patriarch or matriarch of a family is unique. No one can tell you what is right for you except yourself. The traditions you set and continue each year are those that your children will always remember as being yours, and then they will make that a part of their traditions as they get their own homes.

If your banquet table is full, if your kitchen is overflowing, and if you find your home the busiest time of year ever, then your holiday is truly blessed. Be sure to take photos to keep for years from now to remember when all this generation’s children are grown and return with children of their own. And if your table is missing a loved one or two this year, reach back for those photo albums and slowly go through the pages. Close your eyes and open your heart to the days when all your loved ones were around you and feel the love that never dies. It transcends generations before and will last all the way through your generations to come. God bless you at Christmas, and every day in the coming year.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!

Cody D. Jones ‘02

Owner & Community Member

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