When I was a child, I remember the holidays so fondly. We had a large extended family with Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins, all living within a five mile radius of each other. With easily 25-30 people over on Christmas Day, throughout the entire day, holidays were epic.
Filled with lots of family, friends, love and laughter.
Christmas is so very different now. We are all adults with our own families, set of responsibilities, and living in different parts of the country. It seems as if the only time we see each other anymore is for weddings or funerals. If you allow it to, this could easily become a sad time of year because nothing will top the holidays of childhood past.
My husband and I have been on a journey of exploration, learning how to enjoy the holidays even though we are far apart from family and loved ones. Over the past ten years, I have owned a retail/service business, and my husband is a mail carrier. In the service industry, it is a given that you need to be open to the public from the day after Thanksgiving through December 24th to cater to your clients and their gift giving needs. My husband, in turn, delivers mail and packages to everyone six days a week with long hours during the holiday rush. Come 7:00pm on Christmas Eve when we both could finally sit down, put up our feet and breathe, we would usually collapse in exhaustion. Knowing we only had one day to recover, Christmas Day, and had to be back at work again on the 26th, it didn’t make sense for us to drive out of state Christmas Day only able to stay for dinner, and then drive back home. But, we didn’t want to be alone, what do we do?
After much discussion, we came to the conclusion that we had one of two choices to make. We could either remain home, sad and depressed that we couldn’t enjoy the holidays like everyone else, or begin to create our very own Christmas tradition, just the two of us. Being optimistic people, the choice was easy. Let’s create our own Christmas Day tradition.
We both absolutely love Boston and figured that would be the only location close by that would have anything open, so we decided to go there. We also wanted to add a charitable component to our day as we both know, giving back to others is always the best gift to give yourself. So, our first Christmas together, ten years ago, we got all dressed up and boarded the train into Boston with no agenda, and pockets filled with lots of gift cards for a popular New England coffee shop that begins with D and ends with D. We got off the train at South Station and decided to walk towards the Boston Common, because we felt we would be able to give out our gifts there to those in need, and we were right. There were quite a few homeless people gathered in and around the common that day.
After witnessing that, we quickly realized that the perfect remedy to stop feeling sorry for ourselves is to look around, really look around and see how much hardship and need there is in this world. When we did that, gratitude kicked in automatically. We acknowledged how thankful we were to have each other, a roof over our heads, and family that loved us, even if they are miles away on this particular day. We were even thankful for the jobs that we had, as demanding as they are on us this time of year.
Now, it was time to give out the gifts we brought with us. To be honest, never doing this before, we were a little afraid, as we didn’t quite know how the person(s) would react. If they would be offended, aggressive or just plain not want the gift we had to give.
We were so happy that we didn’t let fear take over and not to follow-through with our plan. Each and every individual we gave a gift to was so appreciative and thankful. I truly believe that they weren’t as much thankful for the actual gift itself, but that someone took the time to look them in the eyes, acknowledge them as a living, breathing human being, and wish them a very Merry Christmas. Those brief moments were so uplifting and the highlights of our day and holiday season.
After giving out all of our gifts, we decided it was time for the two of us. So, we went to the Parker House for some holiday cocktails. We were in awe of how beautifully the hotel was decorated, and enjoyed the sound of Christmas music throughout. Slowly making our way to the lounge, we learned quickly that we were not “Alone” on Christmas Day after all. The lounge was actually so crowded that we could barely find a seat. There were many individuals in the same situation who could not be with family and just wanted to be around people, even if they were strangers. After a few cocktails, we decided to go to the theater as Christmas Day is a great day for new movie releases. Again, we were pleasantly surprised that the theater was packed with people who had the same idea. After seeing a wonderful movie, we decided to go to dinner, but where, what restaurant is going to be open on Christmas Day? We walked around and began to see a lot of hustle and bustle in the Chinatown District and was thrilled to see that almost everything was open. So excited, we made our way to an authentic Chinese restaurant and had a non-traditional yet delicious Christmas dinner.
After a full day of new and fulfilling adventures, we boarded the train back home and re-lived the stories we heard from the people we gave gifts to and the people we met along the way. We decided right then and there that our Christmas Day Tradition was born, and that we were going to do the same exact thing every year. I’m happy to say that we look forward to Christmas Day in Boston now, and have upheld our tradition for ten years and going strong.
We fondly reply when people ask us what we’re going to do for Christmas this year, we’re going to the “Island of the Misfit Toys” (Rudolph). We joked about it that day and it stuck, because in a strange way, that’s how we felt when we were there. Boston becomes an island in and of itself that day. The city is essentially shut down, yet it’s bustling with individuals who couldn’t be where they wanted to be for Christmas, but wanted to connect with other human beings so that they didn’t have to be alone. We all came together for healing whether we knew it or not, and gave each other the gift of companionship that we were seeking on such a special day.