November and December are always exciting months for my family and I, as right after Halloween we start preparing for Christmas. Saying that we love the holiday is a bit of an understatement. Under normal circumstances, we would have fully decorated mum’s house for Halloween and had a massive party. On the first of November we start taking those decorations down, mum gets the house “in order” in about 2 weeks, then the Christmas decorations start coming out.
This period has not been the same for us, this year. Of course there was the whole COVID business to deal with and parties have definitely been out of the question. Going all out with Halloween decor would have been pretty useless, especially with the emotional turmoil we’ve been going through, and trying to catch up with the rest of our lives, after they came tumbling down. Mum still decided to put up a few decorations, just to keep up tradition and create a little atmosphere. I’m not sure what we’ve all been in the mood for, but automatically we all knew that Christmas is one holiday we can’t kill.
The 10th of this month marked three months since dad’s passing, so this is going to be our first Christmas without him. For a family who loves this season especially because of all the time we spend together (fights, arguments and all), and the traditions we have built together, having to spend it without our family’s pillar feels like an absolute nightmare. But how can we kill our love for these holidays, all our traditions and the decorations when we’ve got some of our happiest memories with dad built around them.
Holiday periods are times which are usually filled with memories of our loved ones. The thought of those memories alone can be incredibly difficult to find the joy of these special days, because they leave a huge emptiness in our hearts, longing for those loved ones and missing them terribly. Add a pandemic to the picture and one might think we should just skip over this holiday season altogether this year. I don’t quite see it that way….
I can’t count the amount of people I know who, at points in their lives chose to stop celebrating special occasions or holidays that used to be so special and meaningful to them. All because it’s too difficult to deal with the grief of not having a loved one there to celebrate with them. Now more than ever, I can definitely understand and relate to this pain. Thankfully though, I’ve always looked at death as a celebration of the person’s life. I think that continuing traditions that we would have built with those loved ones will help us keep living those memories, and keep those special people alive in our hearts.
After dad’s passing a friend sent me a message saying “make sure that mum will keep decorating for Christmas because you know how much your dad used to love celebrating the holidays.” Those were some of the most precious words I received during that most difficult week. Thankfully my family all reasoned similarly to me, so we’re all determined not to dampen this period. We just want to keep building happy memories with each other and keep remembering the precious memories we have of our passed loved ones. On top of this, Christmas Day is my sister’s birthday, and my brother’s is just five days later, so it would be absolutely horrible to tarnish the joy of this time of year.
As a family, we’ve always found any excuse to hold a celebration and to decorate the house, whether it was with flowers, decorating a dinner table, or going all out with Christmas or Halloween decorations.
One of the biggest events of the year that our family used to organise, would be dad’s New Year’s Eve party. Most years, daddy would throw this massive party on New Year’s Eve, inviting a bunch of family and friends, who would stay around till about 4.00 am. Oh the Champagne we drank on those memorable nights! It was crucial to have the house fully decorated for these parties. Whilst we definitely can’t have one of these parties this year, the house should not look any less warm, colourful and magical.
My mother, sister and I literally compare decorations for the holiday season. We go shopping for decorations together, and I’m secretly trying to build a tradition with my mum of having her help me set up my tree. (I guess it won’t be a secret anymore once she reads this post.) Year on year we try to add to our decorations and make something a little more special. My sister in particular, is incredibly creative, and she’s getting into the habit of creating beautiful wreaths for our houses (Stef, I’m still missing mine).
When we first took our parents to see the house we were planning on buying, the first thing my dad told me was, “This spot will be perfect for the Christmas Tree or a baby grand”. Considering that neither my husband nor I play the piano, we ‘settled’ for the Christmas Tree. For our first Christmas in the house three years ago, my parents bought us a seven foot tree as a Christmas present. So how could I not set up the tree, when it’s literally built on beautiful memories of my parents. Dad would be so offended if I suddenly turned into Scrooge!
Now more than ever, I can truly understand the pain, emptiness and loneliness that a person can feel when missing a lost loved one. But would our loved ones really want us to stop enjoying things that make us happy? And what about the rest of the people we love that are still around us? Shouldn’t we keep finding excuses to have more special moments with them, to ensure that we always have the best memories with them? After the loss of someone so dear to us, shouldn’t we realise, more than ever, the importance of making the most of every precious moment in our lives? COVID or not, I want to be surrounded by my family this year, as I cannot imagine having even more bad memories of 2020 in my future. I definitely cannot imagine waking up on the 25th December and not dressing up and meeting up with my family, and making sure we wish my sister a Happy Birthday before uttering a Happy Christmas (otherwise we know that we’ll all be in trouble!).
We need to be careful in these moments, as god forbid we’d get any family member sick. But we also need to make the most of the moments we have. During lockdown, we were terrified of seeing our parents, in case we would pass on anything to them, especially since dad was waiting to have surgery. But the reality was that he wanted us and more importantly needed us around him during the difficult times he was facing. Now more than ever, I can’t be more thankful for spending more time with him and forming more memories in his last six months. I can’t imagine the regret and guilt I’d be feeling had I not done that. With this in mind, I think it’s crucial that we form more happy memories together in whichever way we’ll manage to do so, under the current circumstances. The decorations however, will definitely keep brightening our spirits during these darker times, and we should cherish the little things that warm our hearts.
As for the emotional turmoil, that will definitely be haunting over the coming days, for me personally, I think New Year’s Eve will be the most difficult to deal with. This seemed to be one of dad’s favourite evenings, which already makes it super tough. However, this year, I’m spending my New Year’s Eve performing with a string orchestra, The Palace String Orchestra (check them out), that my sister dreamed up and created, together with music director and conductor Ryan Paul Abela. This is somewhat bittersweet. I’m sure I’m going to be having the time of my life singing my heart out. Lord knows I’m enjoying the rehearsal process. But dad absolutely adored music, strings and orchestrations, and watching us perform. I’m not going to be able to shake off the thought of, ‘he should be here watching us’, whilst I’ll be on stage. I know he’d be super proud especially of my sister’s achievements, but naturally, that’s not the same as having him physically with us. I know for sure that ‘Auld Lang Syne’ will never sound or mean the same.
I am still looking forward to these holidays. Whilst hoping to take a bit of a break, I know I’ll also be keeping myself busy with so many of the things that I love doing. All in all though, the main thing I’m looking forward to is building new joyous memories, to hold dear to my heart for years to come.
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and holiday season, but will remind you to stay safe and look after your loved ones. xoxo