My mom wanted to drop me off at McDonald’s for the day, but I begged for something slightly more inspiring. Last week’s texts with my girl friend alluded to this very scenario:

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As I desperately searched for free functioning wifi it no longer seemed like a laughing matter. I’m now sitting in Panera Bread with a small window of time to write while my mom finishes up holiday shopping at the nearby mall.

The holidays could have been filled with dozens of blog topics ranging from gift guides to holiday party tips to “signs you’re single during the holidays.” However, none of that has seemed inspiring to me, and it’s not the first time the holiday season has put me in a funk.

As an avid greeting card creator and collector, you would think that the holidays were my favorite time of year to give cards. But if I have to be honest, it’s nearly my least favorite. In high school and college I sent Thanksgiving cards and these days I opt for New Years. But why not that magical time of year that exists in between?

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Fading Traditions

While Christmas is supposed to serve as a reminder of love, as a 27 year old, I’ve become one of those Scrooge-like people who find the holidays a bit contrived. A big reason for my resentment results from the feeling that something has been missing, and it’s not just Santa.

When I was growing up, like every other child, Christmas Eve was my favorite night of the year. A new outfit was purchased, my hair was curled, and I couldn’t wait for Christmas Eve mass. As soon as the service was over, I would sprint to the car to ride a couple blocks to my grandparents’ house where nearly the entire town would crowd together to eat, drink and exchange gifts. Relatives who would overheat due to the fiery furnace and collective body heat routinely wore Hawaiian shirts. It became tradition.

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Parts of Christmas Eve have slowly been disappearing since. In the years between childhood and college, my excitement turned from opening gifts to eggnog and my grandfather, a Christmas Eve staple, passed away. Soon after college, my grandparents’ house was sold, and now this will be the first year without my grandmother. While my aunt is kind enough to host it at her home this year, I can’t help but feel that piece-by-piece our traditions are fading away.

In It Together

The night air was so cold I wondered if my tears might turn to ice. Two jackets, one scarf, a blanket and some hot cocoa kept me warm as I huddled near the bocce ball lanes in St. Louis’ Italian neighborhood, The Hill. Warm off beer and adrenaline, my high school friends shed layers as they shouted ridiculous insults to each other down the lanes. They still have the ability to make me laugh until I cry.

When you’re in high school, the phrase “someday when we’re married” feels like light-years away. And in that faraway future, you imagine that marriage comes with new traditions that are all your own. A smooth transition. A fresh start.

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As I caught up with my high school friends and their husbands over St. Louis style-pizza, I found out that this is not the case. Their holiday schedule is packed between trying to preserve old traditions on two sides while also attempting to start new ones of their own. Not only am I not alone, I’m in great company.

Trading in Traditions for Moments

The smell of burgers and French fries surround me as I finish up this post in my small town McDonalds on Christmas Eve day. While I’m not sure if any Hawaiian shirts will be worn tonight, I do know my outlook for the evening.

This year started off with a resolution to be more of a romantic than a sentimentalist in the sense of living in the moment vs. living in the past or expectations of the future. In order to hold true to my resolution, I am closing out the year by applying this principle to Christmas as well.

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The term “tradition” can be comforting because it represents a familiar past and expectations of continuing it in the future. On the other hand, “moments” reminds us how fleeting and brief experiences can be and that nothing lasts forever.

The sentimentalist would hold on too tightly to old traditions. The romantic would enjoy each freezing cold bocce ball game, McDonald’s coffee, and night in with family members because all we really have are moments. Moments that are not defined by the past but have been lived fully enough to be remembered and appreciated in the future.

Though I started this post not wanting to write about Christmas, I am very glad I did. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.