New traditions replace the old

Traditions and rituals can be familiar and comforting - they can help us cope with the unfamiliar and uncomfortable. But sometimes we may want to reexamine cherished traditions to see if they're still serving their purpose.

When my sons were young, our family moved frequently because of my husband's job. To give our sons a sense of stability and continuity in each new town, we created some simple holiday traditions.

One that has endured is making every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinner special by having it in the dining room on a cloth-covered table - and using china, silver, and crystal.

But one that fell by the wayside was going overboard on decorating the house for Christmas.

One December, I was halfway through my preparations when we received a phone call that our older son had been in an accident on his way home from college. His car was totaled, his arm was badly injured.

From that moment on, our celebration wasn't the same. Taking care of our son became the highest priority. Glitzy decorations seemed superfluous.

We spent hours quietly talking with each other. We went for walks around the neighborhood. We read books - our son made it all the way through one he'd been planning for years to read.

What I still recall is the strong feeling of family togetherness we shared that year. It sounds sappy, but the unity and "Christmas feeling" lingered long after the holiday was over and our son had returned - completely well - to school.

And in the years since, we've tried to continue this new "tradition" of a quieter holiday focused on family and simple pleasures.

It wouldn't be right for everyone, but it now feels just right for us.

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