The True Meaning of Holidays

I oftentimes find myself saying, “Holidays are not a date on the calendar, they are about family, tradition and whatever meaning they bring to you.” Parents nod and maybe they get what I am saying or maybe not. Then, the week before Thanksgiving, a parent told me that they were celebrating Thanksgiving the next day because their child will be with their other parent on Thanksgiving and when the parent and child were talking about it, the child said, “Oh no. We have to celebrate Thanksgiving together. How about we have it tomorrow?” The parent thought quickly and said, “Yes. Let’s do it.”. Within 30 minutes, calls were made to Aunts, Uncles and cousins, Grandparents and some family friends. On a Sunday, they were gathering with 22 family members and friends and the parent and child were having so much fun decorating their home with paper plate turkeys.

From a personal perspective, my daughter is 22 years old and works full time at a residential treatment facility. I anticipated that she would be working on Thanksgiving, as she works on Thursdays from 3-11pm. We talked about having Thanksgiving on Sunday when she is off. On Thanksgiving day, she called on her way to work. We had a great conversation but afterwards, my heart felt empty. Even though I knew my daughter was working, it didn’t change the fact that I missed her. We have been together for 21 Thanksgivings, and as a parent, we expect our children to be with us on the holidays.

When you get separated or divorced, one of the biggest challenges, especially in the first few years, is managing the holidays if your children are with their other parent. Remember, the holidays are not a date on the calendar, they are about family, tradition and whatever meaning they bring you. 

As I sat at our table on Thanksgiving, I thought about our daughter and hoped she was having a nice meal. I missed her but when she called on her break, all I said was “Happy Thanksgiving”. I wanted to know about her meal. I wanted to tell her how much I missed her. BUT. . . our daughter was working and being a responsible adult. She is not responsible for how I feel! Thinking about it, she was probably missing me and her family too. . . after all, she called during her break. Then I thought, hey, I guess Thanksgiving is important to her, she doesn’t usually call and today she did, twice. We may not be together but she was thinking about family and tradition.

Fast forward, our daughter came for dinner on Sunday and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, full of tradition, fun and family. She asked about our Thanksgiving meal and wanted to know what we ate and how we spent the evening. I answered all her questions with joy in my heart. I didn’t ask her questions about her day. I figured she would tell me what she wanted to tell me, if she wanted to. 

So, I reflect. Whether your child is 5 or 22, it doesn’t make that much difference. As a parent, when you’re not with your children on a holiday, your heart feels a bit empty. That is a fact! But, it doesn’t have to mean that you miss the holiday. It just means you could enjoy the holiday with others on the calendar holiday date and then, be creative with your children. They may think it is silly at first, but they will learn to value the holiday as family, fun and tradition, regardless of the day it gets celebrated!

From my home to yours, happy holidays!

P.S. Today is Giving Tuesday, a day of giving for non-profit organizations. If you enjoyed this blog or appreciated attending a Kids’ Turn San Diego program, we invite you to make a donation and help us help other children and families. Thank you!