Meaningful Traditions as Self-Care

By Jennifer Davis Dodd

I’ve written previously about losing both my parents during the holidays—a time our family always found truly magical.

It’s always hard to move through a new holiday season without Mom and Dad. I’m a few weeks into the season that marks the 10th anniversaries of both their deaths—we’ve already passed Mom’s on November 26th—and the year is, as expected, a bit more difficult than some, though not as bad as the very first.

Of, course the pandemic isn’t simplifying the season, either.

But I’m learning to recapture a bit more of the magic and joy each year—it’s an active rather than passive process, to be sure. Mom and Dad took such delight in each Christmas season that I have wonderful memories to make me smile. But I’ve learned I have to call those memories up and to make my own magic to make the season merry and bright—it’s my version of seasonal self-care if you will.

One very conscious way I do that is to my own tradition of wearing one of Mom’s holiday brooches throughout the season. It’s something I’ve done since the year she passed. I even wore one to her December 1st funeral.

I don’t know the story behind all of the brooches. I do know the rhinestone tree and snowflake were each treasured gifts from my parents’ congregation. I believe the Santa was also a gift. The others, especially the smaller ones, I can’t be sure of.

There are fancy brooches and humble pins. Sacred icons and whimsical images. Vintage pieces and newer, mass-market models. To me, they’re each beautiful in their own way. Some are imperfect—missing rhinestones or a jingle bell, or showing chipped enamel. But I love them all.

Perhaps not least of all because people generally remark on or ask about them when I wear them—and I love that chance to talk about my Mom during the holidays.

One seasonal standard has sounded a bit different to me this year, more of a bit of advice of what I can do (active) than a wish someone makes for me (passive). Maybe it will resonate with you, too.

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas/Let your heart be light. Have yourself a merry little Christmas/Make the yuletide gay.”

Wearing Mom’s holiday brooches is one way I can let my heart be light and make the yuletide gay. I hope you find your own ways!

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