After a refreshing and relaxing Christmas holiday in Canada, my spouse and I have returned to Harrisonburg, VA to continue our studies at Eastern Mennonite University. While going north in December does not really align with my climate preferences, the draw of family and friends during the Christmas season is strong.
At the end of the year, spending time with the people who have shaped my identity and recognizing their contribution in my life and mine in theirs seems appropriate. Although we don't see each other throughout the year, and maybe do not know each other as well as we might if I didn't live so far away, the rituals of getting together over Christmas help to tighten the bond that has been loosened by time and space.
Gathering with family helps me to remember who I am and where I come from. The stories we tell of past holidays and each of our own experiences throughout the year become our stories. We root ourselves in these stories, and they strengthen us for what is to come.
Meeting with family also reminds me where I've come and where I'm going. I see patterns in my family, both healthy and unhealthy, some of which I continue, others which I don't, and others which I would like to pick up again. In the new year, I can commit to returning to the habits and behaviours of my family that build others up, and become aware again of the habits and behaviours that do not always build each other up. I can choose the stories from my family's past that affirm faith and discipleship, and I can add new parts to stories of pain and conflict.
In the new year, how I tell the story of my experiences will also shape who I am. These stories will then be added to our family story when we gather again.