Each week the Reckon Women newsletter includes a column from a woman in the South, in collaboration with See Jane Write

By Janelle Graham

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Christmas Day will look different for many of us. As families prepare for this unprecedented shift, they may be discussing delivering home cooked meals to loved ones, sending gifts in the mail, and setting up video calls.

In my home, however, Christmas will look a lot like it did last year because in my home December 25 is now just another day.

Growing up, every Christmas Eve my family and I would gather around the Monopoly board where family rivalry and unconditional love met to make heartwarming memories all while we sipped hot chocolate topped with jumbo marshmallows. My mother and I prepared our portion of Christmas dinner at home before heading to my grandmother’s house. My favorite dish to make was our traditional holiday brownies, both plain and with raisins. I loved scraping the brownie mix out of the bowl and eating off the spoon. Christmas dinner and presents were then packed in the car and dropped off around the corner to my grandmother’s house, where everyone gathered.

But as I got older, I had questions. Why do we smile more and sing jolly songs all December long but refuse to say hello to one another in passing during the other eleven months of the year? Should we not acknowledge each other’s presence and lend a helping hand or a warm gesture more often? Why is being jolly only a season?

Last year my husband and I decided to cancel Christmas due to our research into Hebrew Israelite history. We did not decorate, we did not visit family, we did not give or accept gifts.

My mother, aunts, and siblings were furious. They felt I was turning my back on my family, despite the fact I spend time with them throughout the entire year.

Some family members accused me of having a “holier than thou” attitude. “I guess you think we’re a bunch of heathens,” my mother said.

But they have it all wrong. Now that I have a daughter, I want to teach her not to blindly follow traditions and that we do not need it as a reason or excuse to get together with family.

I joke, kiss, and play with my husband in front of our daughter, and she stares with eyes wide at her silly parents, extends her arms out and releases a happy squeal. When I sing to her, off key, she surprises me with a smile. And now, when I give her kisses, she grabs my face and shakes her head back and forth on my cheek, leaving a flowing trail of drool.

I write my husband love notes — just because — and cook delicious warm meals throughout the week. I support him and his career as a producer. I try to keep a joyful home for us year-round, even amidst life’s tests, trials, and responsibilities. I am still learning how to reprogram my own mind by learning new habits of attention and intention. And not waiting for a holiday season to show an overabundance of euphoria to any individual is a crucial part of this.

Again, this year, December 25 will be just another day on the calendar, another day when joy in our home will not cease.

Janelle Graham is a writer, educator and blogger, her blog is a transparent account on her life as a new mom. Read her blog ourfirstfamilyphoto.wordpress.com and follow her on Instagram: @poeticpuff.