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November has come and gone. We are now in the thick of the holiday season. But this year I noticed people caught the Christmas spirit early and started decorating and preparing for the holidays sooner in November than I have seen in years past. I’m not sure what sparked their early enthusiasm. Perhaps they simply wanted more time to enjoy the holidays. But whatever the reason, I’m on board.

My friend Janet put her tree up in October. Her 9-year-old son Hudson had been singing Christmas songs for a couple months and told her he wanted to skip Halloween and start Christmas early. A little surprised, she asked why he was so excited about Christmas this year and he gave four reasons. 1. Jesus, because without him we wouldn’t have life. 2. The music! 3. The Christmas trees are so beautiful! 4. The presents (he is a kid, after all!).

So my friend did the most amazing thing. She and Hudson’s older brother, Carsen, surprised him by putting up their tree more than a week before Halloween. I mean, why not?! Can you imagine how excited Hudson must have been when he saw the surprise and the feeling Janet and Carsen had for making it happen? The season goes by so quickly and to bring that much joy to someone is a gift their entire family will delight in.

Once Thanksgiving is over, it seems like it is a fast ride to Christmas. For me, November went by in the blink of an eye. We celebrated my husband and my daughter’s birthdays, in addition to normal November happenings. I tried to make a conscious effort to be present and really enjoy special moments and I definitely did. But looking back I still wonder where the time went.

The Christmas season is magical. There is such a sense of happiness as preparations are made, concerts are attended, holiday gatherings occur and children visit Santa and then await his arrival on the big day. But there is a flip side to all that joy. Many people will be feeling loss and sadness, too, as they have their first Christmas without a loved one. Others will be celebrating knowing this will be their last with an ailing family member. I know a few families who celebrated Christmas in October or November this year because their spouse or parent wouldn’t make it to Christmas. There is just no easy way through that.

This will be my family’s first Christmas without my grandma. We’ll feel her absence in many ways. There will be no fruit soup this year as this was her specialty. We will miss her “clone gifts” as she called them, where she would give everyone the same gift but in a different color or theme. If we play the dictionary game, a family favorite, the bar will be considerably lower as she always dominated this game. We’ll miss the sound of the piano as she usually played a few songs while the great grandchildren danced along. Simply put, we will miss her.

Sadly, I know several families in my hometown and elsewhere who will be feeling the same loss.

This year, whether you are in a joyous time or dealing with sorrow, try to feel the love from those that will be in your presence celebrating with you. Remember the empty chair. But enjoy the happiness of those around you, as well.

Seize those moments like my friend Janet did. Put up your tree in October. Keep your decorations out until March. Binge watch the Hallmark channel. Let your kids (and you) eat Christmas cookies for breakfast. Why not? Do what brings joy to you and your family. Make your own rules. You never know when a new family tradition will form.

Christmas is magical indeed and brings a sense of hope for the New Year ahead. Enjoy every moment of whatever this season brings, in whatever ways that may be.

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Addie Rugland is a freelance writer who lives in Northwood with her husband, daughter and son.


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