Holidays can be bittersweet for kids and adults

Thanksgiving, Christmas, the holidays in general can be bittersweet.

We live a few hours’ drive from our families, so we can’t just do a quick “trip over to Mom’s” today, or any day.

But the time we do spend together, and the traditions that go along with it, tend to matter way too much to our family, especially to my 12-year-old son, Robert.

Each Thanksgiving, we visit Aunt Cindy’s house.

It’s a big affair, easily 20 to 30 people visiting. And each year we decorate gingerbread houses, play cards and tease each other. In recent years, we’ve held competitions on the gingerbread houses.

It was pretty simple. All the adults donate a buck or two and the top winners of the house decoration competition shared the pot. My son loves making the houses and loves the tradition — especially winning the money. Frankly, who wouldn’t?

The holidays are also bittersweet because some of our loved ones are not with us anymore.

Pop, my husband’s grandfather, passed away a few years ago. He was a commanding figure in our family’s life. Yes, we didn’t agree with him all the time, but we respected who he was.

Family meant the world to Pop, and Pop meant the world to us.

My husband’s father passed away in the mid-’90s. I actually never got to meet him. And George’s dad never got to meet his grandson. I know in my heart that he would have adored Robert.

Last year was the first year Robert found out about the secret of Santa Claus. He was pretty sad at first — very sad, in fact — but we told him the spirit of Santa Claus will always live on.

To ease that transition into teenager-hood, we told him that it’s important for him to help with the Santa secret for the kids younger than him.

But I will miss the excitement of past Christmas mornings when Robert checks to make sure Santa ate his cookie and drank his milk.

Probably the most bittersweet aspect of the holidays is the reality of life and how it’s moving way too fast.

Each year we are reminded that we are getting a little older. I notice my siblings are a bit grayer every year. (Me too, but my hairdresser and I keep that a secret.)

The afternoon naps are a bit longer after holiday meals and we tend to move a bit slower than we used too the next day.

But here’s the flipside to that: We get a little wiser each year.

We don’t care as much about how our appearance, and really, what’s few more winks going to matter in the long run?

Cathy Hirko is the business editor and Weekly Record editor. She can be reached at 717-771-2027 or

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