There was a moment this weekend when my house smelled like the perfect balance of Douglas Fir, sugar cookies and sorrel – a festive Christmas drink* enjoyed throughout the Caribbean, and made from hibiscus flowers and spices. It gave me pause to think how travel helps us learn and grow, even with things as ‘known’ as Christmas.

I spent last Christmas with my younger son in Montego Bay. I still had a stocking – of sorts – for him (yes, I give my adult sons stockings), but instead of a morning around the Christmas tree opening presents we went horseback riding in the hills above Montego Bay and into the Caribbean surf (riding a swimming horse is amazing!). Instead of tryptophan naps on the couch we had our afternoon break on a sun-filled beach. Dinner still included turkey, since resorts cater to their visitors, but it also included a delicious curry goat, the traditional Jamaican Christmas dinner.

I wouldn’t mind having goat curry again this year. And I wouldn’t mind that somewhat simpler vacation-style Christmas, especially if it means getting some much needed sun and surf. Yet, I enjoy decorating my tree, making sugar cookies, collecting stocking stuffers in the weeks prior to the big day, singing carols en masse.

Traditions are all well and good until they become something else. This year a few of my Christmas traditions feel this year like it might be time to retire them, like the joy has been wrung out of them and they are now merely habit. And, I’m pleased to have brought at least one tradition back with me.

This Christmas, may you be merry and bright; may you be safe and loved; may you find joy in both the old and the new.

*The link is to the sorrel recipe on Cook Like a Jamaican, which I followed with the addition of 2 cinnamon sticks. I may need to make a second batch – I can’t stop drinking it!