An epic Christmas bike ride thanks to changing traditions

Wetlands reflecting trees in the sunshine - A Christmas bike ride along the Vedder River Rotary Trail in Chilliwack BC.

I think for the most part, most of us make Christmas plans, then we simply follow through.

Then there are those that may tweak ‘the rules’ a little here or there…  maybe either to change things up to introduce some new traditions or because changing circumstances require it.

Changing up Christmas traditions can be a little unsettling. It breaks the ‘standards’ and brings up a bunch of unknowns.

A trail leading under a branch arbour - A Christmas bike ride along the Vedder River Rotary Trail in Chilliwack BC.

I’m not new to changing up traditions.

When my mom first passed on, she was my best EVERYthing, so her missed presence really brought me down for a number of years. So much so, I didn’t even want to be home at Christmas. In fact, I was miserable the years I was.

Read about our Disney adventures HERE

So one year, my son and I packed up our bags and head for Disneyland.

Oh, it was EPIC!  Does my smile not say it all?! I mean, you can’t not have fun there. And of course, decorated to the HILT. No one does decor (or even falling snow… ) like Disney.

But fair warning… egads it was busy… as in, the busiest time of the year there. We ended up working around it ok and even got on some rides without any lineups!

You can read how we survived Christmas at Disney HERE

No regrets AT ALL. In fact, I’d do it again. One of the best memories ever.

Some days we were so tired, we stayed at the hotel, ordered in food and watched Harry Potter marathons in between dips in the hotel’s hot tub. That was actually one of our best days there!

 

Sand snowman with a grass skirt in Maui, Hawaii.41 PM.png

Another time I ventured off to Hawaii for Christmas on my own.

I quite honestly needed AND wanted it due to family stuff going down at the time. I just needed my mind on awesome. And it really, really was.

Right down to Christmas day. I was making these sand snowmen with grass shirts all over the beach and the amount of pictures others took of them were countless. So. Fun! So. Joy-filled!

As you can see, some of my best Christmases were due to last minute changes in plans.

With most recently, this Christmas too.

While staying at home.

The grassy wetlands against a vibrant blue sky - A Christmas bike ride along the Vedder River Rotary Trail in Chilliwack BC.

The grassy wetlands against a vibrant blue sky - A Christmas bike ride along the Vedder River Rotary Trail in Chilliwack BC.

The plans changed where I was no longer hosting, but rather, going elsewhere Christmas afternoon.

That left the AM wide open and clear and on my own with two cats. Whatever would I do?!

The grassy wetlands against a vibrant blue sky - A Christmas bike ride along the Vedder River Rotary Trail in Chilliwack BC.

Then Christmas AM hit. And I honestly did whatever I would normally do. I flicked on all the lights, turned on Burl Ives, brewed a fresh pot of coffee, then sat and enjoyed my view of all the twinkling lights.

Only this time, I did it just for me.

My neighbour Janette had dropped by Christmas eve with a few presents for me (isn’t she an ANGEL?) so even had something to unwrap!

The grassy wetlands against a vibrant blue sky - A Christmas bike ride along the Vedder River Rotary Trail in Chilliwack BC.

Christmas day happened to be a spectacular day. The weather was full-out sunshine, so I decided, why not hit the bike trail? I wasn’t due to go anywhere for awhile yet…

So I did!

The farmland from the river dike - A Christmas bike ride along the Vedder River Rotary Trail in Chilliwack BC.

As you can see, it was a STUNNING ride. (Some of these pictures were also taken Dec 30)

But here’s the best part… there were SO MANY people walking the trail on Christmas Day. I had NO idea it was such even a thing!

A bike among tall, leafless trees - A Christmas bike ride along the Vedder River Rotary Trail in Chilliwack BC.

Read more about the trails I ride HERE

And naturally, everyone that passed you wished you a Merry Christmas.

Isn’t that just so beautiful? I heard and said it dozens of times.

At one point, the beauty and gratefulness was too much to manage… I hopped off the bike to stare at a pretty view and a feeling of overwhelm took over.

Teary eyed, I heard myself say, “This is the nicest Christmas morning I have EVER had!”

And I meant every word.

This AM was all about something special I loved to do, and being spoken to by other adults that were equally as joyful.

No expectations.

Just joy.

Grassy wetlands against a vibrant blue sky - A Christmas bike ride along the Vedder River Rotary Trail in Chilliwack BC.

Later that day, Christmas continued on. And it was lovely too.

Grassy wetlands against a vibrant blue sky - A Christmas bike ride along the Vedder River Rotary Trail in Chilliwack BC.

But I will say this.

It’s been years since my mom passed, and this was the first Christmas I was perfectly fine staying at home. Even all alone.

Wow. How did I even get there?!

I don’t exactly know what’s different. Time of course likely played a part in this. But I think I just had to allow myself to drop all expectations and accept what came.

And give something special to myself. And that was this bike ride.

A Christmas wreath with a full bottle of beer - A Christmas bike ride along the Vedder River Rotary Trail in Chilliwack BC.

At one point when I rode the trail, I came by this gorgeous Christmas wreath. Bending down to remove the littered beer bottle for the picture, I realized the bottle was full. It was meant to be a gift for someone to find while they sat down on this very bench to enjoy this beautiful day.

With a full-out smile, I placed it back for another to discover. I was already on an epic high and didn’t need even one thing extra to improve it.


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Click above to view a very unfancy, non edited version of my rides over the Christmas season so you can also capture the essence.

Sunset on the river during a Christmas bike ride along the Vedder River Rotary Trail in Chilliwack BC.

I think it’s perfectly normal to feel super unsettled or disappointed when life changes dictate that traditions may change too.

So if you’re in the middle of revolving parts that don’t seem to have a permanent home yet, I really get it. I’ve been there many MANY times in fact.

But I’m also here to tell you that one day, you’re going to wake up, and say, “Who cares if it isn’t the same?! THIS ‘new way’ is amazing!” Or dare I say… even better?

Let down your guard, drop expectations, accept the changes…

… and do something that brings YOU joy.

I have no idea what next year will bring yet… but my eyes will be wide open to whatever comes.

No matter what. OR where.

And with that, Happy New Year, friends. Let’s own it this round… agree?

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Have you ever had to change traditions? How are you making out now?

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NEW travel section: Read more trail rides with stories HERE


 

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  1. Yes Donna, Christmas traditions do change as children leave home and create their own traditions with their families and friends and our loved ones pass on. I enjoy quiet peaceful relaxing holidays now and I think I’ll go for a walk next Christmas! Spectacular pictures, I can understand why you were so moved. Happy New Year!

    • Oh Sandy… thank-you for the reminder that I’m still finding my way each and every day… and yes to the walk!!!

      I’ve since added a video to the post to capture the live essence.

      Wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year!

  2. Boy, do things change! At 74 I had probably the weirdest Christmas I’ve ever had. I had two packages to open…one from a cousin and his wife, an annual shoe box gift containing a number of other small gifts…and a box from The Neptune Society. I had finally stopped procrastinating about paying for my cremation after having to deal a few months ago with the death of a significant other who, even after four years of fighting cancer, had left no will, no directives, no nothing, which led to all sorts of difficulties, confusion and stress. To my surprise, I found out when I “joined” The Neptune Society that I was going to immediately receive the urn for my ashes! So I opened that box, received the same day as the shoe box, on Christmas Day as well. Merry Christmas to me! Now I have to store this box containing my final resting place for the remainder of my days and make sure those left behind know where it is as well. The gift that keeps on giving!

    • LOL! Oh my gosh Teddee… I can’t stop laughing!

      But how well prepared are you?! That is so wise. But my goodness… the timing is hilarious.

      And am now adding my own preparations to my to-do list. I think that’s a must to tuck alongside a will!

  3. Hi Donna,

    Sandy said it all. We celebrate Thanksgiving with family and then Christmas we are on our own. The kids know that…I have a place at the beach (inherited) so we head out about 45 minutes from home. This year we walked to Starbucks about a mile away and people were saying Merry Christmas along the way, as you had the same thing on your bike ride. The pics are absolutely beautiful!

    I have to admit that Christmas in my parents home is still tough. Been 23 years for my dad and 10 for my mom. I have decorated with my things but left several of my parents things up, plus my dad made most of the furniture and I cannot part with that. Mother has at least 28 journals she kept over the years and I have read 3. Cannot bring myself to read any more.

    Happy New Year Donna and I look forward to your posts.

  4. Great musings on a philosophy for a new year!

    Had a very tough unexpected household move this summer. We gratefully had a good place to
    land but as a reforming hoarder it has been challenging. We missed our traditional Halloween decorating in the old neighborhood after 23 years there. This time we spent it away with friends and enjoyed what may turn out to be our new tradition. Lots more work to do ahead but the payoff seems to indicate increased ease of lifestyle, more time well-lived, joy and peace.

    Here’s to the same for you.🍾

    Happy New Year Donna!

    • Oh Lee… I know that feeling well. Still remember my move to my current home 10 years ago. I sat in the middle of a strange kitchen that was actually not even very pretty, with boxes piled to the ceiling. Completely spent and overwhelmed.

      Then a knock on the front door led to warm brownies fresh out of the oven from my neighbour Janette.

      Right then, I just knew everything would be ok.

      And it’s been more than Ok. P.S. Janette still brings food on occasion! I love her love language just fine! 😀

  5. Hi Donna,
    I find it interesting the timing of this particular posting about your changed Christmas because this year was dramatically changed for my family. I’ve had Christmases being elsewhere for one reason or another but time spent with family was always the same, with my mom taking the lead by her preference. This year, my sister’s and I decided there needed to be a change because of my mom’s growing forgetfulness. Christmas day preparations of gift buying and meal making were taken over by us girls. The Christmas meal and gift exchanging happened at my sister’s instead of my mom’s. The advent devotional was led by the grandchildren instead of my mom. I was concerned my mom would feel like we were taking over to much, that she was losing her position of importance…when our efforts were for her to feel less stress and enjoy her family more. The transition went well, my mom was happy and we were encouraged that it all worked out so successfully. It was a blessing for my mom to see her grandchildren lead out on the advent…it gave her the opportunity to see her legacy of faith in action. The cherry on top was when my niece asked my mom to close in prayer. It allowed her to lead out once again in an area that she holds most dear when it comes to the Christmas season…spending time with family and being grateful for God’s gift of His son.

    Happy New Year!

    • Wow Laurie, what a beautiful blend of old traditions with a new spin! Your mom may have actually experienced relief with everyone taking over!

      When my mom’s heath started to become more fragile, we did the same. Still met up doing the same things, but just helping out more or hosting it elsewhere. It was a fantastic transition.

      I’m so glad it went well for you! Happy New Year!

  6. Wow. Just wow.

    As I am going about my New Year’s (by myself… of course! haha) preparations making it special for me, I am reading your comments through my email alerts.

    Your responses are completely warming my heart… and I can’t wait to respond to you!

    Until then, please know I am so sharing your words and experiences… thank-you!

    May we all rock our futures, no matter what time of year this is… together!

  7. Such a beautiful heartfelt story Donna. What an amazing morning you had. I moved away from family at a very young age. From my family in California to an 11 year military career for my husband which took us to Japan, Arkansas and Charleston AFB in Charleston, SC. Then on to Florida to be near his family and finally settling in Mooresville, NC where we have no family whatsoever. We have 3 children, one of which lived in California after she married. The other two here in NC. One lives 2 and a half hours away and the other lives with us and two of my grandchildren live here also. Believe it or not for many years we didn’t spend Christmas with our children with their busy lives. My brother and his wife moved here many years back and brought with them his wife’s brother and his wife. Well my brother moved back to Ca. Several years later and left the in laws here. We have become the best of friends and their kids call us aunt and uncle and their grandkids call us grandma, grandpa, nana papa what ever they feel like calling us the kids are known as cousins.etc. but it’s all family related feeling. I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though we are not real blood family, we are still family because that’s how we made it. I feel like friends are a great substitute for the real families so gather your closest and make the best of whatever your situation is.

    • Well said Shirley!

      When I was seeing a therapist for awhile, she always phrased it as friends are the family we choose. I’m so glad you were able to make it yours in such a beautiful way. I’ve done the same over the years as well trying different things with friends.

  8. What a wonderful event for your Christmas…for anyone. Thanks so much for sharing your inner thoughts about changing traditions. We have been going through that the last few years. Family is growing, grandchildren are adults with children of their own…too many places for them to be during the holidays so we have changed our time with them to a day or weekend before Christmas. This is OK, but it really makes Christmas Eve, Christmas Day less that memorable. They have to develop their own traditions but it means, I have to give up on mine. I selfishly feel sad but I am knowing it is the way it has to be. My Husband and I are trying to start other traditions for ourselves..some years it is a struggle and I regret that we did not plan better to do or go..thinking, next year we will do that! As we age, we are not included or can we do what we used to do. Hard to swallow…you need to continue to push yourself into the new future..the timing is right for you. We too need to take on that attitude and I do know how scary it can be…it holds me back and then I regret it later not taking action. Happy New Year Donna…enjoy

    • Boy do I understand this Eloise!

      I think what finally triggered inside of me is that over the last few years, I’ve allowed my expectations to disappoint me. I think it’s natural, however quite possibly part of the learning to let go process as well. We don’t want to feel like that each year, so what DO we have control over? Only us and our own thoughts and actions.

      So since we can’t control others, I’ve allowed myself to walk my own path this round, fitting in the desires of others around mine. Everyone pretty much got what they wanted to the best of our own situation, just in a slightly different order.

      And it turned out AMAZING.

  9. Oh my lands! Your Christmas story is my story for this whole past year! Thank you for sharing. I left my husband in October 2017 and lost my mom this past July. It has been a year of dealing with the hurt and it is a slow healing process. Discovering the simple joys of fellow Christmas greeters surrounded by lovely, natural settings seems to me to be the perfect balm for the soul. I barely got through your post without weeping – it struck such a cord in me.
    Thank you.
    Wishing you a safe and healthy 2019.

    • My heart goes out to you Elizabeth. Changes are not easy to live through and are difficult to understand at times, however all we can really do I suppose is put one foot in front of the other and keep finding our way. Those left behind would not want us to hurt for the rest of our lives so I think we honour those that pass by living life to the fullest while keeping them close to our hearts. I am personally actively learning the empty nest ropes but it has not been an easy transition for me. I think writing about that topic soon could be a good idea…

  10. Love, love LOVE this!!
    That’s really great how you found joy this Christmas and also, how nice that there are still people out there that think of others with the wreath and the beer?!… pretty cool!