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Learning to Let Go of My Favorite Family Tradition

Kelsey Gast


We used to do things straight out of the book for the holidays.

My favorite part was packing the whole family into my Dad’s old 1950’s Chevy truck and heading to a local tree farm. When I was growing up we bought a real tree every year, no exceptions!

It was my senior year of college when I was home for winter break that things really started to change. I’m the youngest of three sisters and my oldest sister is a flight attendant. With her tricky work schedule and living out of state, we waited till last minute to go Christmas tree shopping as a family.

When we got to the farm I couldn't believe it...we were too late! The company had packed up all their supplies and there were no trees available. 

This might be a youngest child trait, but I seem to have the most trouble accepting change. Our family dynamic had been shifting in small ways as we kids got older; time together was always limited and it grew more difficult to keep up with our usual traditions. But this was my FAVORITE. Could this really be the moment where we broke the Christmas tree tradition? No tree, on Christmas!? Absurdity!

As we drove home in the truck, I sadly contemplated the turn of events, and then thought of an idea. It was a rather silly one, but I’d take what I could get — I was not going to settle for an empty corner in the family room.

Dashing around the house, I gathered all the decor trees collected over the years. (You’d be amazed at what a family of five can accumulate — or perhaps you can relate.) Then, BAM — it honestly was quite a magical sight. Each individual tree twinkled brightly and when combined, they created a magical glow in the corner of our house. 

Just like that, a new tradition was born and our family motto became, “Why have a tree, when you can have a forest?!” 

Every year since then, Mom and Dad have embraced this new tradition — no more trips to get a real tree, and I'm okay with that! Meanwhile, I learned an important life lesson that Christmas. I would always be rooted in my family’s history and values but, as a senior in college, I had to be okay with accepting change. A LOT of that was headed my way and it was important to embrace those challenges by finding ways to adapt with a solutions-oriented attitude. 

Things aren’t the same as they used to be. My sisters and I have grown up and our family is evolving, but the passing years have brought new perspectives and life experiences that are just as sweet and for which I will always be thankful.

Besides, what really matters most on Christmas? Is it buying the largest tree on the lot, giving or receiving the perfect gift, or attending all of the holiday socials? 

For me, the answer is none of the above. What matters most is simply having quality time with my family. Sometimes what you really need is already right in front of you. 

Christmas tree forest

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    Kelsey Gast is the Marketing Communications Associate at CollegiateParent. She attended Appalachian State University, from which she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Communication, Advertising.

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