Consider This is a column focused on how important elements of a womans life look in single life and in marriage. This week, were considering the experience of longing as single and married women. One single woman and one married woman have written essays, to be published on different days. On a third day, they respond to each others experience. Read Elizabeth’s essay about celebrating holiday traditions as a single woman here and Giannas as a married woman here.

Elizabeth (single) to Gianna (married)

The evolution of your Christmas traditions—from being single, to married, to a mother, was a great reminder of the importance of being flexible and intentional in each phase of life. Your realization that holiday traditions should not just be practiced as something to check off a list for the sake of it, really resonated with me. As someone who can tend to go overboard in this area, I want to be intentional with why I am perpetuating certain traditions—and not continue them “just because.”

Your graciousness in holding Christmas plans with “looser hands” as a married woman seemed to be an omen for me: Elizabeth, some day you will need to let go of these traditions you hold so dear in order to make space for something even lovelier. It also highlighted that I should truly cherish these years as a single woman spent with my family of origin.

Your dreams of future plans once your children are older and can fully participate in all the season has to offer, sound peaceful, joyful, and balanced. It made me ponder how balance can be sought in every season. Don’t overplan to forget what might be hurting your heart in the single season. Don’t over-promise in the married years to try to make everyone else happy. Time is precious and while we should give of ourselves to others, we also need to fill our own cup—and sometimes this looks like saying no in order to have time alone or with only one’s spouse and children, not extended family.

My family is just shy of 100 percent Irish heritage, but I have always been enamored with the Feast of the Seven Fishes. I wished we were Italian on Christmas Eve so we could participate in what sounds like a beautiful and delicious tradition! Now you have me thinking, maybe I’ll get lucky and my future husband will be Italian—because that's something I would gladly add into my rolodex of cherished traditions. 

Gianna (married) to Elizabeth (single)

Reading your essay made me feel like we could be friends! I relate wholeheartedly to being, as you described, “an overeager holidayer.” I have always been the first to fire up the tunes (Frank and Bing, for sure!) and staunchly enforce the annual merrymaking traditions. Being Catholic as well, Christmas Eve Mass has been a beautiful staple in my family’s annual traditions for decades, and your call to reflect and meditate on what makes the season meaningful resonates deeply with me.

Your account of the ache you feel of not yet having a family strikes a chord, too. Granted, I was married in my mid-twenties, and I know from my single friends that dating in our thirties is nothing like dating in our early twenties. As such, the last thing I want to do is slap a flimsy, “Girl, I totally know what you’re going through” message on your struggle. No, I understand, appreciate, and empathize that this situation is different and that it is hard. I also know that the holidays have a way of bringing singleness, waiting, and hopeful expectation into sharp relief. Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable about your experience.

I have to admit that your holiday hobbies sound glorious! It shocked me, and honestly almost made me feel a tad guilty, just how good that type of independence and freedom sounded to me! I think what really stuck with me, though, is the beauty of your message: embracing, leaning into, and wholeheartedly enjoying your present season. 2020 has been a hard year for a lot of reasons, and at times, I’ve felt tempted to wish for a fast-forward button to the next season—to something easier and less fraught with so many daily challenges (like newfound toddler tantrums and raging “morning” sickness). But your essay, especially the last few paragraphs, reminded me how important it is not to do that. I was so inspired by how you are graciously honoring the ache of wanting a family, but also acknowledging the unique gifts of your season in life. That you are leaning in, faithfully, to where you are right now, from caring for your family to bringing joy to your elderly neighbors. That call to share love and make seasons bright is beautiful. I think many of us (myself especially) are going to deeply benefit from this gentle and gracious reminder to find beauty where it already resides instead of wishing for it to show up in a different form.

Thank you for sharing your story with us. Here’s hoping your Christmas is filled with classic Christmas music, beautiful tablescapes, craft cocktails, spa days, good books, and (hopefully not too complicated) gingerbread house kits! Peace be with you! 

Do you have reflections on celebrating holiday traditions that you'd like to share? Tell us here, and your response may be published by Verily at a later date.