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How a Dreaded Holiday Tradition Turned Into the Best One

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My mom’s choir was halfway through its carol concert when I realized that her name was missing from the program. I knew she wouldn’t be too broken up about it — she’d say “No need to go into a swivet” — but I was incensed. The oversight instantly became a referendum on everything we’d lost that year.

This was my mom’s choir debut, and her long white hair glowed beatifically as she belted “We Three Kings” on a riser beneath the pulpit where, 10 months before, my sister and I had eulogized our 59-year-old dad. The concert was the first event she’d been excited about since then. She’d reminded me of the date and time on multiple occasions, assuring me and my husband that nobody would care if our toddlers made a ruckus.

Now, sitting in a pew my kids had decorated with stickers, I thought of my mom’s calls after Thursday night rehearsals — her excitement about difficult hymns and new friends. “They’re really kicking my butt,” she said as if she’d joined the Olympic gymnastics team. I pictured the piles of sheet music spread across her dining room table; the stream of choral classics pouring from her record player; and her first solo Christmas tree, waiting to be decorated after the concert. How proud she was that she’d put up the lights alone.

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https://static01.nyt.com/images/2022/12/16/well/16Egan-Traditions/16Egan-Traditions-jumbo.jpg?quality=75&auto=webpMaria Medem

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https://www.nytimes.com

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