I would like to extend my sincere wish that you all have a truly wonderful Holiday. I know that looks a little different for everyone. Different traditions, different activities and different ways to celebrate this delightful time of the year. Derek and I have a lot of holiday traditions and I have to say that none of them have been quite the same this year.

               Derek and I have gone to see the holiday concert by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra at Bok Tower with friends for as long as I can remember. It has always been a wonderful holiday tradition for us. We would always head out to Bok tower early so that we would have time to set up our chairs and blankets on the great lawn below the tower. We would pack a delicious picnic with hot soup and sandwiches and some sort of dessert. None of our friends are really drinkers so we would always pack a bottle of sparkling apple cider so that we would feel fancy. If we were hosting an exchange student at the time, we would always include them in the festivities. There just isn’t anything like sitting under the great oak trees at sunset with the music from the orchestra playing and the crickets strumming along. It is just beautiful.

               We were so excited to see that the holiday concert at Bok Tower was back on their event schedule. We contacted the whole gang that would normally go with us and even reached out to a few new friends that we couldn’t wait to share this tradition with. Everyone got tickets and our menu was set when we got a notification that the date had changed. At that point, we lost a few people that would have normally gone just because they had previous plans on the new date. They also sent out a notice that no outside food or drink was allowed into the event.  We lost a few more people on that news.

               By the time the concert happened last weekend it was down to Derek and I and two new friends that had never been before. We pre-ordered food from the resident café and we picked it up when we arrived. That was when we found out that the concert wasn’t at the great lawn, it was at the oval lawn and it wasn’t the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, it was the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra Brass……

               No sunset, no oak trees, no sparkling apple juice. Not even any string instruments! So, I am sitting there eating my pre-packaged chicken salad croissant sandwich and all I could think about was all the years of wonderful memories that I had of this holiday tradition. The contrast of what was happening at the moment couldn’t have been starker, but then something lovely happened. Derek reached over and held my hand. I looked up at the stars above me, took a deep breath, stopped thinking about what was, and starting listening to the Orlando Philharmonic Brass play their hearts out between mosquito bites. It was actually quite nice.

               I know that traditions inherently are supposed to be the same, but there is something to the idea of enjoying a traditional activity even if it isn’t at all the same. Does it really matter what lawn you are sitting on as long as you are surrounded by your friends and the people you love? Traditions are there to create feelings and we can always choose to feel the warmth, wonder and excitement of the holidays, no matter what is going on around us. So even if the holidays don’t look quite the same this year, just take a deep breath and remember to be present to the moment you are in. That truly is the only moment we have, so we might as well enjoy it.

Happy Holidays,

Mark Ramey