Keeping Traditions Alive, Even When You Live Alone

Being away from family during the holidays has been difficult, but it’s gotten easier, especially thanks to friends and surrogate parents who invite me to their houses so I won’t have to be alone. I’m grateful for the invitations, but I still miss the family traditions I grew up with — Easter supper with my parents and grandparents, decorating Eggs and then hiding them around the house and in the front yard, having an Easter basket filled with pink Peeps and Cadbury eggs.

Funny how traditions tend to disappear as you grow older and move away from home. They’re so closely associated with families that it’s hard to think about creating your own ones when you live alone. Often if I’m feeling alone during the holidays, as I was earlier today, I try not to think about the traditions and festivities that I’m missing out on back at home.

Instead, I head to a local coffee shop, or Panera or Starbucks so I can feel connected. I like my alone time, but there’s a distinct difference between feeling lonely and being alone. Alone time helps you learn to appreciate and enjoy your own company. Too much of it, though, can lead to loneliness.

Loneliness is when you feel isolated and cut off from others, like when you’re up late at night and you look outside and see no other lights. You begin to feel like you’re the only one awake in the world, and then sure enough, loneliness finds its way through the door without so much as a knock.

So many people I know — including some of my family members — choose to be alone for Easter, Thanksgiving, etc., because the holidays, they say are tough. Partaking in traditions reminds them of what they’ve lost, of a time when holidays were spent with loved-ones who have since passed away. It’s easier, they say, to be alone and to “do their own thing.”

I’m the opposite when it comes to that. Traditions that my mom and I started when I was younger help me remember her and keep her memory alive around the holidays. We used to walk around the front yard, for instance, in our bathrobes and look for Easter eggs that the Easter bunny had hidden. I didn’t do this as I got older, but my dad still hid Easter eggs around the house even when I was in college. I was probably pretty old to be hunting for Eggs, but I didn’t care. It was a tradition that I wanted to hold onto and that I someday want to someday carry on with my own kids.

In the meantime, I’ll have to start thinking about some new traditions I can start on my own for the upcoming holidays. Any suggestions?

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

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