27 December 2016 | 3 mins

Over the last two years, as expected, I’ve drifted apart from a lot of people I consider close friends. People I grew up with, people I expect to still be friends with for a long time to come. We no longer see each other passively; since moving to Edinburgh, it now takes effort and conscious thought to maintain relationships.

For the last five years now, a group of close friends of mine have met every Christmas Eve at the local Wetherspoons back home (originally The Red Lion in Bedlington, and for the last few years at The Wallaw in my hometown of Blyth). Some of these people I don’t see for the rest of the year. Others, I make sure I see at least every couple of months. The faces aren’t identical each year, but the core group is more or less the same. We drink a lot, swap stories, take the piss, and see in Christmas morning together before going our separate ways to be with family.

Similarly, for the last three summers, we’ve been on our ‘lads holidays’ around Europe. I’d love to pretend that they’re more cultured than the stereotypical weekend in Magaluf, but aside from dragging them around on walking tours of cities like Copenhagen and Stockholm, there really isn’t much difference. Still though, it’s a week or so when we know we’ll see each other that we’re starting to rely on.

On a more recent note, Sasha and I have our mystery date night tradition that we started last year. I’ve talked about it at length on this blog already, but it’s still a consistent part of our schedule; whatever else we end up doing that month, we always make time for our twice-monthly dates.

It’s reassuring to know that I have these traditions. If I slip up, don’t catch up with people for a few months or so, I know that we’ll have almost-guaranteed plans within the next half year. It’s nice to know that with whatever else I or anyone else get up to throughout the year, we’ll have set ‘checkpoints’ throughout the calendar to catch up with people we consider close. There are also a handful of close friends that I don’t really have any annual traditions with, but I know who they are, and we know to make the effort to stay friends in other ways.

Christmas has just been and gone, and while it hasn’t felt particularly Christmassy this year (probably due to the unseasonably high temperatures), long-standing traditions are my favourite part of this time of the year. I know that I’ll be taking the dog(s) for a walk on Christmas Eve to keep them out of the way while the kitchen is full of baking. I know that I’ll visit Dad’s grave on Christmas morning before church with the family. I know that I’ll be seeing my extended family, even if it’s for the only time this year.

Whether it has been a good year or bad, the reliability of traditions provides a positive foundation to move forwards and onwards. They keep relationships close, provide platforms to help reflect and reminisce, and makes it easy to reconnect with friends you perhaps don’t see as often as you might like.

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