There have always been three grand occasions in my household: Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. But Christmas has always been the greatest and grandest of them all.

That’s something I’ve said many times before but won’t be able to say for very much longer.

As grand an occasion as Christmas is, it isn’t immutable. Things can happen to alter or disrupt it, as we saw two years ago. Thus far we’ve been fortunate in that very little has happened to affect Christmas, and those few events which have affected Christmas have been minor and mostly temporary in nature.

This year however, two events occurred which will have a more major and permanent impact on our Christmas celebrations going forward.

The first is that my aunt resumed her relationship with her ex-husband. Generally speaking this is a positive development as it eliminates a previously awkward element within the family social dynamic and (more importantly) gives their daughter a stable home, but the downside is that it means that they’ll have to alternate where they spend their Christmas Eves once again.

The other development is that my grandmother sold her longtime home and moved into a small apartment. Her old home wasn’t all that big, and it was always a tight squeeze for the dozen or so of us who would cram in there for the third and final Christmas feast of the year. Her new apartment simply can’t accommodate that many people.

These two events created a need to change how my mother’s side of the family would be spending Christmas going forward. After much deliberation and debate, a four-year cycle was arrived at. I won’t set out all the details here, but basically our Christmas Eve event will be entirely without my mother’s side of the family on odd-numbered years. Presumably we’ll still have a gathering in those years, but these will be more intimate events with just 10 total people at a maximum. I wonder whether my father will bother dressing up as Santa on those years, as the youngest cousin on my father’s side of the family will likely be beyond believing in Santa by the time next year rolls around – all of the cousins who still believe are on my mother’s side. On even-numbered years, Christmas Eve will proceed normally, but Christmas Day will feature just one feast instead of the usual two. I’m not too bothered by this change; although part of the fun of our two-day extravaganza is how hectic and non-stop the whole thing is, it’s absolutely exhausting and very difficult to do justice to a third feast in the span of 24 hours. So, perhaps having a quieter Christmas Day will be a positive thing.

But for me, Christmas Eve is the heart and soul of the Christmas season. It’s always been the day I look forward to most all year long. And to have that change in such a dramatic way is quite sad for me.

Calling this the “last” Christmas is perhaps going a bit far since the schedule calls for another grand celebration over here in 2016. Nevertheless it feels like the last Christmas. It feels like the end of a tradition, like the end of something truly great.

And no matter how many times I say it, it just doesn’t feel right to say “There are three grand occasions in my household: Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. But Thanksgiving is the greatest and grandest of them all.”