“Nothing’s so sacred that it cannot be changed.” I’m going to type that again so you’ll read it twice. “Nothing’s so sacred that it cannot be changed.”

I didn’t always believe that. If you had asked me five years ago if there were things in life that were to remain exactly as they’d always been, I would have said “Christmas morning.” My Christmas morning was to always consist of getting up with my family and opening presents one at a time, followed by a light snack of leftover Christmas Eve party foods, to be capped off that evening by a special Christmas dinner of something outrageous that would never be eaten except on Christmas. I preferred filet mignon, so the years my dad got into having a Cajun-spiced TurDucKen were…interesting.

But necessity is the mother of change. When my brother wasn’t able to come home for Christmas, we gradually moved from Christmas dinner at home to Christmas dinner at a Hibachi restaurant. When Dad died and it was just Mom and I, we started looking for different ways to celebrate Christmas morning. We haven’t found the perfect one yet, but often the hunt for a new tradition is almost as fun as finding the best one.

I tell y’all this so that, as we continue to navigate the COVID crisis, instead of being continually disappointed about the traditions that aren’t happening, maybe you’ll look upon this time as the opportunity to find a new one.

Take the recent Graduation Parade. As a person who has gone through three graduations, and was already trying to come up with an excuse to miss my niece’s in 17 years time, I think the parade idea was a fantastic one that should absolutely be continued because it turns graduation from a formality into a celebration. People lining the streets as proud grads wave like the queens and kings? That’s such a Jackson County way to honor 13 years of hard work, and it could only be improved by letting the kids thrown out diploma-shaped candy to the crowds.

Do I think graduation ceremonies are still important? Of course they are, the same way all ceremonies are important: they mark the end of one thing and the beginning of another. But we can improve upon that ceremony with something cool like a graduation parade, an act that befits our community spirit, and is more personal. Because lets face it: from the stands, you can’t tell which kid is which in the sea of blue or red caps and gowns until they say their name. But you’ll remember always the grad that drove through town in a truck decorated like a Viking ship.

And knowing myself how hard it is to make change when necessary, and how impressed I am by people who take change as a challenge and not a defeat, I am disappointed in the people who are complaining about the changes our community has had to make to our county’s traditions because of COVID.

This was supposed to be the 150th anniversary of the Ripley Fourth of July Celebration, a monumental anniversary for our town and its history. That’s the kind of anniversary where you break out the holograms and the extra- good fireworks. It’s the kind of thing our city Events Committee would be working to make that much more spectacular than our normal, already-better-than-everyone-else, celebration. And it got Corona’d.

Yet, the City has rallied. Drive-in concerts at the old Heck’s Plaza? Very on-trend, and very cool (even cooler if Cozumels is able to deliver margaritas to parked cars and dancers!). Fireworks are still happening, and we’re even still having the parade, much to the relief of all the politicians who have missed out on every dinner, picnic, and hand-shaking opportunity this election year.

A celebration is still happening, and frankly, some of y’all are not grateful enough for that. Because the easiest thing in the world would have been to cancel; just say, “We’re going to do nothing. No parade, no concerts, and no fireworks. Y’all just BBQ at home, jump on your trampolines, and pretend you’re at a carnival bounce house.” But instead, the Events Committee has worked really, really hard around ever-changing guidelines so that we don’t just have “A” celebration, we actually have something “TO” celebrate. They’ve done the absolute best they can, while keeping in mind the safety of our community. A community which knows more than most others how devastating COVID has been to the people we love.

Look, I don’t love change either. I am always going to wake up a little wistful on Christmas morning and remember what it once was. But then I’ll buck up and look forward to crispy chicken at Main Kwon’s and a movie. Or maybe we’ll find out if I like Christmas morning at a rented cabin in Montana. Or maybe I’ll finally find out how Santa Claus delivers presents in California with no snow and no chimneys (I suspect he has a master door key, but that’s just me).

The point is that when change is a necessity, you can waste your time complaining or you can get creative. And people that choose the latter are my favorite kinds of people, because what they come up with always manages to remind you that it’s not HOW you celebrate that is important: it’s what you’re celebrating. Maybe our community needed a little Who-villian reminder that Christmas mornings and graduations and Fourth of Julys will come without packages, boxes, or carnivals. But what’s important is remembering what we’re celebrating; how we celebrate is just a lot of really fun extras.

A change will do us good Jackson County, so be grateful to the people who are getting creative with change, and in the words of Kool and the Gang, giving us a reason to celebrate good times. And if anything, we can all celebrate having made it through Level Six of whatever game 2020 is playing with us.