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This Christmas marks the sixth year I won’t be headed home for the holidays.

I haven’t had a white Wyoming Christmas since 2005.

Families in the past always spent holidays gathered around a common tree or visiting each other’s homes on Christmas Day. I remember seeing nearly every member of my family, from grandparents to cousins, at some point during the festivities.

Sedona Red Rock News Managing Editor Trista Steers MacVittieMy parents, sisters and I always started the celebration with a candlelight service on Christmas Eve followed by a tour of our little town with my grandparents to enjoy all of the beautiful Christmas lights.

Everyone except my dad — he needed to be home to take care of our dogs — stayed the night at my grandparents’ house, which was where Santa always stopped.

The next morning, my dad returned along with other family, and we opened gifts together. Later in the day we headed to the ranch to visit my other set of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Today’s families, however, seem to be spread across miles making holiday, and particularly winter travel, difficult.

My first year Sedona Christmas wasn’t easy.

I hadn’t lived in the area for long and really didn’t know anyone. Going home wasn’t an option, so I relinquished to the fact I would spend the day with Delilah and Fiddler, my two cats.

Feeling sorry for and missing me, my family sent a pile of presents which I opened while on the phone with them. I spent the remainder of the day in my pajamas, cuddling my cats and watching Christmas movies. It wasn’t the Christmases I grew up with but it would have to do.

Since then, I’ve luckily met a few people, including my husband, and developed my own holiday traditions. I enjoy hosting a Christmas party each year to celebrate with our Arizona family — the friends we’ve made here. Christmas Day is quiet at our house — an opportunity for my husband and I to actually spend a day together with our dogs.

Would I trade my mellow Arizona holiday for just one more cold Christmas with family? In a heartbeat.

However, traveling to Wyoming in general is no easy task.

Flying there usually costs more than $700 per ticket when it isn’t the holidays and requires an hour-long flight aboard an airplane much too small for my comfort.

Driving to Wyoming entails a 13-hour road trip in the summer. I shudder to think how long it would take in the winter — traversing snowy mountain pass after snowy mountain pass.

One snowstorm could foil both of these plans and leave me stuck somewhere random for Christmas.

Luckily, technology makes it possible to feel a little closer to those I love. I’m sure the web cam will be on all day as we video chat with all those we can’t be with this year.

Even though we’re miles apart, Christmas is still a time for recognizing the gift of family and cherishing those we love.

Merry Christmas.

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