Christmas for The Pennsylvanias is going to be a little different this year. And I couldn't be happier.The Pennsylvanias is the nickname one of my nieces gave to my immediate family - my husband, three kids and me - many years ago when she wanted to confirm her family's travel destination from New York.

"Are we going to see The Pennsylvanias?" she asked my sister-in-law as they drove south on the New Jersey Turnpike. We liked it, so it stuck.

Some think The Pennsylvanias sounds a little strange, but if you consider that for almost 29 years we've been our only family members living in the commonwealth, it makes a lot of sense.

All the Behringer relatives in New York avoid confusion when referring to us by the nickname, and since most of our other relatives live in Virginia, it's worked just fine for them, too.

While some may argue that living so far from family has its benefits, I can tell you that there are drawbacks as well.

No, 1: traveling over the holidays.

Most years, our travel marathon begins on Thanksgiving Day, as it did this year. We all wake at the crack of dawn and head north on the New Jersey Turnpike, over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and out to the end of Long Island. We've been lucky; we usually make great time that morning, about 3? hours. We eat lots of turkey and pie, stay a night or two and head back home.

Years ago we made another trek up the Turnpike about a week before Christmas to exchange gifts and visit with Nana and Pop Pop, aunts, uncles and all 12 New York Behringer cousins. These trips normally have a four-hour drive time each way.

Then on Christmas Day, us Pennsylvanias wake early once again. We unwrap gifts, gobble our holiday breakfast and travel about three hours south to celebrate in Virginia.

When my parents moved to North Carolina it worked out wonderfully to meet in the middle. Lots of other southern aunts, uncles, in-laws and cousins would join in the day after Christmas, which also happens to be my dad's birthday.

But years have passed and families change. Mom died six years ago, and my oldest daughter actually became one of The Virginias when she moved to Arlington, the very place her grandmother grew up.

My other kids have their own places now, too, and just gathering the five of us to the old Chester County homestead can be a feat. So with little fanfare, The Pennsylvanias are staying put this Christmas Day.

It may be a little different, but we'll actually sleep in that morning and get together with friends later in the day. On the 26th, about eight of The Virginias will travel to see us.

But even more out of the ordinary was one of my sweetest celebrations. Last week I flew down to Myrtle Beach for an early Christmas visit with my dad and his friends.

It reminds me that Christmas is about traditions, but the best tradition is - somehow, some way - being with the ones you love.

Tracy Behringer is a Daily Local News columnist. You can reach her at tracy.behringer@gmail.com

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