“What is Christmas? It is the tenderness of the past, courage for the present, and hope for the future.” ~Agnes M. Pahro
Normally, the holiday season is full of spending time with family, decorating the Christmas tree, looking at light displays, bustling in malls to find the perfect gifts, traveling, making and giving treats, and participating in service opportunities. Those are some of the things I, personally, look forward to during this time of year. I know I am not the only one feeling some grief as I realize that I will not be able to experience many of those things this year. Typically, I take off a fairly substantial time off of work in December to travel; this year I will forgo that because of travel restrictions. Parties have been canceled. Celebrations have been put on hold. Although this holiday season will be different than ever before, I want to suggest some ways we can still make the most of it.
As I have pondered how I will spend this time, I want to share some of my thoughts on how you and I can make the most of this holiday season! Please share your suggestions, in the comment section, on new traditions you are beginning this year.
Focus on what we CAN do.
Let’s make the most of the traditions we can safely continue. While it is so easy to focus on what we cannot do right now, there are many aspects of the holidays that can still happen. You can send cards and sweets to families to celebrate Diwali. You can dust off the menorah and hang all your beloved ornaments. And you can most certainly drive around town looking at holiday decorations!
2020 inspired creativity!
Halloween celebrated the masks we have been wearing most of the year. Thanksgiving gatherings were greatly down-sized. Now our kids have to talk to Santa through plexiglass. There is one thing these holidays, in 2020, have in common: It has made us be flexible and creative! I know that in some cities haunted house drive-throughs were put together for Halloween, and now some are opening drive-in movie theaters to screen holiday movies and other COVID-friendly events. For those kids who are devastated they will not see Santa, check out JingleRing which allows you to schedule a live or prerecorded virtual call with St. Nick! Let’s look for the events going on around us that will help the holidays still feel special.
You know it, ZOOM!
Before the pandemic, if someone was unable to make a holiday gathering in person, they completely missed out. But now, Zoom calls for birthdays and other celebrations, allow everyone to be included in the festivities. Although it is discouraged to have large groups gather for the holidays, we can still gather remotely via zoom. We can share meals, discuss things we are grateful for, have game nights, participate in family traditions, decorate the tree, light the menorah, sing carols, etc. I hope that getting creative with how we “get together” will be one thing that we continue for years to come!
We all know that the holiday season is magical because of all the yummy food and treats. I know that some people are not wanting to eat food prepared in someone else’s house due to germs. This means one way we can make the most of this special holiday season is to bake the goodies ourselves! Trade favorite holiday recipes with friends, over email or text. We do not have to be chefs to create deliciousness in the kitchen. For those with small kids and little time, check out these very kid-friendly cooking kits by Baketivity that come with all the ingredients premeasured.
Although gathering and personally exchanging gifts is what we have historically relied on, sending cards or gifts remains a relatively easy way to let loved ones know that we are thinking of them. It has never been easier to send an e-gift card, DoorDash food or giftcard, or even just an e-greeting. These electronic gifts and cards are simple and a great way to spread love and cheer this holiday season. I have been the recipient of a Secret Santa this year and have come home to small gifts, left on my porch, each night. What a great and safe way to spread joy!
Get out with your people (safely).
COVID has had many serious implications, one of which being decreased mental health. Might I encourage each of us this holiday season to get outside together a little more. After your holiday meal, go on a virtual group walk through your respective neighborhoods to work off the food. Thanks to our smartphone’s cameras, we can share your time outdoors and all of the interesting sights along the way. I know many of us have already gotten creative and have met up in parking lots to enjoy a meal or a conversation while being socially distanced. We could consider making a new tradition to have cocoa with our friends or family while visiting from the backs of our cars!
Time > Gifts
This is a difficult holiday season, as many are out of work or coping with isolation and grief. Because everything is different, why not redirect our holiday focus from spending money to spending time instead? If we think about our happiest holiday memories, they likely involve our senses — the smell of cookies baking, the sound of holiday music, the nostalgia of shiny lights, and the time spent decorating, plotting and anticipating with family and friends. Your time is the best gift you can give to those you care about. If we are worrying about money this holiday season, let’s try to remember that giving time and attention is far better than any gift. The basis of memories is almost never things and nearly always people and togetherness!
If you do plan to go ahead and join a holiday gathering in person, it will be important to remain vigilant, even when interacting with dear friends and loved ones. The greatest risk for the spread of COVID-19 right now is family gatherings because individuals likely need to travel to congregate, and they will be in close contact, likely indoors, and with poor ventilation. Try to keep any family gatherings brief and relatively small. Avoid hugs and handshakes. Try to social distance wherever possible. If the weather permits, hold the get-together outdoors.
I know this holiday season will require us to be flexible and patient. We will have to be creative with how we spend time with loved ones and how we make it a memorable holiday season. But I also know that we can do just that–we can utilize Zoom/Facetime calls to see those we love. We can take advantage of creative solutions to see Santa and Christmas lights. We can make memories with those we love over spending money, and we will find this holiday season to be strikingly wonderful despite it looking different than previous years. We can make the most of this holiday season, and I invite you to do so by focusing on what we DO have and on what we CAN do. There is so much!
Our mental health has been greatly impacted during these times! If you need some extra support, please do not hesitate to call me. I offer telehealth and in-person sessions to my clients. Hang in there and Happy Holidays!
Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
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- Scientific American: How to Minimize COVID Risk and Enjoy the Holidays