Like so many other milestones and traditions this year, the holidays will look different during the Coronavirus Pandemic than they have in previous years. It will be easy to focus on what and who is missing, the traditions lost, or the sense of collective grief in the air during this time. Instead, we encourage you to plan ahead and decide what is possible as you reimagine holiday celebrations, pandemic-style.
In this post, we’ll describe some things to consider as you plan your holiday gatherings, how to make the holidays feel like the holidays and some alternatives to what you have done in the past that might help you better embrace this year’s celebrations.
It’s likely that many public gatherings and events will be canceled this year in an effort to promote safety and reduce crowds. That might mean no office holiday parties, breakfast with Santa, or city parades. Sometimes, when there is less happening socially during a normally busy time, there is a tendency to want to do even more with friends and family to fill this void. If you are feeling an urge to fill up your holiday schedule, consider the role technology can play in your get-togethers.
Even though it’s not the same as sitting across from each other having Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, consider putting family members on tablet or computer screens so you can share the time together while eating your individual holiday meals. If you coordinate your dinner times, it’s a fun way to come together while ensuring that everyone remains healthy during this time. Another idea for those who live close to one another is to all make a dish and then coordinate dropping off portions of each dish to family, so everyone has a complete meal, filled with all of your normal favorites.
Other structured activities that make the holidays feel like the holidays can happen over the internet. Perhaps you set aside time to all share what you are thankful for during this time, share a story about a Christmas memory of the past, or play a structured game on your devices if you can’t be physically together.
Facetime, Zoom, and Google Hangouts and also make family members feel that they are in the room as you open gifts or even decorate the Christmas trees simultaneously. Imagine this pandemic without the technology we have today and you’ll quickly embrace the opportunity to digitally connect with others, even if you would rather be together physically.
Quarantine Apart To Be Together
Perhaps you previously spent holidays with elderly relatives, or even by yourself. This year, it might be wise to collaborate with lower-risk friends or family members and get together after a mutual quarantine. While you might be used to seeing family for the holidays, perhaps gathering with a pod of friends who live in town will become a new part of your traditions.
Now is the time to ask a pod of people who you might want to spend the holiday with to quarantine for two weeks prior to Thanksgiving dinner, Hanukkah celebration or Christmas Brunch. You can take this a step further by scheduling a COVID test just before the gathering and quarantining after you have your negative results. Although tests only capture a moment in time, it doesn’t hurt to have this extra level of confidence. (Please reference CDC guidelines for the most up to date safety precautions).
Once you and your quarantine pods get together, simple things like wearing masks while you fill your plates in the kitchen, and even eating outdoors if it’s warm enough, can go a long way to making the gathering safe. Even a winter picnic might be a safe and interesting alternative to a typical indoor celebration.
Oftentimes, traditions almost become habits and may not even be something people enjoy doing anymore. Othertimes, traditions honor those who have passed away and are an important way to remember them during a holiday. As you take inventory of your traditions and how you might want to change them in light of the coronavirus pandemic, consider the “why” of what you do more than what you do.
For example, maybe you have a tradition to make Christmas cookies with three generations in your mother’s kitchen. You may have been doing this as long as you can remember. Consider why this tradition makes you happy and how you might be able to recreate that happiness in another way. Maybe you simply love the creativity of decorating cookies or the excuse to eat sugar all day long. Maybe you tell stories and laugh in the kitchen as you frost and sprinkle the sugar cookies. When you can get at the essence of what you really enjoy about any tradition, it’s easier to recreate the pieces you love in new ways, and arrive at the same “feeling” you have when honoring those traditions.
At Center for Shared Insight, we recognize that this is a challenging time of uncertainty, loneliness, and even grief. By thinking about the holidays now, and committing to how you plan to spend them with authentic, yet alternative, connections, you'll have more time to accept that things will be different this year. Embrace what is possible instead of focusing on the lack. Our team is here to support you during these challenging times.