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Getting creative with a COVID-restricted Christmas / Holiday Season

Perhaps there is a way to still make it a special one…

2020 has been a crazy kind of year, with all sorts of changes and uncertainty. We are certain, however, that there is hope on the horizon with vaccines starting to be distributed and administered. Next year will no doubt be different than this year – let’s hope one where we will begin to feel safer, rejoice again in some of the social freedoms we once had, where the economy will recover, and people will recover any lost employment. Another thing we do know, is that for many of us, this holiday season is going to be very different. After what has already been a challenging year this can feel like another blow.

It is OK to be disappointed and mourn this loss. A healthy way to do this is express our frustrations and loss via journaling or talking to others – that way we can move through our upset feelings. Another way of coping is to connect to the value of the reasons why this is disappointing. For example, the reason might be that you won’t get to see your family and participate in your shared traditions, and you genuinely value family time and tradition. In connecting with this value, you can still nurture this need. You can think “what is another way I can connect with my family and participate in the traditions?” Stuck? Well listen ahead because I have some ideas. Before I do that, let’s think about our mindset…

I have pointed out that it’s healthy to mourn, but I also want to add that it’s not healthy to fester in mourning. When we are constantly drawn into our setbacks, it can further spiral us down into a state of depression. While there are a lot of you that really look forward to this time of year, I want to point out some drawbacks that normally happen – as it is easy to look back at this festive season with rose-tinted lenses, and while we might have fond memories, we may be overlooking some of the more uncomfortable times around this time of year!

Holiday stress statistics show that up to 69 percent of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time”, 69 percent are stressed by perceiving a “lack of money”, and 51 percent are stressed about the “pressure to give or get gifts.” In addition, there is holiday weight gain and the associated stress and guilt that comes with it. This time of year brings lots of cheer, but perhaps also indulging in too much alcohol. Being with family can have its joys, but also challenges; for many people being with family comes with its share of unnecessary drama. Holidays can be fun but not necessarily relaxing, but after all isn’t relaxation not what holidays are for?

Well, this year you have a guilt-free year to put aside all these things! You might have more time to yourself to do whatever you want. You could save some money. You could drink less and eat less, leaving you the same weight after the holidays – in fact you could dedicate some of the time you gained to healthy exercise!

When there is an external factor that changes our lives there is a natural resistance and associated resentment towards it. If we choose to focus only on these feelings, we may be missing an opportunity to have a special holiday in a different way. What is good about having a different holiday? How can you make this year a special and festive one?

Here are some ideas:

  • Get outside and meet someone for a walk, go for a snowshoe, sledding, skiing or a hike.  You could wait until it gets dark and walk through a neighbourhood to look at Christmas lights.  Getting outside allows for safe socializing while getting exercise and maybe even some time in nature.
  • If you are in a region where you can, a socially-distanced outdoor fire with smores and mulled wine could be a cozy way to have a visit.
  • Instead of spending 5 hours in the kitchen with your hand up a turkey, maybe this year you take off cooking and organize an easy but delicious charcuterie, fruit and cheese platter.   I love doing this at home setting up blankets on the floor and having an “indoor picnic”.
  • If you do want to cook, maybe this is the year to try something different, as you may not need a turkey to feed many mouths.  Decadent dinner ideas could be: duck breast, beef Wellington, braised beef, or a veggie Christmas pie.  You could do a virtual dinner party with family or friends, where you start cooking the same recipe at the same time.  Keep the computer and zoom on from the time you start cooking to sitting down “together” for dinner.  I have done this before and it was surprisingly fun: by the time we were eating dinner I had almost forgotten that it was virtual, and thoroughly enjoyed the dinner and company.
  • Do a dinner or dessert drop off:  If you really love cooking a traditional turkey meal and your family and friends live close by you could still do it and drop off the meal.  As we know, you can eat turkey for days, so you could even cook before Christmas day and drop off meals on the day.  If meals aren’t needed dessert, or wine and champagne are a nice way to compliment someone’s Christmas meal.
  • Do a virtual Happy Hour.  Here you can invite even more than you might have had for dinner, friends and family from afar.  Set a time, get your drink ready and raise your glasses together!
  • Take a year off cooking but still enjoy a big meal!  If you are a single or a household you could meet a bubbled friend at a restaurant for dinner, most Chinese and hotel restaurants are open.  
  • If this was a time of year where you might have traveled, create an imaginary vacation: If you can’t go to Legoland, bring Legoland to you. Pair a gift of Lego with a stay-at-home dream vacation to Legoland. Provide special foods, virtual tours, books, crafts and activities that recall special times at the theme park. Other dream vacation ideas: Disneyland, New York, Paris or Hawaii.   The world is your oyster!
  • Attend celebrations virtually. Luckily, many festive events will still take place online. The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles is hosting a virtual Hanukkah celebration that will include candle lighting, sing-a-longs and a puppet performance of the story of Hanukkah. The Washington National Cathedral is holding virtual Christmas celebrations and a virtual Christmas Eve Eucharist. The New Jersey Performing Arts Center is hosting a virtual Kwanzaa festival with workshops, crafts, music and dancing. Even the "The Nutcracker" is streaming from various venues this year. Virtual events make it possible to “visit” different celebrations all over the country. You can also check with your favorite local organizations to see what they have planned.
  • Volunteering – This year has no doubt left a lot of people without.  This year you might want to check your local homeless shelters, food banks, toy drives, meals for families etc. to see where you could contribute.  

If none of these ideas tickle your fancy, set aside some time to ponder how you can make this holiday season special for you. When we take a few moments to ponder, consider, reflect and plan it can totally change the tone for this year’s festivities. I encourage you to open your mind to the idea while this year might be different, planned right, it could be a warm and fuzzy one, full of unique memories. Have a safe, healthy and happy holiday season!