A lot of people are talking about how the pandemic is going to impact their holiday celebrations this month. Beloved traditions will be eliminated or dramatically changed. Families and friends will not all be able to gather together the way they want to. Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivas … whatever it is you celebrate, it’s going to look different this year. Personally, I think Covid-19 is going to impact next Christmas as well; the vaccinations that are coming will not simply stop everything in its track.
For weeks, people across the United States grumbled and complained about how we we’re going to deal with making mandated and suggested adjustments to the Thanksgiving holiday celebrations. On thanksgiving day itself , the U.S. was hit with a record number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. According to published figures, there were at least 110,611 new infections reported Thursday. Remember, not everybody gets diagnosed because there is still a shortage of tests at times, plus people with milder cases don’t always go to a doctor or hospital. Thanksgiving day marked the 24th consecutive day newly reported Covid cases went above 100,000. Many hospitals have warned they are nearly back at capacity.
Millions of people across the country ignored travel warnings with regard to Thanksgiving. I think it would be a safe bet to say that the same will happen for Christmas and the other December holidays. This is a screenshot I just took early this morning of Saturday, December 5:
All of these tweets the CDC made in the last day or so. It’s pretty bleak. We simply can’t use the holidays as an excuse to pretend that the pandemic is over, that the rules are also on holiday vacation and somehow gingerbread and eggnog gives us immunity.
By this point, the holiday season is typically ratcheting up into full gear with increased party planning, event planning, schedule coordination and the like. Instead, we’re stuck in a situation of tallying the changes from our norms. Dinners with friends, cancelled. School concerts and plays, cancelled. Shopping trips, cancelled or dramatically adjusted. Company parties (if you still have a company to work for), either cancelled or taking very different formats from the past. There are still shopping mall Santas, but usually now requiring an appointment, wearing a mask, social distanced, or even behind plexiglass, as in the photo below that was taken at a Bass Pro Shop in Bridgeport. Connecticut. Photo/Seth Wenig)
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
December is typically a month that’s filled with celebratory options. This year, with so many events canceled completely or change to an online variation of some type, everything feels turned upside down. One of our family traditions is new matching pajamas for everybody in the house, including the dogs, that I give out on Christmas Eve. Yes, I ordered the pajamas as usual. But since the kids have spent so much time this year chilling out around the house, I’m not sure it’s going to be very entertaining for them.
I arranged to have our outdoor Christmas lights put up a little earlier than usual in an effort to boost spirits, and I’ve been nagging my kids to put up the tree. I wish I could do it all for them, but I’m a disabled widow here remember, so my contribution is mostly motivational and I definitely need to up my game.
For my kids and I, the holidays changed dramatically and permanently when my husband was killed. The more recent deaths of both of their grandfathers obliterated the few remaining holiday traditions we had outside our little nucleus. But the holidays themselves aren’t canceled because of deaths of those we love or because of the pandemic. Whether your celebration is based upon religious belief or simply the fervent desire for “Peace on Earth and Goodwill Towards Mankind,” you can still find reason to be hopeful and happy. You just might have to think about what truly matters about the holiday season a little more deeply this year. Loss of those we love and a modern plague can’t stop you from choosing to show gratitude, spread kindness, share love, and find moments of peace.
A Zoom holiday
Zoom has zoomed into our lives like a hurricane. Of course there are other video platforms like Google Meets, Skype, and Facetime but I think Zoom is the one that has become most well-known because of the pandemic. If you’re going to want to get together with friends or family via Zoom or another platform, don’t wait until the last minute. Plan it the way you would an in-person party or get together. Figure out who’s going to be the host in charge of the virtual gathering. Plan with time differences in mind. Make sure everybody has a way to get online. For Thanksgiving, Zoom eliminated it’s 40 minute free time restrictions, but as of this writing I’m not seeing what their plans are for the December holidays. So whatever platform you going to use, be sure to check out that issue.
Speak to people on the phone ahead of time and do small test meetings. Make sure everybody knows how to use the mute button! Advise people to put dogs in another room during the gathering so there is no barking Symphony. (Yes, I speak from experience about that one!) if you’re going to exchange gifts, ship them well ahead of time so they arrive before the gathering in case you want to see one another open things. No matter how well you plan, just like gatherings in real life, expect chaos to reign at any moment. Consider it part of the fun. Don’t be offended if somebody refuses to participate, even if that somebody is you. We’ve all been having different experiences during the pandemic and during life itself, and everybody needs to respect that.
If you aren’t already in the habit of volunteering in some way to help others, help animals, support a cause of some type, then this is a good time of year to give yourself the gift of incorporating that into your life. When everything is in such turmoil around you, volunteering can help give you a purpose and a direction, even if you aren’t making a long time commitment to one cause.
Is there a cause you want to help but don’t know what to do? Maybe you want to help with a food pantry, in some way assist sick children, the homeless, veterans, senior citizens, immigrants, or any of so many groups in need of helping hands or supportive people. Your time is it valuable is your money, so if your personal finances are tight don’t think that means you can’t help somebody else. Reach out to your local religious organizations, homeless shelters, hospitals, veterans groups, animal shelters and so forth. Ask them what you can do and you might be surprised how many ways you can actually volunteer.
If you want or need to be alone for the holidays, that’s OK too.
Life is not a greeting card. It’s not a movie or a book. It’s not a fairy tale. It definitely does have those magical moments within it, and those times should be cherished. You don’t have to try and squeeze your current reality or feelings into some idealized, preconceived notion of holiday perfection. If you want to celebrate by hanging out with yourself, don’t let anybody make you feel bad about it. Enjoying your own company doesn’t make you weird, sad, pathetic, rude, inconsiderate, unfriendly, cold-hearted, anti-family or somehow defective. It just means your definition of what makes you feel good and centered this holiday season is different from what some other people prefer this year.
Many of us are not new to spending holidays alone. For variety of reasons many people are without family or friends we feel close enough to spend holidays with, or grief makes it just not possible.
As part of that, remember to show yourself some mercy. Whether you spend the holidays with close family in your household, with friends and family on electronic video, or completely by yourself, there may be moments that sadness overtakes you. Holidays are stressful, the pandemic is stressful, uncertainty is stressful.
Whatever helps get you through the day, do it … as long as it doesn’t put you in danger. In the end how you spend the holidays doesn’t matter, but you matter a lot.