“Happy” Holidays? Finding creative ways to stay festive during a pandemic holiday season

Photo Credit: Teresa Sumerfield Photography

The jury is split among the clients I have been seeing. The holiday season is either cancelled or it’s going to be celebrated in an excessive and overly abundant manner. One thing is common though: it is definitely going to be a holiday season that will be different from all holiday seasons. This pandemic has taken a lot from many of us and our hopes that a sense of normalcy would return before the end of the year have come and gone with little progress. Many of us have returned to “lockdown” and most of us still face restrictions limiting interactions with people outside of our family home. And being with family, friends and loved ones is something so important to some of us during this time of the year, right?

So, in response to the onset of a pandemic holiday, I put my planning hat on and started to think of other creative ways to enjoy this season with my family. I thought I would share these ideas with you.

Don’t let the pandemic change your mind on what makes you happy.

The holiday season can be an exciting time of the year for some of us. It represents a break from school and work, time spent at home with family, lots of food, and other traditions that will be unique to your family. Take an inventory of those things that you look forward to during this time of year and see what can still be done. Movie marathons? Sure. Holiday baking? I’ll still be hungry. Decorating? If it makes you feel happy, go for it! Family game night? Sounds amazing (as long as I win)! There are still things that can be done at home that this pandemic doesn’t have to take away.

Find those things that have been taken away discouraged and be creative.

Maybe that sleepover with cousins and friends may have to be done virtually. We are lucky in some ways to be living in a technological world where we connect with platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet and Skype. And it might be fun to get into our comfy pajamas, curl up on our couch or beds, and watch a movie together on Netflix at the same time (“Okay, one, two, three, PLAY! Or is it PLAY on three?!”). Christmas dinner can be eaten at the same time with screens allowed at the table for once. Make arrangements with loved ones to open their presents on a video call so you can see each other’s faces of excitement and joy. Decorate your car and do your own Santa run with the family to drop off presents. Use online platforms to play party games, like HouseParty and Jackbox.tv. Connect with people that you don’t usually have the time or ability to connect with due to the hectic schedule of the holidays.

I know that these are are not going to be the same. Consider it a different way of looking at “connecting” with loved ones. 5% is better than 0%, right?

create new traditions

If we have conceded to the idea that this holiday season will not be the same, we can use this time to make it as different (in a good way) as we want it to be. There may be some merit to slowing things down and not having to follow a busy and chaotic schedule to ensure that every house is visited, all the shopping is done, all the gifts are wrapped, and all the dinners are eaten (sometimes all in the same night, right?). This is an opportunity to celebrate some of the most important aspects of the holiday season: quality time, gratitude, and kindness (to others and ourselves).

One thing my family is paying more attention to this year is giving to others who need it. The pandemic has affected so many families who may not be able to have a great holiday season. Recognize your ability to help others and exercise it. Purge your house and donate your gently used or new items to charity. Participate in food drives and toy drives. Adopt a family or senior. Donate to your favourite charity. Run your own fundraiser. This is a good opportunity to teach our little ones about the power of goodwill and charity. Other traditions could be: creating new crafts, doing your own photo shoot at home if you are used to having them professionally done, returning to older traditions like sending handmade cards to loved ones, creating a slideshow of your favourite pictures of the year to send to family and friends, etc. If these are all regular traditions for your family, they can still be done! Basically, find things that you don’t usually do during the holidays and do those things. See if they re-ignite festive emotions.

be mindful of mindset

If we approach this season with dread and resentment, we are giving our holiday power to the pandemic. We cannot let it win! Our mindsets are extremely powerful and will strongly contribute to the experiences that you have this season. And our energies are contagious to those around us, especially our little (or not so little) ones who still believe in the magic of the holidays. So, there is a desperate need for a change in language from “It’s not the same” or “It’s not as good” to “Considering everything, this was not that bad” or “Let’s be grateful for the things that we do have rather than what we don’t”. That virtual slumber party would obviously be better if it was in person. But, there would be some parts that would be kind of great, like not having to go outside in the cold to travel, being in the comfort of your favourite part of your room or house, the physical space that will probably allow you to stretch out your legs and sleep in a star position, eating what you want from your kitchen or pantry, etc. We just have to find those silver linings.

In being mindful of our mindset, it is also important to include the importance of acceptance and flexibility. Sure, the holiday season is not going to be the same. So when things don’t go as they usually do, it will be okay. It is expected. If Christmas dinner is at 8 p.m. instead of 5 p.m., you are still eating an abundance of food. If you don’t get to physically see your family and friends, you are still able to hear their voices and see their faces. If you didn’t get the presents that you wanted, there is still time for that. It does not all have to happen in this small window of time.

This pandemic has wreaked havoc on our routines, our moods, our connections, and our traditions. But that doesn’t mean we concede. We just have to be creative and forgiving. And grateful for the things and people we still have around us.

Happy Holidays!

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