With a little creativity and flexibility, the holidays can be as connected and joyous as ever this year
It might be hard to count our blessings in 2020, the year that may rank as the worst in history. The pandemic has imposed some new restrictions on our holiday rituals, but it can’t take away what's best about the season: the experience of gratitude, love, and connection.
Here are some COVID-conscious ideas for savoring the season safely, and spreading comfort and joy to our families, friends and community.
Take Care of Yourself So You Can Take Care of Others
The holidays can be a stressful time for many of us. With the cloud of coronavirus hanging overhead, this year may be even harder. There are two keys to making the most of the season:
First, give yourself permission to feel whatever emotion you’re feeling. Disappointment, sadness, worry, anger, or even grief -- any of those emotions may be natural or normal this year. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not feeling jolly all the time.
Second, try to adjust your expectations. The holidays might not look like what we’re used to, but that can be OK. With a little flexibility and creativity, you can still find ways to show love and spread joy. Begin by asking yourself, “What is most meaningful and fulfilling to me?” The answer probably isn’t a perfectly brined turkey or magazine-quality gift wrapping. Give yourself permission to envision a new kind of holiday season.
More tips for self-care:
- Do something to nurture yourself, even if it’s just for 15 minutes each day. Take a hot bath. Call an old friend. Try yoga or meditation.
- Plan ahead and make lists. Schedule days for shopping, baking, wrapping. You’ll avoid last-minute scrambling.
- Stick to a budget. Remember, the things we love most about the holidays usually aren’t “things.”
- Practice gratitude. It’s a proven way to increase our own happiness. Write down three things you’re grateful for each day and make a point to tell others what you appreciate about them.
- Follow healthy habits
- Eat healthy meals.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Try to exercise every day.
- Moderate your use of news and social media if they cause you stress.
- Seek professional help. If you have persistent sadness or anxiety, can’t sleep, feel irritable and hopeless, and have difficulty doing routine chores, it may be time to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Head for the Great Outdoors
Nature may be the secret to surviving the holidays during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the safest place to be, but make sure you take a mask if you’ll be with others who aren’t in your bubble or you’ll be crossing paths with strangers.
- Try a virtual jingle bell race. Running in the USA has a list of virtual events you can participate in with family and friends.
- Try a hike or go snowshoeing at one of these spots recommended by Ski Utah.
- Go cross-country skiing at one of the spots compiled by Utah.com.
- Downhill skiing or snowboarding. All of Utah’s resorts are requiring face masks and physical distancing. Read more about the resorts’ COVID safety plans.
- Sledding. Look for a hill that’s not too crowded.
- Take in a holiday light display. Christmaslightfinder.com has a searchable list of displays near you.
- Ice skating. Wear a mask and try to visit a rink that isn’t crowded to reduce risk of exposure.
Up Your Zoom Game
Zoom can be a sad replacement for a traditional gathering with extended family or friends. Or, it be used creatively to reimagine holiday traditions:
- Plan a cooking class. No one makes stuffing like Grandma. Have everyone prepare it at the same time, with tips from the OG herself.
- Host a family gathering and choose a family “interviewer” to ask funny or pointed questions.
- Hold a talent show with all the kids in the extended family.
- Sing Christmas carols together.
- Open gifts virtually so that grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins can see everyone’s reactions.
Making the Holidays Special for Kids
Recognize that kids can get the holiday blues, too. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and let them know it’s OK to feel disappointment about the pandemic. But families can still have a magical holiday season, even with the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus. Here are some of tips for making the season merry:
- Have the whole family brainstorm ideas for safe holiday activities. Kids will love creating a holiday plan.
- Schedule a movie marathon and start making popcorn. Now is the time to watch the Christmas classics or every Star Wars movie ever made.
- Make a virtual visit to the North Pole with JingleRing, Cameo or other low-risk Santa services.
- Read your favorite holiday stories while lying under the Christmas tree.
- Take a special family portrait and let the kids be the art directors.
- Can’t attend the Nutcracker ballet this year? Bake and decorate Nutcracker-themed cookies.
- Organize a night of your favorite family game - Scrabble, Telestrations, Monopoly, charades or Texas Hold ‘em.
Connecting With Family and Friends
We may not be able to gather for the traditional extended family feast or office holiday parties, but we can still make the season fun and special for close friends, co-workers, and family members. Here are some COVID-friendly ideas:
- Set up an out-of-office Secret Santa exchange. Gifts can be ordered online and shipped directly for a no-contact celebration.
- Host a small, socially distanced gathering in the backyard by the firepit or under the propane heater. Have everyone bring a dish (prepared safely) to share.
- Check in. Set a goal to make two or three calls a week. That’s a lot of holiday connectedness!
- Write a sincere letter to someone you love on your nicest stationery.
- Create and gift a photo memory book using old photos.
Caring for Our Neighbors and Community
Lots of people in our neighborhood and community need care right now. Here are some ideas for connecting with those outside our immediate circle.
- Check in on neighbors, especially those who are older or may be alone. A phone call, text, or card might brighten their day.
- Ask if they have everything they need to be safe and comfortable.
- Offer to help with errands and shopping.
- Shovel their driveway on snowy days.
- Drop off dinner or a holiday treat. Here are 35 tasty food gifts you can make this season.
- Donate or volunteer at a food bank. Here is a list and map of food pantries throughout Utah.
- Contact Meals on Wheels to see if you can help deliver meals to a senior in your community. Utahns Against Hunger has a list here.
- Give blood. Check out ARUP Blood Services or the Red Cross for times and locations.
- Volunteer. Go to JustServe to find opportunities, both in-person and remote.
- Patronize local business. Order takeout and make holiday gift purchases from local-owned establishments. These members of our community are hurting right now and need our support. Local First Utah, Utah’s Own, and Curbside Utah are good resources for finding locally owned businesses.