How to Holiday in Hard Times

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As the winter holidays quickly approach, I’ve caught myself confronting Big Feelings – dread, paralysis, grief, and anxiety to name a few. As a child of divorce, the holidays have always been emotional for me, but as an adult I’ve managed to create and participate in some wonderful traditions that I have come to look forward to each year.

This year will be very different. Most of our long-held family traditions will be canceled or disrupted because of the pandemic. Every time I think about not being able to take my girls trick or treating for Halloween, I want throw something against the wall. Is Halloween actually canceled? Will I just dress up and sit in my living room crying and eating candy?

hard times holiday

I’m pretty resilient, but I have a lot of grief around all of this. We improvised our Spring and Summer birthdays, and we’ve adapted to distance learning, working from home, wearing masks, washing our hands until they’re dry and chapped, and canceling all trips and parties and gatherings and events. But, I think I somehow convinced myself that things would be all right by the holidays. Covid had other ideas, clearly. So, like so many of you, we’re having to figure out creative ways to mark and celebrate the holidays in this new and challenging landscape.

I don’t presume to have any perfect solutions, but (after I wept about Halloween) I’ve come up with some imperfect solutions that feel a whole lot better than doing nothing. Here they are:

Figure Out What You CAN Do

Most brains want to immediately jump to all of the things we CAN’T do (mine included): We CAN’T throw our annual holiday party, we CAN’T go to our annual Thanksgiving dinner, we CAN’T go Trick or Treating with our kids, we CAN’T have a New Year’s Eve party with our friends. My strategy is to write down all of these CAN’Ts, let myself have a good tantrum / cry / pity party, and then put my big girl pants on and turn my attention to figuring out what we CAN do.

When it comes to Halloween, Chloe, my 11-year-old opted to invite her two best friends over to binge candy and other treats on our patio, without limits on quantity (she says this is way better than trick or treating anyway). My youngest, Emilie, was invited to her best friend’s house for an outdoor birthday / Halloween sleepover, where – get this – her friend’s father is constructing a little wooden framed tent for each of the five girls to sleep under so they can be together, but still remain socially distanced! I cannot make this up. They’re actually both more excited than ever about Halloween this year. The lesson here is to focus on all of the creative things we CAN do, and set up alternative ways to celebrate. Also, it pays to have friends with parents who are handy and can build things – Three cheers for Lila’s dad!

Clarify the Results You Want

Halloween was easier than I’d imagined to sort out, but Thanksgiving was initially a bit of a stumper. My husband, Jordan, and his family have been gathering with the same wonderful group of family and friends for a huge feast each year for as long as he can remember. The group has grown bigger each year with new marriages, babies, friends, extended family, and dogs. This year, due to covid, the party will not be taking place. Cue the violins.

Jordan and I took some time to think about our options, and realized that the most important thing for us was being together with our immediate family and the girls’ grandparents. Because they are in a higher risk demographic, we decided that we would all quarantine for a two week period, and arrange covid-tests, so we could spend Thanksgiving together indoors and in person. This will take some schedule juggling and sacrifice all around, but we’ve all agreed it feels worth it.


Think Outside the Box

OK. So, maybe you can’t throw your annual holiday gathering or birthday bash this year, but if you’re willing to be a little scrappy and creative, you’ll find there are plenty of ways to celebrate. We hosted Zoom birthday parties for both of our girls, complete with trivia, charades, dress-up, and a dance party. My friend, Laura, invited all of her best friends to attend a virtual yoga class together for her birthday so we could all be together and get a little workout at the same time. One of my clients is sending a care package of homemade holiday goodies to each family member, so they can still enjoy their favorite treats together.

We normally host a huge Chanukah party for our friends, but this year, we’re considering dropping off little holiday cookie bundles instead, or scaling back the guest list and inviting a few people to pop over for latkes and champagne on our patio at staggered intervals. If it’s raining, an outdoor tent might be involved. Think about the results you want – i.e. to get together with friends, or to celebrate a holiday tradition, and then brainstorm all of the creative ways you can still make it happen.

Engage Your Senses

If you’re looking for ways to bring the holidays into your home this year, consider how you can engage your senses. Light some candles. Warm up some apple cider and cinnamon sticks on the stove. Turn on some holiday music. Make your favorite holiday recipes. Find little ways to engage in the traditions you love most.

Reach Out

The holidays can be challenging enough under the best of circumstances, but this year many people are feeling especially lonely, isolated, and anxious. Make a point of checking in on your loved ones, and friends who you think could use a little love this holiday season. Call if you can – the effort to call and the sound of a friendly voice are more healing than an email if someone is hurting. And, if you are hurting this season and feeling disconnected and sad, please reach out and tell someone that you’re having a hard time. A friend, a family member, a support line, a therapist. Make sure you are taking care of yourself and giving others the opportunity to help.

I hope that you will join me in doing our best to think of, and take care of, other people this year, and in doing what we can to stop the spread of this virus so that next year we can enjoy celebrations that more closely resemble the ones we are used to.

However you plan to observe the holidays this year, I sincerely send love and warm wishes to you and your loved ones. Xx

P.S. You know what’s better than waiting in line (either in person or virtually) to shop with large groups of strangers on Black Friday? I’ll tell you. It’s hanging out with me and the fam for a fun, totally FREE live event, Clutter Free Holidays! Click HERE to grab your spot!

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