SMALL GATHERING, GREAT JOY: HOW TO TRULY CELEBRATE WHEN YOUR HOLIDAYS ARE SCALED DOWN
This is a year when officials and health experts are practically begging all good citizens to dispense with holiday gatherings for the sake of not spreading the COVID virus. But if the five-day get-together at Grandma’s—or the annual city festival—has been inseparable from your family’s holiday celebrations as long as you can remember, it may seem that the only alternative is resigning yourself to the season’s being ruined.
It hardly has to be. With a little positive thinking and a little ingenuity, a one-household Christmas can be as joyful as any other. Here are suggestions for coping with three potential concerns.
Concern #1. “Now We Won’t See Our Relatives at All This Year.”
What you can do:
- Schedule a video chat, perhaps timed so you can still talk over dinner. (It beats having everyone eating with one eye on the news—or on private smartphones.)
- Take photos or videos of local holiday decorations, and exchange montages with out-of-town relatives to cultivate a “You Are Here” feeling. If there’s an audiovisual geek in your clan, suggest they turn all the collections into a family-album video; you can even schedule a screen-sharing time to watch it “together.”
- Don’t ignore that classic favorite, the handwritten letter. (Let the kids personally add their comments or drawings.) Sometimes the simplest (and most tangible) communications are the most treasured.
Concern #2. “I Love Holiday Baking, and Now There’s No One to Bake For.”
What you can do:
- Make a batch (or several) of homemade cookies to donate to a hospital or fire station. Chances are you’ll get even more joy from that than from baking for your relatives.
- Make extra holiday casseroles and deliver them, no-contact style, as Christmas gifts to neighbors who live alone.
- Post your favorite recipes on social media, with photographs. Invite viewers to share stories and images of making the recipes for their own households.
- Turn your creative skills to another channel: go all out decorating your house; make your own wrapping paper and/or gifts.
Concern #3. “We’ll All Be Too Tense and Restless to Enjoy Anything.”
What you can do:
- Make a point of not dwelling on what you’re missing or how hard you expect everyone to take it. (That would create a self-fulfilling prophecy: you’d talk not only yourself into being miserable, but everyone else in the household, especially the children.) Instead, focus on the positive (if that’s hard, start by remembering stresses and expectations you won’t have to deal with this year) and treat “we’ll all have a wonderful time at home” as a given.
- Get out for a while: take a walk or drive to enjoy the holiday lights in your area. Home decorations are at their best this year, with more people having more time at home to decorate.
- Create new family traditions: read classic holiday stories together, invent a recipe for peppermint snickerdoodle cookies, start an album of Christmas-card collages. Call a brainstorming meeting and let everyone suggest further ideas (there’s no imagination like a child’s for thinking up fun things to do).
Who knows? You may enjoy the small-scale approach so much that when the 2021 holidays arrive, you want to do it again without stay-at-home warnings!