As I approach the Thanksgiving and December holidays, I feel deflated. Plans to gather and reenact time-honored traditions have been dismantled and discarded due to the pandemic. I have allowed myself to feel the sadness and the loss. And I have begun to ask myself some questions:
- What do these holidays mean to me?
- What is my favorite tradition or ritual and how can I recover the essence of that in these unusual times?
- What is the silver lining (i.e., what are things I won’t miss about the normal holiday season)?
- What am I truly grateful for?
- What can I/my family do to give back to our community—now and year-round?
- How can I help to make the holidays more fun?
As I penned these questions, a memory emerged. When the kids were little and we were living abroad, I felt a similar deep loneliness that first year away from home as the holidays approached. Thanksgiving/Christmas were always celebrated with our extended families who provided much of the structure and energy. I felt a heavy weight on my shoulders knowing that I could never replicate the experience.
The following Sunday, at our international church, each family received a kit with materials to make an advent wreath. This was something new to me. With the wreath assembled, we started talking about how we could use it. Everyone—even the kids—shared ideas. Most important to them was that there would be equity in who got to light the candle(s) each evening. 😊 What resulted was an anchor for our family for years to come. Each evening after dinner, we would light the candle(s), sing a song, have a reading, and then distribute the holiday cards we had received that day and pray for the families represented. If you were to ask my “kids” (now in their 30s) about their favorite holiday tradition, I am certain they would talk about the advent wreath.
This memory has boosted my mood and given me some ideas about moving ahead with the holidays.
I have also decided that in the coming week or two, I’m going to have a family Zoom meeting and I’m going to share these questions with everyone in advance, so they have time to think:
- What do you find most meaningful/fun about _____ (fill in the holiday)?
- What gives you the most stress/pain?
- What do you want to do about it?
The family meeting could be a time to share honestly & openly, to creatively problem-solve, and to negotiate our way into a more joyous holiday spirit.
I know there are a lot of factors that can aggravate and/or intensify the stress around holidays: emotional factors in the adult’s/child’s make-up, even less structure/routine, lack of communication, rigidity, loneliness, unrealistic expectations, financial stress, work pressures, change in family status, etc.
If you find that you need help in dealing with the stress or loneliness of this holiday season, reach out to trusted friends or some other caring adult in your community. And if you have some developed some creative ideas for this COVID holiday season, please share them with us!