When COVID-19 emerged and grew into a pandemic in March, most of us weren’t thinking about the potential disruption of the holidays. December’s festivities were nearly a year away, and many people didn’t foresee the uncertainty of March still wedging us apart so many months later, remaining a constant in our lives.
But we were all terribly wrong. The holidays are coinciding with the United States passing the grim milestone of 300,000 deaths from COVID-19. It’s safe to say that whatever holiday tradition you’re celebrating with friends and family this year will not feel the same as it usually does. If you do decide to cultivate holiday cheer in the organic sense, the ever-present reality of COVID-19 will be there in the background, serving as an unsavory reminder that your traditions might be putting people at risk.
As an alternative, you might want to put your longstanding and cherished holiday traditions on hold this year. It may sound rough, but there’s always a way to put a positive spin on it, especially when vaccinations are likely to ensure that your traditions are only on ice temporarily. Here’s some reasons to consider it this year.
It just won’t be the same
There’s great fodder for bonding and community in traditions. But pastimes aren’t the same when they’re diluted. Staring into a computer monitor or phone at family or friends via Zoom might do more to make the holidays feel like purgatory than a time of togetherness and celebration. Communal joy doesn’t have the same effect when it’s filtered through a WiFi connection.
I’m not saying to avoid talking to family or loved ones via Zoom or FaceTime. To be sure, we all need human contact in this time of historic uncertainty. I’m speaking about the futility of replicating the big, meaningful traditions in an online format: It’s important to recognize that having a virtual family dinner, or playing that time-honored game of family Charades won’t go over as organically as it does in real, physical life.
Take the pressure off yourself
Like any big event in someone’s life, the holidays can elicit feelings of expectation that, on occasion, breed feelings of pressure. If you’re hosting a big gathering and preparing a meal, you might feel the gnawing expectation of having to make the occasion special. You might crave rave reviews from family and friends about the dinner you’ve made, and that anxiety alone can sap the joy from a festive atmosphere.
So why not allow yourself to breathe this holiday season? This year is drastically different from all the years before it, and likely every year in the future. Allow yourself to detach from the traditionally maddening holiday slog, and maybe relish some tranquility instead.
Understand it’s a one-time thing
Luckily, this marathon pandemic won’t last forever, and the rollout of vaccines across the world should likely ensure that next year’s holidays will be different. Though this winter will be bleak, you can take solace in the fact that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and eschewing tradition won’t be permanent.
Do something memorable
In this time of unprecedented weirdness waits opportunity. You have within your power the ability to make new memories, perhaps by doing something you would have never thought of doing under normal circumstances. Maybe make a new meal that doesn’t adhere to centuries of holiday tradition, or take a road trip somewhere scenic, if the weather and restrictions permit. All of your typical holiday traditions have sparked memories that you recall with friends and family, so why not try cultivating the same sense of togetherness this year over something new? After all, we can safely assume that things will at least be a little more normal next year.