All month long, I’ll be sharing a daily pick-me-up, tip, or dose of inspiration to help you find perspective during the month of December. We invite you to check back until December 25 for these mini pep-talks as we prepare for a very unusual holiday season. –Meagan
Aren’t traditions a funny thing? Most of the time, they are created so gradually we barely notice, until going to your aunt’s house on Christmas Day with the same cranberry bread you’ve made the past five years in a row no longer feels like an option, but an obligation.
Most of the time, we love those rituals. They’re what give the season shape and make it special. Sometimes they are our sole opportunity to see certain family members or eat specific treats. They can seem to give us a reason to pause the busy-ness of life and focus on our family and friends.
But we’re all facing down a strange, foreign December this year, and the disruption of so many traditions we hold dear. Traveling is likely to be minimal, if it’s happening at all. Gatherings and performances are cancelled. Make no mistake, this holiday season will represent many losses.
But also? Opportunities.
Because as much as we love those traditions, I think we all agree that sometimes they can become a little oppressive. There’s somehow never time for all the things we want to do when we try to squeeze them in around the things we feel we must.
But a global pandemic? Well, that’s the ultimate get-out-of-obligation free card. Who can argue if you do things drastically differently this year? And, considering how discombobulated your friends’ and family members’ holidays are also likely to be, will they even notice what you’re doing – or, more importantly, not doing?
The school performances, holiday concerts and office mixers that tend to dominate the calendar this time of year? Cancelled. Traveling over treacherous, icy highways to visit far-flung family members, praying the entire time your toddler’s coma-level car nap won’t completely ruin bedtime? Postponed indefinitely.
What promise does all that white space hold? Is this the year you go all-in on exterior illumination a la Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation? Maybe this year you’ll take the time to write a hilarious, Covid-edition version of one of those corny holiday family newsletters, or kick off some big, ambitious baking or crafting project you’ve never found the time for in the past. Maybe you’ll take the time to call your grandma, your aunt, or your best friend from childhood and catch up. Or maybe you’ll just do less of everything, except maybe drink cocoa and stare at twinkle lights.
Social pressure is so 2019. Cultural expectations are corona-postponed. The calendar has been completely redefined. And how you spend this month is all up to you and your little family unit.
What will make your home a haven this year? Is it a dining-room table strewn with scraps of felt and sticky dabs of glue, evidence of multiple projects-in-progress? Or clean countertops and minimal (or zero) decor? You probably won’t be entertaining, so forget about making your home presentable: instead, make it livable for you and yours.
While we’re at it, consider that for perhaps the only time in your life, for many of us church is clothing-optional. Nobody will know if your preschooler – or you – are wearing pajamas to your online Sunday-morning Advent service. What could you do with the time you would have spent on the weekly getting-ready process?
It is possible to grieve the loss of things we loved – even if, sometimes, ambivalently – while also eagerly reclaiming those hours to create a holiday that feels the way you want it to.
Nobody quite knows what to do right now, and we’re all being more honest about that fact than ever before. There’s freedom in that collective confusion, because it gives you total license to make the holiday whatever you want – and need – it to be this year.
This holiday will likely be like none you’ve ever known – but it could set the stage for many to come. What new traditions can you start to create today with the white space this holiday will offer?
ACTIVITY: Write down 2-3 words that represent the ideal feeling you would like to create around your holiday season: e.g. peaceful, reverent, and reflective or celebratory, joyous, and festive. Under each word, write a few activities that would help you center your family and home around that feeling. Feel free to share your intentions in the comments below!