Since Clara was four years old, she and I have gone on a yearly holiday girls’ trip with my sister-in-law/sister-friend Jenna, and my nieces Luna and Ruby. We drive an hour and a half to the city, stay in a hotel, dress up, see Grand Rapids Ballet’s The Nutcracker, and then go out to eat at a nice restaurant. After seven seasons of this tradition, it’s become an ingrained part of our holiday season. Not optional.
Except, of course, this year.
In December 2020, the idea of a live performance of any sort seems like the stuff of a flashback in a dystopian novel. “Remember last year when we ate inside a restaurant?” “Remember last year when we sat in a packed auditorium with hundreds of strangers?” “Remember back when we used to…go places and do things?”
So this year, as one does in 2020, we improvised. Instead of traveling out of our area, Jenna and I took advantage of an amazing deal at a nice nearby hotel, and booked adjoining rooms. We got room service instead of going out to dinner, the girls enjoyed a swim in the empty-except-for-us pool, the adults (including our third bestie, Missy – a very welcome addition to the day) enjoyed a distanced drink around the outdoor fire pit, and instead of a live, professional ballet performance, it was knitting (Jenna), embroidering (me), and assembling gingerbread houses (the girls) in front of extremely corny holiday movies on the Lifetime network.
Of course, it just wouldn’t be our annual girls’ trip without a Christmas tree photo-op, so we all curled our hair, did our makeup, dressed up and headed down to the lobby in a masked-and-extremely-quick version of our yearly photo sesh. Then we went back to the rooms and immediately changed back into our PJ’s. I mean, why not, right?
Later, Jenna and I both remarked on how nice a night it had been: different, of course, than most years, but in many ways more relaxing. And definitely a lot cheaper.
It was nothing like it usually is, on the surface, but the most basic elements – dressing up, going somewhere outside the norm, socializing, relaxing, laughing, engaging in creativity, celebrating – were all intact.
This year, we’re all facing some version of this kind of compromise. Some of our usual traditions won’t happen at all this year. Some of them will be very, very different: opening gifts with loved ones over Facetime instead of in person; masked-and-distanced outdoor holiday get-togethers instead of the usual leisurely gatherings snuggled up on the sofa.
It’s hard, friends. And right now, it’s easy to fixate on what’s missing.
But what about what’s not missing?
Whether you opt to forego most of your usual holiday traditions, or come up with a not-the-same-but-still-fun compromise this year, don’t forget that the elements that make your holiday special: your love for the people close to you, your spirit of giving, your faith, your family, and yeah, your love for glittering baubles or sugar cookies…all those elements are still there. It’s up to each of us to craft a 2020 version of a holiday that makes the most of what we can do, while acknowledging that it’s awfully hard sometimes to give up what we can’t.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, friends. This year, we’ll absolutely muddle through, somehow.
And maybe we can do just as much enjoying as muddling, yes? Even if this year, that means we enjoy all those things much closer to home.