How we can still find Christmas magic even during a global pandemic.
Forward: In this post I will talk a lot about Christmas, as this is how I celebrate at this time of year. However, much of what I am saying could also be applied to non-religious celebrations or celebrations of other religious holidays during the pandemic. So, I hope people will not feel excluded by this post despite my use of the word Christmas.
I feel like I have been thinking about Christmas for months. Usually I reserve thinking about Christmas until the end of November, as to not spoil its specialness, but this year I will admit I have been thinking about it since at least early September. I knew in my heart that this year would not be the same and I have been thinking about what it could look like, and how we would cultivate the Christmas spirit.
It has been a struggle for me in the last few weeks. As I mentioned in my most recent Covid Chronicles, I have been having a really hard time with this phase of the pandemic, in addition to personal spiritual challenges. I have been very sad and even angry at the state of the world. I am frustrated in many areas of my personal life. I have been struggling to find hope or joy. And although I have been tempted to throw in the towel and just “Bah-humbug” my way through the holidays, I know deep down that I want the holidays to feel special and in fact, I need that Christmas magic to help carry me through until spring.
But, how? How can we celebrate with the state of the world being what it is?
This year is going to be an entirely different looking Christmas and holiday season for everyone. We won’t be with our families, we won’t be in the places we normally are and on top of that we are all dealing with so much grief: lost jobs, loss of normalcy, lost loved ones, and other loses too.
All of this has me thinking back to the year that my family lost 2 of its closest members leading up to and right at Christmas. It was an emotional year that in some ways had a lot in common with this one. Things weren’t the same and there was significant trauma felt by all. Even in the joyous moments, there was this heaviness. An undercurrent of sadness, loss, and silent pain.
And yet we celebrated, and we even found room for some Christmas magic.
So, preparing for this year and thinking back to how my family and I managed to get through that difficult Christmas, I have put together 3 pieces of advice that have helped me when trying to cultivate Christmas magic during this time.
The first piece in trying to get through a holiday season like this one, is to acknowledge the difference. Fully acknowledging that things feel and look different. Acknowledging this difference might bring up some or a lot of emotions for us: disappointment, shock, frustration, even anger. In this piece is also accepting that no matter what we do to try to resolve the difference, it won’t be perfect. It will fall short of some of our dreams and wishes. Maybe even some of our needs too. Say it out loud if you need to, “This Christmas is going to be different and that makes me feel ______”.
The second piece is to try to look at the traditions and things that we can still do despite things not being the same, and trying to squeeze out every bit of enjoyment we can out of them. Maybe for you it is a special recipe, an activity, or a song. Take your time in those moments, in those activities, when maybe you would normally move and rush through them without noticing as much. Being present and intentional in the remaining traditions will bring you some much needed comfort. For me, I took my time decorating the house. I spread it out over a few weeks when normally I put them all up in a day or two. I am being more intentional with the placement of our decorations and taking moments to revel in all that they hold significant for me. I have spent and will spend many moments just looking at the sparkle of the Christmas lights on our tree.
The third piece, and possibly a harder one if you are really feeling low, is to try to make new memories and not only feel trapped by reminiscing of what was and what can’t be. Set-up Zoom calls with the family that you can’t see. Try a new recipe. Switch up your decorations. Just do something new and memorable that can help to bring new energy and light to an often difficult season. Change can feel frightening because it is unpredictable. It opens up the possibility for more hurt, but it can also make room for more joy, laughter, great stories to tell, and even new traditions. For us, we will be exploring a lot of new holiday foods as cooking for only 2 is very different than for a big gathering. And I won’t lie, I’m nervous about that, but I am also looking forward to looking back on what we ate for that weird Christmas we had in the middle of a global pandemic. It will certainly be one to remember.
Lastly, I will leave you with this thought.
In many ways, this year is not so different from any other Christmas and Holiday season. Families and people around the world, and right around the corner, deal with devastating realities every Christmas: war, hunger, poverty, racial injustice and inequality, family conflict, sickness, the death of loved ones, and loneliness. There is almost something special in that this year we are all connected by a common struggle, not necessarily that we are struggling in the same ways or that the pain is felt equally by all, but we are all being affected by the same force. We are connected by this no matter how far away we live from one another, or how different our lives are. This connection and common struggle may also awaken in us an understanding or empathy for what others are going through every year. And that, in its own strange way, can be a little sprinkle of Christmas magic.