The holidays are all about tradition. Whether they are things that you’ve done since childhood, or new activities that have been developed over the years, these traditions are what we look forward to each holiday season.
No matter what the tradition is though, it is typically centered around what we do with our family, friends, and loved ones during the holidays. It is no surprise then that this year is especially difficult for most of us.
This year, the guidance is very clear. Continue to practice the same safety measures that we’ve been doing all year long: physically distance, stay home, limit gatherings, wear a mask, and wash our hands. We do these things to decrease the spread of COVID-19, and by doing them, we protect not only ourselves, but our community.
So how do we look forward to holiday traditions when there has been nothing traditional about this year? Well, it is all in the way that we frame things!
This year could be the worst ever for holidays—or—it could be the perfect opportunity to create some new customs for yourself and your family! Think of these 2020 traditions as something that you can incorporate into your yearly festivities, instead of just being a one off.
So where do you even start with building new traditions? We asked the staff here at Skagit County Public Health for some safe and fun holiday ideas that their own families are participating in this year.
These are a few of their responses.
- “Instead of sharing meals with extended family from different households, we will take turns dropping off meals that we have prepared at each other’s houses. We share the love and the food but not the risk, as we won’t be gathering and eating together inside except with people that we live with.”
- “We have a family tradition of getting coffee/cocoa and driving around as a family looking at Christmas lights around the county.”
- “I made individually wrapped holiday treats for all of my neighbors and delivered them to their doorsteps.”
- “We are making cookies every day between December 12th and the 24th. Twelve different cookies! We plan to plate and wrap them for porch delivery to our nearby friends and family on Christmas Eve.”
- “Ordinarily we would spend Christmas morning at my sister- and brother-in-law’s place then head to Bellevue to have a massive feast with aunt, uncle, cousins, lots of extended family. After dinner we walk around the neighborhood to see the lights before driving north to home. However, this year like Thanksgiving, we are spending Christmas and New Years by ourselves. We make ourselves a special dinner with all the side dishes we like rather than those that we are obligated to make. My sister and mom live in other states so the three of us have a Zoom chat in the morning.”
- “This year, we made salt dough ornaments with our kids. We even made a few hand-print ornaments that we painted and mailed to my parents in Canada. Even though we can’t be with them this year, they will have a little piece of us on their tree.”
Still looking for ideas? Washington DOH has a list on its website that includes:
Giving thanks: In a year filled with challenges, it can feel good to pause and consider the things for which we are grateful, whether that be a person, pet, place or thing. Highlight these bright spots by writing them down or sending notes, texts or emails to people in your life to express why you are grateful for them.
On-screen get togethers: Sure, it won’t be quite the same, but scheduling a few virtual holiday gatherings can take the sting out of being separated. Getting together online to cook, open gifts, decorate desserts, do a craft project, listen to a playlist, or read stories can create a bit of the togetherness we crave. Consider time zones when scheduling, and make sure that any people who are not tech-savvy get help beforehand so they can be included.
Secret gift exchange: Assign each family or friend a name, and ask them mail or do a no-contact delivery of a small gift they make or buy to their assigned person. Open gifts on a group video chat and try to guess who gave what to whom.
Play dress-up: If you have a willing crowd, create a theme for your virtual party. Themed masks, silly hats or ugly sweaters can give everyone something to laugh and talk about.
Remote potluck: Rather than getting together, you can assign dishes to friends and family and deliver them to one another’s homes. Or deliver just the ingredients for a dish or meal. Then, log in to your favorite video chat app to cook or dig in.
Learn a recipe together: Pick a favorite family recipe, share an ingredient list ahead of time with friends or family, and then get together virtually to try cooking or baking. Good times are guaranteed, whether you end up with delicious dumplings or poorly decorated cookies.
Game night: If you thrive on competition, make your virtual gatherings about more than just conversation. Trivia, charades, and even board games, can all work great online. Or try out a virtual bake-off, talent show or a scavenger hunt where teams race to find common and not-so-common items around their house. This is also a fun one to set up for kids so they can connect virtually with friends.
Make a list of some healthy things that you can do this season that will bring a smile to your face. Are your yearly traditions centered around family and friends? How can you adjust these traditions so that you still feel the connection you crave while also being safe and practicing physical distancing.
Yes, this holiday season will be different from previous years. It is normal to feel sad or frustrated about these changes, especially when we have made so many sacrifices since March. It is important to confront these feelings that you may have and work through them instead of burying them away. And remember: this pandemic won’t last forever. Making sacrifices now will mean bigger and better holidays to come.
If you are experiencing stress due to COVID-19, call the Washington Listens line at 833-681-0211 for support and resources.
In a crisis?
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
Crisis Connections: 866-4-CRISIS (866-427-4747)
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
Crisis Connections helps people in physical, emotional, and financial crisis get services they need through their 24-Hour Crisis Line, Teen Link, WA Recovery Help Line, and WA Warm Line.