Holidays are sweet benchmarks for acknowledging the passing of time and seasons; they can be excuses to let loose and breakaway from the normal pace of life, or a chance to stop and reconnect with loved ones.
We set our traditions, or sometimes our traditions are set for us; sometimes they’re deliberately planned, other times they get created spontaneously, and then we hit repeat. The predictability and rarity combine for an anticipated treat... but then life happens.
Last year I wrote about not being in the mood to celebrate. This year my family would love to celebrate but 2020 has had other things in store, and, like most other people on the planet, we have to reinvent traditions undone by the pandemic. We're also ever more grateful for the traditions we can still carry out!
To me, the most important thing with any tradition is checking-in with the people I’m celebrating with. It’s so easy to go on autopilot and not consider what’s actually working, or to imagine that something is important to someone, when it’s really not. This is true, pandemic or no. I remember the year I quit cooking a formal Christmas dinner; I realized that all the kids wanted to do was play with their new toys and all I wanted was to relax and enjoy time with them.
Now, Christmas Day is onesie pajama day and I leave brunch food and fondue sitting out buffet style. Anyone can eat anytime and they don’t even have to sit at the table to do it. Plates of food on the floor and munching while building a Lego set? Sounds fun to me!
While this tradition is easy to carry out Covid style, in fact it’s almost made for it, most of our other traditions involve loved ones outside of our house. These are the traditions we’re re-imagining this year:
For the past 14 years we’ve made a gingerbread house and then invited a bunch of kids over to destroy it. For the past 7 years, very dear friends of ours, a couple who doesn’t have kids, have helped us decorate it.
To keep the tradition alive, I baked two gingerbread houses this year and dropped one off, along with candy and icing, at their house. Together, over FaceTime, we decorated and built our houses.
Whether decorating cookies or crafting decorations, a DIY night is a fun way to connect and have something to share with each other.
PARADE OF LIGHTS
One of my fondest childhood memories from Christmas was driving around visiting the neighborhoods with the most over-the-top decorations and lights. I brought this tradition to my children and, for as many years as I can remember, my dear friend from college, one of my “sisters from another mother,” has joined us. She and her husband aren’t able to leave their home in Europe this year so we’ll be FaceTiming them in for lights and singing as we drive around.
I’ve taken the songs I always play and compiled them into a Spotify playlist. This list is eclectic with artists ranging from Andrea Bocelli to Snoop Dogg (there are even a couple of Hanukkah songs), but I did my best to arrange it in a way that won’t jar your senses. If you choose to play it on shuffle mode, well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.
If your friends don’t live so far away, you can arrange a light tour parade in your own town. Map it, drive it, put everyone on the car’s speaker phone for total chaos.
A highlight from our normal route includes a stop at the Danish Pastry House for baked goods and hot chocolate; but we’ve also had a fine time making our own treats and taking them along in the car. GAME NIGHT
One of my brothers can be counted on for bringing laugh-out-loud silly games, like Pie Face and Speak Out to our Christmas gatherings; my other brother is the king of videogames. Both are fun and the kids (even us older ones) love it. I was really looking forward to playing Pokemon Go with them and trying out Throw-Throw Burrito this year… but alas, I won't be traveling back to Colorado to be with any of them.
We will have to rely on virtual games. My favorite is still playing JackBox games over Zoom – a large group can participate, there’s a variety of games, and each person uses their own phone to play so it doesn’t require squishing in front of the computer screen.
I am imagining though, for those truly adventurous (or bored), a game of Speak Out over Zoom where people have to type their guesses in the chat would be quite entertaining. To up the ante you could tack on a sudden death Pie Face round to settle ties – this has potential! It might feel like there’s so much missing this year, like there’s so much that’s been taken away, but what I love about humans is how creative and resilient we are. And how, with just the slightest shift in attention, anyone can go from focusing on all the things they won’t be able to do, to all the new things they can try.
I wish you a holiday season full of exploration, love, and hope!