Thoughts of traditions run rampant throughout the holiday season. From how many sides of potatoes you have on Thanksgiving, to which child is the first to light the Hanukkah menorah, to what order you open your Christmas gifts in, tradition can change how we spend our holidays. This year, for many of us, those traditions are going to look extremely different due to the restrictions brought on by the pandemic.
Since March, we have seen families and friends celebrate birthdays, work events, and holidays over Zoom or at safe distances from one another in order to protect each other from contracting a virus that no one wants or wants to pass on. As we got closer to the holiday season, many folks were surprised that we were still in quarantine, but we were (and still are).
In the United States, the “holiday season” really kicks off with Thanksgiving, a holiday known for gathering as many people together as possible to eat turkey, stuffing, and potatoes while watching the Macy’s Parade and football. This year, those same traditions were unsafe so people had to come up with new traditions.
Instead of piling together in a room, we saw families making small meals for the folks who lived in their homes and hopping on Zoom to say hello to Grandma, Uncle Joe, and Aunt Sally. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade went on, but at 25 percent of its regular size and only with acts local to New York. It was different, but many families were able to stay healthy and keep many of their traditions.
Hanukkah just wrapped up yesterday, and most families celebrated by lighting menorahs over video chat and sending gifts via USPS to people who lived just down the road. Lots of people taught themselves to make the food their grandmothers always make on Hanukkah so that they could keep their traditions and keep their family safe.
As we move closer to Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the New Year, here are a few ways to keep your family safe while still embracing the spirit of the season.
New ways to celebrate the holidays
If you typically celebrate Jolabokaflod (or if it’s new to you!), many bookstores will still ship books. Of course, it’s definitely not too late to pick some up at your local bookstore (masked, of course) and ship them yourself. If you ship your Jolabokaflod gift yourself, include a new blanket and some hot cocoa fixings so that when you’re curled up reading on Christmas Eve, so is your family!
Haven’t picked up your Christmas tree yet? Many tree farms (located outside) will likely still require masks, but it’s cold anyway, so keep them over your mouth and nose, pull on your favorite warm hat, and join your friends or family to pick out a Christmas tree at a local tree farm. Once you’ve chosen your tree, you can bring out the hot cider you packed in your thermos and share some (six feet apart) under the lights of the tree farm, surrounded by the scent of pine.
While you can’t go see The Nutcracker in person this year, many ballet companies are still performing the show this year, just virtually. Playbill put together a wonderful list of every company that is streaming a performance of the classic Christmas tale, and it’s a great time to find the one you’ve always wanted to see. Some stream this weekend, and some are streaming for several weeks! Pick up some candy canes and cocoa and curl up to watch Clara and The Nutcracker get whisked away to the Land of the Sweets.
If you're used to Grandparents reading books to kids on Christmas Eve or one of the nights of Kwanzaa, or whatever your holiday might be, you don’t have to go without this year. Have Grandma or Granddad record themselves reading their favorite holiday story on their phone (using video or even just audio), and play it for the kids at bedtime. You can even trade and send a video or audio of the kids singing holiday songs to the whole family
New Year’s Eve won’t be the same without a house full of people counting down to midnight, but there are still plenty of ways to have a great time. Order a special beverage (maybe a more expensive Champagne than usual or your favorite local non-alcoholic drink) to have on hand when you ring in the new year. Build your own confetti poppers and fill them with candies or toys or other special treats instead of just confetti. If you haven’t finished your books from Jolabokaflod yet, you could even read your way into the New Year. The possibilities are endless.
While this holiday season can maybe seem more overwhelming than most, there are lots of ways to celebrate the holidays and build some new traditions. Don’t forget, the holiday season is just one part of the year; there are lots of great ways to keep connected with family and friends over the next few weeks. And remember, you can always plan a belated celebration later in 2021.