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Adapting holiday traditions during Covid

Rendering of Entwined, coming Dec. 10 to Golden Gate Park’s Peacock Meadow. Photo: Courtesy San francisco recreation and parks / sfrecpark.org

Who would have thought back in March that we would be heading into December with another surge of coronavirus cases and planning for a Covid Christmas? I certainly did not, and at the end of what has been a long and challenging year, nothing sounds better than gathering with friends and family or traveling to a warm exotic place; however, it is likely none of those things will be happening. We have dealt with birthdays, graduations, summer, Halloween, Thanksgiving. Now the holidays are here and once again we will be asking ourselves and our children to “pivot,” reimagine, and get creative so we can still have a memorable, safe, and healthy holiday season. It won’t be easy; this is one of my favorite times of year filled with traditions that include lots of gatherings, but I do have a few ideas that I hope will help make this year a little easier yet still memorable. 

MAKE A FAMILY PLAN

This is the year to get everyone on board, so a family plan is essential to get creative and come up with some fun ideas. 

Start with a family meeting to talk about the holiday traditions each person values most. Figure out those that can still be done, and those that need to be modified. It is best to do this early on so expectations are managed and it is acknowledged that certain activities will look a little different this year. Be open to it as a different year so it might be a good time to try new things. My daughter’s school celebrates Pasko, a Christmas celebration of Filipino food and dancing we have never been able to attend, but this year it will be virtual, and you can order the meal to eat at home, so we are excited we finally can experience it. Remember, a change in plans may be disappointing, but also it is a great opportunity to help our children learn to adapt and grow.

FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO

I have tried to instill this motto at every crossroads where a celebration might look different. Gatherings will be limited, social distancing and masks are still essential, and outdoors is better than indoors; but knowing all that, there is still a lot we can do to celebrate. Drive-in movies are showing holiday favorites, which makes for a great family night. For those who want to make sure to put a good word in with Santa, check out JingleRing, which allows you to schedule a live or prerecorded virtual call with Santa. 

For something outdoors, I highly recommend a night in Golden Gate Park, where you can experience the new light exhibition “Entwined.” My son’s class is doing “secret Santas,” so the kids can look forward to surprises dropped at their doorstep. These can be as simple as a drawing, a homemade craft, or baked goods. 

One thing I enjoy is shopping with my mom and sisters, and because that might be tough this year, we are going to set a night aside to Facetime while we do some online shopping and sip wine. With a little bit of creativity and the help of technology, we can reimagine ways to still do some of our favorite things. Who knows? Maybe we’ll discover a new way of celebrating that will become a family tradition post-virus.

MINDSET MATTERS

It is perfectly normal to feel bummed about the changes we will have to make to our holiday celebrations this year. This is not how any of us want it to be, and it is O.K. to recognize there are lots of disappointments right now for everyone. However, mindset matters, so let’s look to the changes that the pandemic is imposing on us to focus on what is most important. 

We want to help our kids look at not what has been lost but what we have learned during this time. Maybe that is slowing down, scaling down, or a new focus on health. Many have endured hardships this year due to Covid or its affects. What if instead of putting an “elf on the shelf” this year we taught our kids to be the elves? Wouldn’t it be great if we used this season to inspire hope, kindness, and joy in our kids by teaching them to share it with others? Help them think of small ways they can do this, such as writing thank-you notes to first responders, making someone else’s bed, cleaning up a mess they didn’t make, or picking up trash in the neighborhood. 

We might be surprised that this may be the year we understand and value the true reason for the season more than any other. 

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