As I drive through my neighborhood, there’s a definite and visible lack of Christmas decor. There are less cars in the streets, less hubbub in the malls, less Christmas parties and events. It’s like the Grinch came overnight with his dog, Max, to steal all the joy out of Whoville.
We are indeed in the midst of a very weird and unprecedented Christmas season. Due to the restrictions and protocols that Covid brings, I think it’s natural to feel displaced and depressed and discouraged. Family gatherings have been pared down. Travel plans have been cancelled. Holiday festivities, worship services, and even gift giving has all been curtailed. Our traditions—both cultural and familial—have been swung out of whack.
Baby, it’s Covid outside.
When I was younger, the word “tradition” felt stuffy and formal, old-fashioned and rigid. But as I have become older, I see how the traditions that we place in our lives are actually anchors that give our lives meaning and significance. We count the passage of time not with calendar dates, but actually through the passage of traditions—Thanksgivings, Christmases, New Year’s, Spring Breaks, summer vacations. Traditions are the foundations upon which we gather with loved ones and build memories, both big and small. And in that sense, traditions even help us ascribe to ourselves a sense of belonging and worth.
And this is one major reason why our Covid Christmas has hit us so hard. The anchors of our traditions have been displaced, even eliminated. And without these anchors, we are like a ship without a rudder floating aimlessly at sea.
So I’d like to offer a solution to this Covid Christmas. Rediscover your traditions. Embrace them when you can. Share them with those around you. Here are seven ways you can push against the Covid, and have a meaningful Christmas.
- Resist the lethargy. Go decorate your tree, your home, your yard, your workstation, just like you always do. Make it festive!
- Make some hot chocolate and put on your favorite traditional Christmas movie. And don’t forget the marshmallows. You might be reminded that it is indeed a Wonderful Life.
- Sing out loud! Deck the Halls, Chestnuts, Jingle Bells, Angels We Have Heard on High, Silent Night. Songs elicit memories buried deep within us. As Elf reminds us, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”
- Hang out with little children. Get on the floor with them and play and pretend and participate! Perhaps in the midst of the Legos or Barbies, you might find a remembrance of childhood wonder.
- Find your Mom’s best recipe and bake those sugar cookies or other Christmas goodies. The smells and flavors of food also elicit memories in some mysterious way. I know that there is something about the taste of eggnog that takes me back to my childhood.
- Send out Christmas cards. I know that this seems to be such an antiquated thing to do these days (Bonus activity: Ask a millenial if they know how to address and mail a letter!), but I still get a kick out of receiving Christmas cards in the mail. If you’re a visual artist, you might try making your own.
- Go to church. My church family is celebrating Christmas Eve this year with socially distant, outdoor Christmas Eve services. Whether in person or virtually, participate in the celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God, Emmanuel.
Ultimately, we need to remember that, in the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, we are reminding one another that there is hope—a hope that is certain and secure and relevant, now more than ever.
May your Christmas this year be filled with meaningful traditions, old and new.