The holiday season is looking different this year amidst the pandemic. Some families are choosing to meet outside under space heaters, or they are making gatherings smaller than usual. People are abandoning regular traditions and inventing new ones to keep everyone as safe as possible. Although gatherings appear to different, there are some things that never change during the holiday season. This season tends to emote an expression of gratitude. Whether you start a gratitude journal, say a prayer of thanksgiving, or write a card of appreciation to a loved one, these are practices that can be carried out year after year. Practicing gratitude allows us to be mindful of those we love and helps us connect to self. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can even alleviate anxiety and make us feel more connected to others. This is an important practice when everyone feels so physically isolated.
Although physical connection is limited, our meaningful relationships with others can be fostered in creative ways to boost the holiday time. Use technology platforms to connect separate households during dinner or sing a carol or two with each other. Donate to your family’s favorite charity to promote a common good during an especially needy time of year. There are even online games available for a family scavenger hunt or silly sing along.
This year may not seem like years past but expressing memories to each other will nurture connection and fondness of previous years. Start an email feed of sharing favorite recipes and memories of being together. Create a tree decorating contest among households. Contribute old pictures of family and friends gathering from previous years to a text thread. Or make a favorite playlist of music for the entire family to enjoy. These activities may provide a glimmer of hope for you and your friends and family. Although these are substitutes for gathering, the traditions may stick for years to come.
Kristen Ernst, MA, LPC
Owner and Operator of the Center for Hope and Healing in St. Charles, MO