As a military family, holidays have been tricky on occasion. We’ve learned to celebrate creatively when visits weren’t possible. Some years we hosted, some years we traveled, and some years were spent with just us at home. If you’re like me, this year, you’re wondering how to keep everyone safe, stay safe yourself, and still feel some sense of tradition and connection. We can do this!
When I asked some seniors what concerned them most about the holidays, each expressed fear they wouldn’t see their children or grandchildren. Another thread of concern was financial. With so many struggling, how do you gift without creating more stress for everyone? Together, we came up with some pretty creative solutions!
Let’s start with the gatherings – who says we celebrate all at once? Mix it up a bit and host an open house where loved ones can drop in and out! If you want to have everyone together, choose the largest, most well-ventilated space you have access to. If your garage is conducive, consider sprucing that space up for your family. Maybe celebrate over a few days, or even a whole month, visiting with everyone, but in smaller groups. If you do plan to gather together, do your best to avoid high-contact areas in the couple of weeks prior, just to play it as safely as possible.
If you’re gathering with family, designate one or two people to serve the food, rather than buffet-style. If you’re the cook, wash your hands frequently, of course, and if you have so much as the sniffles, be smart. This is the year to forego washing dishes, too! Pick up some festive disposable dinnerware and utensils, and make it easier on everyone!
One family I know is sharing recipes, then on the holiday, holding a video meeting call to share a meal together. If this is intimidating, but sounds like a fun idea, reach out to someone who can help you. Most all our smart phones have the capability to do this, even if you don’t have access to the internet or computer. Consider a video or conference call, and if you have a group together, consider placing the phone on speaker, and calling loved ones who couldn’t make it.
You can even turn recipes into gifts by writing them down in your hand, and mailing them! If there’s a family story, picture, or tradition you can include, all the better! Speaking of mail – write letters, or send cards. My cousin recently mailed me a card with a precious note and a postcard size piece of her artwork. I’ve framed it, and smile each time I pass it.
I spoke with someone who is preparing a whole meal and placing it in to-go containers, then having loved ones drive by to pick up the meals. With each pickup, the friends and family are leaving special treats for the host.
You can do family parades! Deck out your cars and do a drive-by to your senior family members! How about bringing back caroling as you do it? As a family, you can safely stay outside your seniors’ home and sing with them. This is a way to bring some much-needed cheer to not only your loved ones, but those nearby, as well.
Family games? Us too! There are platforms out there that can host family game time while you use your smart phone to select answers as you play against one another. You can play traditional dice games, and even board games together, too, through FaceTime, or Skype and other forms of technology.
Do you watch movies together? You still can…since my girls were very small, we’ve had the tradition of watching the movie “Hocus Pocus” together during the Halloween season. Although we’re all now hundreds of miles apart, we designate a couple hours one evening, and watch it together while on a group call!
Now, let’s talk gifts. This year has been stressful enough without the added financial burden. Gifts needn’t be elaborate or expensive.
One family has all done their individual DNA in years past, so instead of gifts, to celebrate their heritage and learn more about it, each adult member will be assigned a DNA region to research, then share a tradition or special dish that is specific to that region. Talk about your heritage! You may find there are many traditions your parents and grandparents had that you weren’t aware of! It is a way to connect, possibly rekindle old traditions, and maybe even start some new ones!
Recently, my great uncle gifted my grandfather with a picture of their own grandfather. No one in our family knew he had the picture, and now we all have copies of the man who came from Ireland to start our family in the United States! Do you have any new or old pictures you can copy and share with your loved ones? What a treasure!
As humans, we connect through our stories and by sharing experiences. Why not share a story about yourself, maybe how you and your spouse met, what school was like for you, or about an event in your life that made a big impact? You can write it down, or even have someone record you to share with your loved ones.
If you’re someone who can help another connect with someone they care about … offer. Ask your friends what their plans are and brainstorm together. Our youth have mastered staying connected from a distance. Engage them! They’ll appreciate that you included them, and getting them involved in the planning ensures they participate!
I know these times are uncertain, particularly for our seniors. I think it’s fair to say we’re all a little sad, and some are deeply wounded by the sacrifices and losses of 2020. Now, more than ever, we appreciate our families and friendships. Let’s show each other. Let’s say, “I love you,” whether we’re 6 feet apart, on the phone, looking at a computer screen, or sending a letter, because it isn’t about the food or the gifts – it’s about sharing our hearts.