young girl sitting on a bed with a christmas tree in the background

The Holiday Season is Upon Us

Lights… Cameras… Christmas!

The holiday season is finally here (albeit, likely very different than past years’ celebrations).

Ok, so this year is going to be different. We cannot help that. But it doesn’t have to be lacking in the holiday spirit we are used to.

Things do look and feel different with Covid-19 dampening our social and seasonal plans, but there may no more important time to get behind Christmas joy and the good-tithing it brings. It’s safe to assume we are all craving some good ole’ fashioned comfort. So here are a few practices that will help make this holiday season memorable… and creatively, uniquely yours to remember.

1. Bring out the Jolly!

Covid19 might have stopped the regular flow of day-to-day life, but it should not and must not halt the charismatic marks of the jolly Christmas season.

What better year to end 2020 by melting away those winter blues with an over-abundance of holiday markers: bright colourful lights, hideous plaid pajamas and ugly Christmas sweaters, big bright trees with tinsel and DIY decorations, and filling the household soundwaves with a plethora of singalong holiday classics.

Given the restrictions for visitors and large gatherings, no one is watching… so what have you got to lose by going a little overboard/underboard? Let this year be creative and cozy, with no one else to impress but you and yours. So go on and bask in the tacky and indulge in the silly. Set your standards to level ‘fun’ rather than perfection and take advantage of jolly in whatever suits your style best!

2. Remember the deeper meaning of it all

Paying special notice to the deeper meaning behind the holiday season is one of the best things we can do for our mental and emotional health. This is especially true during these darker pandemic times.

Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is a good reminder of the deeper meaning of the holidays- generosity, family, community, and kindness, to name a few. At its core, the Christmas Carol story is a tale of emotional, spiritual and mental transformation. Readers follow the main character Ebenezer Scrooge as he embarks on a journey of redemption and renewal while confronting the mistakes of his past. The lessons in the story are timeless and encourage us to be mindful of our shared humanity.

Christmas isn’t about how much money we’ve splurged on outfitting the children in new clothes or toys. It’s not about the latest thingamajigs or lavishing in the latest thingamabobs. We already know this… but it is easy to forget when bombarded with non-stop advertising and seemingly endless to-do lists.

This season, it is okay to take a step back. Job loss and stress due to the coronavirus challenges us to do our best with Christmas in desperate times, which ultimately means focusing on the deeper meaning of it all.

3. Show Appreciation & Gratitude

Let’s face it, these days everyone is missing hugs, community, friends, travel- maybe even missing typical traffic jams and large crowds at this point. Some of us are feeling pretty desperate and others are getting by just fine. Some of us have lost loved ones dear and near to us, while others may be feeling a little desperate for alone time with the non-stop chaos of a new type of home life.

During this season, it is critical to practice appreciation and gratitude, even when it seems unreasonable to do so. Gratitude is simply acknowledging the goodness in your life. Gratitude allows us to feel more positive emotions which in turn helps us to have better mental and physical health, build stronger relationships, experience life more positively, and savour the moment more consistently.

Speaking of Scrooge, we can apply the Christmas Carol to think about the various layers of gratitude and learn to appreciate our lives just as they are.

Spirit of Christmas Past: reliving positive memories from childhood, reminiscencing of the past, thinking of humorous/fun-filled moments with others.

Spirit of Christmas Present: being grateful for the people in your life, not taking for granted health and good fortune, recognizing blessings.

Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come: thinking of the future with optimism, having hope and faith that good things will come.

4. Focus on traditions (and breaking the mould).

Christmas is a fun holiday where families practice certain traditions that brings everyone together. And every family carries out traditions in their own unique fashion (i.e.- decorating a tree, meal choices, leaving treats out for Saint Nick, etc.). Traditions make this time of year special and memorable. They also instil a sense of familiarity and structure, which let’s face it, are pretty essential these days. Even if some of those traditions are on hold for now, take the time to plan new traditions that will keep your family safe and entertained. No matter how big or small your clan is -kids, pets or none at all- take advantage of the opportunity to do things differently this year!

Here are some ideas:

  • Book up the December weekends with adventures. These do not need to hurt the bank… simple drives to nearby parks or beaches do not need to be expensive. Dress right for the weather and bring the essentials (snacks, water, mitts and toques). Whether you are collecting seashells, snowshoeing or going for a winter hike, get outside and enjoy nature.
  • Rather than the trip to the mall to sit on Santa’s knee, spend an evening with the kids writing meaningful letters to Santa. Rather than focus strictly on ‘the ask’, help the young ones express their dreams and hopes for next year (save as a keepsake they can revisit in adulthood).
  • Can’t go on a vacation?… Plan one at home! Schedule an intentional staycation during a weekend or time off. If you live alone, book a Covid-friendly weekend getaway to a cabin or cityscape getaway with selfcare in mind (i.e. massages, sightseeing, etc.). Although the much-needed family trip to Mexico will need to wait until next year, plan a festive evening with all the Cinco de Mayo essentials- fiesta party foods, bright flowers and colours, margaritas, with some Buena Vista Social Club in the background. No matter your theme, set the tone for your staycation that gives the family memories.
  • Netflix and Chill? Check! Except with living room forts, gingerbread houses and movie-thons. Haven’t seen all of the Lord of the Rings movies? Plan a movie-thon! Complete it with popcorns, holiday treats and a living room fort. Not much point in worrying about the mess… This weekend is reserved for imagination, fun and whole lot of snuggles.

5. Be Sustainable

The environment rarely gets much acknowledgement during the holiday season. As a society we are fixated on making Christmas special, and can forget about the impacts of consumerism on the Earth. From gift-wrapping to increased production to one-time use decorations to increased food waste, the most wonderful time of the year isn’t so wonderful to environmental standards.

Being mindful of holiday waste habits is an important practice- and one that more Canadian families are adopting. There is lots of advice online on how to go green for the holidays, but a few common sense rules are sure to make an impact such as buying local, re-using gift bags, buying less/ re-gifting/ donating, purchasing products made from sustainable or recycled materials. And many more.

Rather than mindlessly surfing the internet or browsing storefronts for gifts, consider opting out of gift buying and giving a donation as a gift this year. There are plenty of great non-profits and charities to choose from. Additionally, donation gifts can be made in the giftee’s name. So whether your loved one cares about the environment, child poverty, animal welfare, women’s rights or food security, there are many ways to show you care about them by supporting the causes that speak true to their heart.

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