It’s been a long, grueling year. We’ve struggled through lockdowns and quarantines, set our clocks back an hour, and in the northern hemisphere, winter is coming.
Earlier this year, we had all hoped that the COVID-19 pandemic would be contained by now, that life would have returned to normal. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened everywhere. Now many of us are looking ahead to a holiday season unlike any we’ve experienced before. Depending on where you and your loved ones live, there may be less (or no) travel, smaller gatherings (or no gatherings at all), and fewer or no holiday shopping excursions. Things will be different.
But “different” doesn’t have to mean “bad.” In fact, finding some holiday spirit is arguably more important this year than ever before—we all need to find happiness during a pandemic wherever we can. So here are some ways to bring more cheer to the end of a dark year.
Finding some holiday spirit is arguably more important this year than ever before—we all need to find happiness during a pandemic wherever we can.
Sharing Love Without Sharing Space
One of the best parts of the holidays is connecting with loved ones. We’re used to getting together for meals and drinks and games and good times. Many won’t be doing so during a pandemic, but that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on the real point of these occasions. Not the food and beverages and fun activities, but the act of connecting with the people that matter to us.
When I talk about connecting, I don’t mean via Zoom or any of the other video conferencing apps that have become so tediously familiar to us this year (although seeing our friends’ and families’ faces and catching up in real time is nice too). I mean finding ways to touch them on a more personal level. I mean handwritten notes and cards, delivered through the mail.
I can’t think of anything that brightens my day quite as much as tearing open an envelope or cutting open a package from a friend and discovering the thoughtfully chosen gifts and witty or heartfelt or wacky notes within. Just about the only thing that brightens my day more is returning the favor with my own care package curations and goofy missives. My friends and I like to festoon our mailings with cute cartoon characters and crude drawings of naughty body parts. You and yours can do whatever your own hearts desire.
Here’s where I insert a plug for stationery that’s already made with love: The Paper Wilderness cards and letter kits combine adorable animal illustrations with playful puns, making them perfect for sending some cheer through the mail. The illustrator, Jenna Puente, is a dear friend of mine. As an aside, supporting independent creators with your holiday purchases also feels great and very in keeping with the spirit of the holidays!
I can’t think of anything that brightens my day as much as cutting open a package and discovering the thoughtfully chosen gifts and wacky notes within.
Spreading Kindness Without Spreading Germs
Also in keeping with the spirit of the holidays is the spirit of kindness.
When I’m feeling unhappy, I find nothing picks up my mood quite as much as making someone else happy. Whether it’s complimenting a stranger on her shoes or dress or hair or makeup, handing an extra large tip to a Postmates delivery driver, or jumping out from behind a corner to scare my son into a fit of giggles, taking a moment to make someone else smile always does the trick. It’s a habit I try to pass on to my son, and it’s something we can all do. During the holiday season, we can look for ways to do it in a more focused and intentional way, too.
Those forced to stay in hospitals at this time of year will no doubt find it even lonelier and more difficult than it would have been in pre-pandemic times. The same applies to retirement homes and other assisted living communities. Visitors are limited if not banned outright, making the holiday season a gloomy prospect for those inside.
Check with your local hospitals, retirement homes, or assisted living facilities to inquire whether they have greeting card programs in place or would accept them for patients. Alternatively, search for similar programs online. St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Nationwide Children’s Hospitals both do, for example.
At this time of year, and this year in particular, many churches and charitable organizations also ramp up their efforts to provide food and other necessities to communities in need. While volunteering in person may be out of your comfort zone during a pandemic, such organizations generally welcome a variety of donation types, from money to food, clothing, toiletries, or bedding. Reaching out to learn what you can provide is also a wonderful way to get some much-needed human connection and interaction in a year that’s been defined by distance and isolation.
And don’t feel guilty if you’re not in a position to donate to others (understandable, given the financial difficulties the pandemic has caused for so many people). Even the smallest acts of kindness have a certain magic to them. Focusing on someone else’s happiness for a moment pulls us out of our own gloom, reminds us that we are not alone, and reminds us that we all have the power to lift each others’ spirits. That, more than anything else, is true holiday spirit.
Being Good to Yourself
Finally, don’t feel you have to skip certain elements of holiday festivities just because the festivities will involve fewer guests and less social mingling than before. If you’re longing for your favorite Christmas cookies or a holiday feast, there’s no one stopping you from making them yourself, and maybe adding some new touches to the recipes. Christmas movies still exist (I’ll be watching Love, Actually at least three times before the ball drops on 2021), and so does eggnog, which can be spiked very liberally when consumed at home.
We’ve been through a lot this year. For most of the people I know, 2020 has been marked by far more low points than high ones. But now 2020 is coming to an end. And hey—isn’t that even more reason to find a way to celebrate?
Happy holidays, however you choose to observe them!