A Covid Christmas

There’s no way around it, and we have to face reality – if we don’t get creative, Covid is gonna take down Christmas along with everything else it has destroyed this year.

The whole world is in mourning, we can’t spend the holidays with our loved ones – the ones we are fortunate enough to still have with us, our spirits are lower than low, and many of us are broke and/or unemployed or both. Even this year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is sad. In light of this on-going crisis, celebrating anything at all seems tone-deaf. I get that.

When asked if he’d like to have this year’s tree, Charlie Brown said, “No.”

However, these may be the very reasons why we must acknowledge Christmas this year. But how?

Well, first and foremost, if you are a religious person, take heart. Even Covid cannot rob you of your traditions and observance of the holiday. You can sing hymns in your living room. You can still dust off your nativity set. You can say your prayers as you watch the Pope celebrate midnight mass on television, if that’s your thing. You don’t need my help or anyone else’s.

It’s the secular aspects of Christmas that seem impossible. But aren’t we entitled to a little joy and goodwill after the year we’ve had? If you’re game, I have a few ideas.

Christmas Dinner: Together Apart (The Potluck Tailgate Non-Party)

This is a little crazy and a little complicated, but hear me out.

You know you won’t be able to gather your extended family together for Christmas dinner, right? It will just be you and the immediate members of your household. But what if I said you could all enjoy the same dinner together but apart?

Step 1: Let’s say you live within a comfortable driving distance of some family members. In this example, there are four household in all. You and the “cooks” of the other households plan a menu for Christmas dinner. Each household is assigned food to prepare.

Step 2: Each household prepares their components of the meal. You save enough for your family and dividing the rest for the other three families.

Step 3: On Christmas Eve, you load your trunk with the food you’re exchanging and some gifts. Pick a place to meet – a parking lot, in front of one of your houses, etc.

Step 4: Pop your trunk.

Step 5: Each family, with masks on, takes a turn going from trunk to trunk, collecting their food and gifts. Everyone else must remain in their cars with the windows rolled up. You can take this opportunity to see the rest of your family through their car windows and wish glad tidings to all. No hugging, no kissing, no contact of any kind – no exceptions!

Step 6: On Christmas night, everyone can video conference together while they share the same meal and open their gifts.

And speaking of gifts…

Gift Giving (For Adults): The Fine Art of Regifting

There has never been a better time to “Marie Kondo” the living daylights out of your home. If you don’t know about Marie Kondo, let me explain: She is the author of many books about getting rid of possessions that don’t serve you. These have titles such as Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. In a nutshell, her philosophy is this: get rid of anything you own that does not give you joy. Side note: I guess Marie doesn’t take that same less-is-more approach when it comes to her book titles. But I digress.

You probably have a ton of things in your home that you don’t like, never use, don’t fit you anymore, etc. We’re not talking garbage here. We’re talking about nice things that someone else might like to own. Something that might spark their joy.

For example: let’s say that you hate to cook. Someone gave you a magnificent frying pan. It holds absolutely no allure for you. Give it to someone who loves to cook. They might cherish it. Let’s suppose you are a very conservative dresser, yet every Christmas, your Aunt Mimi gives you an article of clothing that can only be appropriately worn on the Vegas strip at two in the morning. Pass that along to your sister who loves a bit of glitz. Put thought into your regifting.

Transparency here is key. Everyone must know they are getting a used gift. Don’t try to hide it. As long as everybody is on board, it’s a great way to exchange presents without breaking the bank. And you know you’re just dying to have that old fishing rod your father never uses anymore. One caveat: avoid giving someone a gift that they once to gave you! Awkward!

Gift Giving (For Children): What Really Matters

I have seen parents twist themselves into knots when they can’t get “the one thing” their kid really wants for Christmas. If you bought a black market Tickle Me Elmo for ten times it’s retail value, I’m talking to you.

But guess what. There really is no one thing. Think back to last year. Do you even remember what you gave them? Do they remember? Do they still play with it? Did you go bananas and just buy anything and everything you thought would make them happy? Did it?

Think back to some of your favorite childhood Christmas memories. They’re probably not about specific presents.

The age of the child does make some difference. There are parents who think baby’s first Christmas should be an extravaganza. The gifts extend beyond the tree, into the living room and up to the ceiling. After they’ve opened all the gifts for baby, they can’t find baby among the ruins of crumpled wrapping paper and stick-on bows. The reality is, of course, baby doesn’t care.

Toddlers are easy. They will be happy getting a package of animal crackers as long as it’s wrapped in Santa paper. How many toddlers play with the boxes, not the presents? For my son’s second Christmas, we bought him one gift. It was a collection of plastic helmets from the Lillian Vernon catalogue (circa 1997). There was a fireman’s helmet, a motorcycle cop’s helmet, an English bobby’s helmet, etc. Total cost: $7.00. He played with those hats for years. I’d say we got our money’s worth.

Once a child learns about Santa, it gets a little more complicated. You could explain that Santa, like the rest of us, is having a rough year and might not be able to make all those Christmas wishes come true. But he certainly still loves everyone and will do the best he can. Kids are very forgiving when it comes to Santa. If they want to call Santa, or send him a letter/email, or even video chat with him, they can. It’s 2020, mom and dad. Make it happen.

It should come as no surprise that teens and ‘tweens are the most problematic in the gift-getting department. But they are more reasonable than they lead us to believe. They know what’s going on, even if they can’t fully comprehend it. You can enlist their help in your hunt for regiftable treasures around the house. Perhaps they’d like to give some of their own things away, too. And who knows? The experience might teach them something.

The bottom line with children is this: what they really love about Christmas is its magical feeling, the lights, the cookies, the excitement, and family time. When all is said and done, the one thing they really want is your attention.

New Traditions: Fun and Free of Charge

Perhaps you are a stickler when it comes to your time-honored family traditions during the holidays. Maybe you go to Rockefeller Center every year to see the tree. Forget that. You don’t want to be in any large, super-spreading crowds this year. And I already showed you the tree so…

Maybe you go caroling with friends every year. You can still do that – 6 feet apart and with your masks on.

Or maybe it’s time to start some new traditions. Here are a few ideas:

-Everyone gets in their pj’s, you whip up some thermoses of hot cocoa and you all pile in the family car. Drive around and take in all the light displays while singing along to Christmas music on the radio.

-Decorate the tree together as a family.

-Bake cookies together. Wrap some up and take a stroll through the neighborhood, dropping them off at friends’ homes with a little note.

-Have nightly entertainment. Gather round as you each take turns reading from your favorite holiday story, or watch your favorite Christmas movie. You can even go “old school” by listening to holiday programming on the radio like they did before television.

circa 1945: A family of four gathers in their living room to listen to their home radio set. (Photo by Harold M. Lambert/Lambert/Getty Images)

Do you have some ideas or traditions you’d like share? Please do so in the comments section below. I’d love to hear them!

However you decide to celebrate (or not – no pressure), may it bring you peace.

A message from Anita

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