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How to Celebrate Holidays During COVID-19

October 9, 2020

The holiday traditions we share with family and friends hold a special place in our hearts. For many Canadians, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to reconnect, enjoy quality time together and enjoy a delicious feast. At least, that’s what we did before COVID-19 came long. As the pandemic stretches into its eighth month, we’re feeling the loss of this and other beloved rituals – and we’re looking for other ways to celebrate.

It may help to remember that holiday traditions have never really been set in stone. They endure for many years, often decades, but inevitably they must evolve as generations grow, change and age. Maybe the elders in your family have hosted Thanksgiving dinner for as long as you can remember, but they don’t have the energy anymore. Perhaps they’ve downsized to a home too small for big gatherings.

And now, of course, safety is a major concern – older adults are among the people most vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19. In addition, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, recently cautioned Canadians to keep Thanksgiving get-togethers small, especially in Ontario and Quebec, where infection rates have spiked. (She added that people should continue to follow physical distancing guidelines and avoid sharing food and other items, and consider taking their celebrations virtual – more on that below.)

Adapting to new circumstances makes sense, but it can still be emotionally painful to let go of beloved traditions. “Thanksgiving dinner won’t be the same if it’s not at Mom and Dad’s house,” you might think. Coming up with new and creative ways to celebrate can help everyone adjust – and keep the focus on family togetherness.

Creating new traditions

Holiday traditions can change slowly or suddenly, depending on what’s happening in your family. The key is to keep an open mind and be willing to try something new. Encourage your family members to do the same. Things may not go perfectly as planned, but that’s okay – try not to put pressure on yourselves to create the perfect celebration.

Ask what’s important: Talk to your loved ones about the holiday activities that are most meaningful to them. Some things – like dinner parties or Christmas carolling – could be done virtually using a video-conferencing service. With careful planning, others could be done in person while still observing physical distancing guidelines. For example, enjoying a nature walk and viewing the changing fall colours, or ice skating at an outdoor rink, are activities you can do together while keeping your distance.

Get creative: Ask family members, including children and teens, for celebration ideas. Some ideas to try: making and sending greeting cards or homemade gifts, cookie swaps, shooting a holiday video, creating a scrapbook or family tree, decorating the home inside and out, etc.

Take advantage of technology: Video chat is the next best thing to seeing loved ones in person. Zoom, FaceTime, HouseParty, Facebook Messenger Rooms and Google Meet are free options that make it easy and fun to connect online. Enjoy virtual lunches, brunches and dinners; game nights; baking dates; arts-and-craft sessions and more.

While the holidays will look very different this year, their essence remains unchanged: quality time with family and friends, the sharing of love and gratitude, and opportunities to make new memories.

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