A woman with a thick scarf sweater looking downward

There’s something about Christmas that amplifies the yearning for home. Not so much the place, but the feeling. When the temperatures drop and we’re cozied up on the couch with a steaming hot cup of cocoa listening to the rhythmic crackle of the fireplace, the only thing that could make the moment better is the company.

Only this year, with the continued spread of COVID-19, social distancing protocol has everyone rethinking their celebrations, opting out of travel and paring down the dinner table invite list.

While there are many different viewpoints on what is considered safe, it’s important to honor your own boundaries and celebrate in the way you’re most comfortable. The boundaries you set are key to your peace of mind, as well as you and your loved ones’ overall health.

If there’s one upside to this time, it’s that we have permission to simplify. All year long, the pandemic has forced us to strip away excess noise and unearth what truly matters. If we apply that lesson to Christmas, we get full authority to make this holiday what we want it to be—within the confines of what it is.

All year long, the pandemic has forced us to strip away excess noise and unearth what truly matters.

Many are sad they can’t see certain family members this year, but others may feel relief. The holidays often create pressure to appease and compromise our needs. Sometimes, going back to a place we’ve outgrown can make us feel like we don’t belong or inadvertently rub salt in wounds we’ve worked hard to heal.

Here’s where COVID’s second-best attribute, the vanishing of FOMO (fear of missing out), steps in. If we let go of the Hallmark movie-induced pressure to have the perfect family gathering—along with the holiday highlight reel presented to us by social media—what would the ideal Christmas entail?

In a pandemic, we get to toss out the shoulds and celebrate Christmas on our terms. We can thoughtfully decide on the family or chosen family we’d like to surround ourselves with, without an ounce of guilt. It’s a powerful choice that we’ve always had access to, but may not have felt so free to enact without the permission of a global crisis.

In a pandemic, we get to toss out the shoulds and celebrate Christmas on our terms.

We also get to reimagine traditions, keep ones we cherish and introduce ones that will bring us joy. 2020 might be the year to get a real tree, bake your grandpa’s favorite coconut cream pie or wear matching pajamas. You can take the day at your pace, slow down and savor moments. Lounge in comfy clothes and play board games, dance to Christmas music or head outside for a brisk midday walk. Take time to connect with those you wish you weren’t separated from and reach out to those who might be lonely. 

Most of all, express gratitude for what you do have—the roof over your head, the food on your table and the company that surrounds you. Make time for laughter, reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and focus on the good news this day brings.

Finally, give yourself grace and celebrate your resilience. You’ve made it through a year like no other—one full of heartache, separation and disappointment. You overcame, stayed the course and found ways to thrive.

This Christmas—with its boundaries, simplification and illumination of what matters—very well may set the precedent for holidays to come.

How will this Christmas and holiday season look different for you and your loved ones? What good can be found even amongst the changes?

Image via Ryan Haack, Darling Issue No. 6

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