If you are looking at your empty December calendar and feeling sad about all the holiday events that would normally be there, but aren’t because of the pandemic, then this post is for you. Clearly, this Christmas season won’t be as big and as bright as most years, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bad, or sad, or pathetic. Christmas (or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice or whatever you celebrate this time of year).*
With a little forethought and planning, you can fill this Christmas with plenty of joy, love, and togetherness.
Start with a list
I am a big fan of writing things down. It is a great way to gain some clarity and to help dicern what truly matters. I did this exercise this morning and it did just that for me.
For this list, divide your paper (or screen) into two columns. Make the right column a little wider than the left. Actually, do this on paper or in Goodnotes or your app of choice. It won’t work as a mental exercise because you need to see everything written down in order for your brain to start coming up with creative ideas.
Down the left side of the page, list all the activities that you usually do during the Christmas Season. Everything from decorating the house to making cookies, to throwing parties. Include both school and home activities. They don’t have to be in order, just list all the things.
Categorize the Things
Next, start at the top and think about each thing on your list. Visualize the event if you can. Remember sounds in scents, who was there, and how you felt at the time. Use the right column for notes. As you reflect on each activity, put it into one of three categories:
Remains the Same (I put a star next to these): These are activities that you can still do just as you always have – no changes needed. They might include decorating the tree, making Christmas cookies, doing some of your favorite holiday lessons with your students, and Christmas morning with your spouse and kids.
Do with Modifications (I put a check mark next to these ones): These are activities that you can still do in one form or another, but you’re going to have to make some changes to keep everyone safe.
Instead of getting dressed up and going to the church on Christmas Eve, you might watch a stream of the service on TV in your PJs with steaming cups of hot chocolate. Or maybe attend an outdoor, socially distanced service.
Rather than a big Christmas dinner with extended family, you might be having a smaller more intimate meal where you serve something completely different than you usually would. Consider breakfast for dinner, especially if your family doesn’t do a big breakfast on Christmas morning. Or how about treating your family to something pricier than you would serve to a big group like salmon or prime rib. Another option is to do something completely out of the park, like having a make-your-own pizza night or making a meal that only consists of green, red, and white foods.
Instead of doing your favorite Christmas craft with your students, challenge yourself to come up with something more accessible for your remote learners. If nothing else, they can make digital coupon books.
This category may take some out-of-the-stocking thinking, but it is so much better than just putting everything into the third category.
Not this Year (I crossed these out): These are things that just aren’t going to happen. The school holiday crafts bazaar, holiday concerts and performances, the neighborhood New Year’s Eve party. For these, I reminded myself that they will be back next year, at which point, I will be sure never to take them for granted again.
Bonus: At the end of your list, see if you can come up with some completely new activities. Maybe things you could not, or would not have done in a normal year. Again, extra effort, but totally worth it.
We did this for the long Thanksgiving weekend. Since we could not have our usual 20 or so guests for Thanksgiving, we decided to rent a Karaoke machine. We have done it before for a party and it is loads of fun. This time, we rented it for the entire Thanksgiving weekend, just for us. The guy gave us a great deal because no one is having parties and sadly, he is hurting for business.
We spent the weekend serenading each other (Santa Baby), singing duets (I Got You Babe was fun, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, not so much), and practicing the ones we thought we might try in public when the pandemic is over (There was a lot of Pretty Woman). It was super fun and a great break from our usual Netflix and board games.
Hopefully, making this list has given you some ideas and made you feel a little more optimistic for the coming month. I got more ideas just writing this post! No doubt you, your family, and your students will remember this holiday season for the rest of your lives, so why not do whatever you can to make those memories good ones?
*If you have lost a loved one this year to Covid (or anything), I am so very sorry. This may not be a good exercise for you to do. I hope you can find some joy in the season and that you are able to remember and celebrate your loved one with family and friends.
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