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Reimagining the Holidays During a Pandemic

Women holding lantern

Remember the “reason for the season.” We say it every year. It may even sound cliché. 

But whether it be the gratitude of Thanksgiving, the spirituality of Hanukah, Kwanza and Christmas, or the renewal of a new year, focusing on the holidays’ true meaning is more important than ever in these times of COVID-19.

A Season Steeped in Tradition

No doubt it can be hard to focus on the “reason” when so much of our holiday celebrations normally center around family and friends—baking cookies together, gathering with your grandparents for a big family dinner, hosting the perfect neighborhood party. 

The pandemic is making it difficult to be together in traditional ways.

But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. With a little planning, creativity, respect and yes—keeping the reason front and center—you may find the holidays of 2020 are better than you could have imagined.

Start the Conversation Early

The key to having a successful holiday is planning. Start the conversations with family and friends early. If you normally host or attend a big holiday dinner, let your family know that you’ll be doing it differently this year. 

Be respectful of differing viewpoints. You already navigated your way through Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays and anniversaries, so you probably learned a few lessons from those experiences.

Turn Sadness into Fun

It’s inevitable and normal that you will have feelings of sadness and loss with the holiday season looking different this year. Expect that grief, while at the same time, strive to make things as fun as possible. Here are a few ideas:

  • Plan a menu together. Perhaps everyone in your group can make the same four or five dishes. This way, everyone can enjoy the same appetizer, a family member’s secret stuffing recipe or cherry pie for dessert. Share the recipes well in advance so everyone has time to prepare them. 
  • Create a holiday playlist with input from everyone.
  • Come up with some online games to play together. Many of the virtual platforms feature games. The Ungame offers questions to get the conversation going—or come up with your own.

Find the Best Platform

The goal is to keep everyone connected and safe, especially the most vulnerable—the elderly and those with underlying health conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

If you are able to bundle up and host an outdoor gathering, that is always a possibility. But for most people, virtual gatherings are the route to go. Check out the various options—Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Skype—to see which would best suit your needs. 

Then do a trial run before the holiday so everyone can become comfortable with the technology. There are lots of online tutorials that can help.

Rely on your kids. They’ve already been adapting to various platforms for virtual school. Let them take the lead.

When to Seek Help

For many people, the holidays can evoke feelings of mild sadness, loneliness, anxiety and a sense of loss—even when we’re not in the midst of a pandemic. If you’re losing sleep, experiencing physical symptoms, or turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like increased alcohol use, it’s time to seek professional help. Many resources are available. Start with your primary care provider who can assess your overall health picture and make appropriate recommendations.

author name

Jennifer M. Collins, PsyD

Jennifer Collins, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist with LG Health Physicians Neuropsychology and Chief Well-Being Officer for LG Health Physicians. A graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Collins’ areas of expertise include healthy weight management, stress management, and helping patients cope with medical conditions like obesity, fibromyalgia, infertility and stroke and other neurological conditions.

Call: 717-544-3172

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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