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How to plan for the holidays amid COVID-19

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As the days grow shorter and nights get colder, our thoughts start to turn to all of our favorite end-of-year holidays. But this year, sadly, things will be different. We continue to deal with the pandemic that has caused us to change so many things already, and will make this Thanksgiving and Christmas different from those we’ve enjoyed in years past. But as we acknowledge that this year will be different, we can remind ourselves that things won’t always be this way. We can hope that the holidays in 2021 will look more like they did in 2019, and we look forward to the day we can gather with friends and family without worrying about masks, social distancing and self-quarantines. But for now, how should we approach the round of holidays coming in the next few months? 

Plan Early

Whether you go trick-or-treating, dress up for All Saints’ Day, or both, things will look different. And those changes will be easy compared to the juggling and coordination that Thanksgiving and Christmas will require. Whatever holiday you’re facing, it’s best to start planning as soon as possible, especially if you intend to travel. What used to be an easy trip to see grandparents might require significantly more coordination, and possibly even self-quarantining before or after traveling, or both. And if a longer stay is necessary, consider booking hotels or making other arrangements now.

If we have younger children, planning ahead will also prevent possible disappointment. Is roaming around the neighborhood while dressed as Baby Yoda for the purpose of scoring as many candy bars as possible the highlight of your child’s year? If so, those plans might need to change, and if that’s the case, letting your child know on Oct. 30 will certainly lead to tears. Take the time now to get a game plan in place to whatever extent is possible so that you aren’t scrambling at the last minute to patch something together.

Be on The Same Page

When planning family holidays, coordinating schedules and events can be stressful. This year, we have a new element that we need to coordinate -- everyone’s comfort level regarding COVID-19. Are we able to agree on how to approach social distancing or quarantining? The last thing we want is to add stress to a holiday celebration by arguing about who is or is not approaching the pandemic in the best way. Certainly, extended family members may disagree on masks or seating distances or whether to hit the mall on Black Friday, but we must compromise to find workable situations in which everyone feels both comfortable and safe.

Be Creative

For families with immunocompromised members, they may not have the option to gather safely. While the idea of a “virtual” Thanksgiving may seem strange and even foolish to some, for others it might be the best way to participate in a family gathering in a year where there are no other options. We can consider dropping off a meal to elderly relatives; having a FaceTime Thanksgiving; planning an online All Saints’ costume presentation; and hosting Zoom caroling sessions. We can send care packages to remind our loved ones how much we wish we could be there with them. All of these options, though imperfect, help people feel included and prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation.

As we enter the holidays, we want to focus not just on the activities, but on the spirit of the day. Thanksgiving is about more than turkey and pie and football. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, ask yourself what you are thankful for. For as challenging a year as 2020 has been, are we maintaining a spirit of gratitude for the blessings God has given us and continues to give to us? We can remember the pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving -- far from their homes and the friends and families they’d left behind. Like them, this Thanksgiving we find ourselves in a strange land, facing an uncertain future. And in these times, we want to intentionally reflect on those things for which we are thankful.

Horne is director of clinical services for diocesan Catholic Charities.

Find out more

To make a teletherapy appointment with a Catholic Charities counselor, call 703/859-3147 or 703/447-9402.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020