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It's The MOST Surreal Time Of The Year...

I'm not alone in wanting to (not so) gently shove 2020 out the door. It's got me in the mood to celebrate the holidays. Normally I feel rage when the stores shove Christmas down my throat in October and a bit of derision when my neighbors do as well. But this year I'm all Pumpkin Spice For Everyone! and what? You haven't decorated your tree yet?!? What are you waiting for? I mean, I haven't. I'm nowhere near that organized. But if I was I would. I think. And while I'm about to list some happy ideas it should be said that if you don't feel like celebrating at all you have never had more permission to take a year off than 2020 offers. Holidays in general are a great opportunity for misalignment of expectations and reality. This year there is so much collective and individual grief, and that too needs time and space for acknowledgement. But it's also okay to allow for cheer.  

Holidays pandemic-style require a fair bit of creativity to craft something enjoyable for ourselves as so many of our typical events are really not wise this year. I'm ALL for having as many humans still alive this time next year as possible, so caution with a side of celebration is my overall motif. 

With that in mind, here are Five Festive Pandemic-friendly Holiday Ideas:

1. Books. Books are always a good idea, but I'm thinking of trying something new this year. Back when we all got to take vacations I particularly loved choosing a book for a trip that then became a permanent part of the memories of that experience. I loved having a book that either reflected the region I was visiting, or taught me something new, or helped me understand myself in a new way Travel always created a different kind of focus for reading so that most vacations I've taken in the last ten years also have a particular book associated with it. In lieu of holiday travel reading I plan to choose a book to mark the season with me. I think this year it will be Barack Obama's new memoir because I could use a good brain massage to wrap the year with. 

Yrsa Sigurdardottir's novel are my go-to for any Icelandic travel
Yrsa Sigurdardottir's novels populate my Icelandic travel memories

2. Create new ways to connect. We are all tired of Zoom and it's many cousins, but it has it does help to see the faces of people we miss having in person. There are other ways to connect creatively: stream a favorite or terrible movie at the same time over Facetime with a friend. Take someone on a virtual walk with you. Send a loved one the same gift as the child/ren in your house so they can "play" onscreen with each other for a moment. Choose an advent calendar for the grandchild/grandparent combo in your life so each day they are opening the same day's picture (or small gift if you're ambitious enough to do one of those really cool reusable ones). Have a one-month-long book club with just one other friend. Make hugs out of construction paper and mail to people you miss holding. 

3. Lights. Other people's holiday lights are one of my favorite parts of December every year. It's just so dark out so early that knowing humanity still exists because they went to the effort to hang lights AND turn them on imbues cheer. I also love the ritual of turning holiday lights on each morning and find that little step helps me through solstice when I can start to count on the days lengthening again. This year I think I might particularly really need lights and need them inside my house, knowing they will glow for neighbors passing by as well (apartment life without a front yard means there's only so much to work with, but it also means the lights you hang in a front window do a lot of well-meaning work). 

4. Find and make/purchase one new food, beverage, or scent to mark the season, or choose one that you already love and has particular sentimental strength and have it at least once a week. My usual default is an adult beverage of some sort. This year I'm thinking something along the lines of a ginger collins

5. Gear (this is also a gifting guide). Pretty much all my pandemic pastimes are outdoors. With rain, fog, cold, and snow for some settling in it's a great time to fine tune the gear in your life to make all of that more enjoyable/survivable. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. A decent umbrella, hat, gloves, rain boots, coat, and scarf are evergreen needs for winter. This year might also really benefit from the addition of a decent outdoor chair so that you are up off the ground while enjoying a chilly picnic date or socially distanced get together in the park. Here is a list of some that might be more high maintenance or pricey than needed. Sometimes just the ten dollar one from the grocery store is really all you need if you pair it with a fuzzy blanket. Other gear that can add a bit of luxury to going outside when that's really the only place to go are hand warmers, thin long underwear, a fleece mask (is that a thing? it should be), a low folding table, waterproof blanket, a small easy tent that provides a wind block like the kind one would take to the beach, audiobooks (because holding a book in the wind or rain can really suck), waterproof mascara, and a good thermos. Even the addition of just one item of winter-weather-friendly gear can add a lot of joy, and quite frankly motivation, to going outside. 

What other ideas should we add to the list? What cool new ritual are you crafting for this incredibly hard and painful year we've all survived (if barely)? 


  1. I can attest to the joy of having an easily portable outside chair. That and a book have more than once provided a much needed change of scenery and cast of thought.

    I'm always excited to get a Christmas tree and this year I am especially so. This year I need not only the fresh pine scent and for something in this apartment to just be DIFFERENT, this year I need the symbol of that evergreen tree on the darkest day of the year and the ritual of bedazzling it to mark the turn from darkness into light.


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