Making the Most of the Season

The holiday season is going to look different this year. With COVID raging and the temperatures dropping, we’re hunkering down, further curtailing our already-limited contact with others.

One night, without really meaning to, I started cataloging all the things that weren’t going to happen this year. No holiday performances, like the Nutcracker or a show at the local community theater. No cookie decorating extravaganzas with friends. No book club holiday party, work holiday party, neighborhood holiday party. No parties at all. No welcoming hordes of friends and relations into my festive home for snacks and cheer.

I was bummed. But before losing my holiday spirit entirely, I decided it was time for a different approach.

I called a meeting of the Family Holiday Council (i.e. my children) and took nominations from the floor for Fun Holiday Activities that we could do together. I wanted to know what would make the season feel special, despite the changes and limitations.

It turns out, there are quite a few opportunities for merriment still available. My older daughter suggested a holiday art project and making gingerbread houses from scratch. My younger daughter still wants to decorate cookies. I proposed that we find opportunities to brighten the season for others by participating in a food drive and selecting a name from the local “angel tree.”

My son tried very hard to appear bored by the whole activity – sardonically contributing only “eat” and “sleep” to the family to-do list – but his nonchalance was belied by the fact that he was wearing the matching family Christmas pajamas at the time. That boy knows how to do the holidays right. He’ll come around when the frosting starts flowing.

My youngest wanted to include “go sledding” on the list of holiday activities, but we decided that we shouldn’t include things we couldn’t control. After all, it hadn’t snowed at all last year, so pinning our hopes on a sledding trip seemed a bit unwise.

But sometimes you just need to put a good idea out into the universe. The next day, it snowed. It was only a dusting – gone practically before it arrived – but Kentucky kids are nothing if not quick to respond to snowfall. They know the moment is fleeting and were out the door with their sleds by 7:40am. That gave them fifteen slushy minutes on a neighbor’s backyard hill before they had to dash back inside for the first virtual class of the day.

I snagged a photo of my daughter drying out in front of the fire, Chromebook on her lap, that will become a defining visual of this season.

Sometimes to-lists can feel overwhelming. The pressure to accomplish everything on the list can threaten to overwhelm the fun. But in this case, the list helped us to refocus away from what we can’t do and back to what we can do. It inspired us and provided a healthy dose of good cheer that seemed to infect the rest of the afternoon.

After making the list, I started pecking out a few Christmas carols on the piano and was delighted when all three of my kids wandered over and began singing along. There were a lot of bad notes and the entire ensemble was distinctly off-key. It was wonderful. I hadn’t thought to put “family singalong” onto the list, but that just goes to show you that the holiday season will always bring a few surprises if you’re open to them.

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