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Ideas for a happy Covid Christmas

We know that Covid Christmas 2020 is going to have to be a little different. Which is unsettling. Because Christmas is a time of year when traditions really matter. Family traditions connect us back through the history of our lives to our own childhoods and to special memories and people. By looking back at all the previous times we have participated in a yearly tradition, we see highlighted the changes in our lives and in our children.

There is no denying that for some people there is going to be true heartache in not being with precious loved ones this Christmas.

But I also wonder whether, in this adversity, there might also be an opportunity for some families to re-evaluate our Christmas traditions and make 2020 a Christmas to remember? To reinvent Christmas in a way that connects with our family values? And create new traditions that hold more meaning for us?

A Covid Christmas to remember

There is no doubt that our children will have strong memories from 2020. This year will stick out in their minds as unique and different. And some of those will be difficult memories. But rather than focusing our attention on the hardships and what we will be unable to do this Christmas, I wonder whether one way to approach Covid Christmas is to think about what alternative happy memories we can create? We might not be able to have a normal Christmas but could we aim to create a Christmas that is nonetheless special and memorable? To be intentional in our memory making?

Because, let’s face it, there is so much pressure each year for Christmas to be perfect. Expectations – to have a good time and to put on a good show – are really high at Christmas. Despite the fact that the whole holiday season is actually loaded with factors liable to cause problems – long car journeys, too many sweets, alcohol, lack of sleep, argumentative family members (to name just a few).

So, maybe one way to approach a Covid Christmas is to focus on creating special moments that we really want our children to remember? What could you do differently this year that would create amazing and positive memories? Could you camp out next to the tree on Christmas Eve? Drink hot chocolate by a campfire in the garden on Christmas night? Swap the brussels for fishfingers? And prioritise presence not presents?

A values-based Christmas?

Personally, I think a really valid way to approach Christmas is to start with the values that you want Christmas to embody and that you want to pass on to your children through your Christmas traditions. We talk a lot about the meaning Christmas being about ‘family’ or about ‘giving’ but a lot of the time those are just words. In reality, much of Christmas is about consuming – food, presents, TV, booze. When we benchmark what we usually do at Christmas against what messages we want children to take from it, those are often very different. And actions speak much louder than words for children.

For many families, Christmas gets completely hijacked by presents. We wind children up for weeks beforehand about Christmas presents – asking them what they want for Christmas, getting them to write to Santa to ask for presents, visiting Santa in his grotto and reminding them to be good or they won’t get any presents. Buying more and more stuff for them. What are the messages in there? Are they the same as the messages and values you want them to learn?

Maybe one way to make 2020 Covid Christmas different is to start with our values and choose activities to match? If you want to dial up the kindness and giving side of Christmas, look for ways to incorporate that into your traditions. What could you do this Christmas that would support others? Could you do a reverse Advent Calendar where you give something every day (rather than getting a chocolate)? Or a kindness Advent Calendar where you have to do something kind every day. Traditions can be adapted to have meanings that work best for you and your family.

Don’t do it all

Let’s face it, this year our options will be limited. We won’t be able to do all the things we would usually do. But is that such a bad thing? The ‘expected’ list of Christmas traditions is ever-expanding (and many of them seem to be designed to leverage maximum consumerism). We spend a lot of time at Christmas doing things because we feel like we ought to do them.

But we really don’t have to do it all. We can choose which traditions we buy into. You don’t have to have an elf on the shelf and a Christmas Eve box and Christmas duvet covers and Christmas pyjamas and an advent calendar. You can pick and choose which traditions to participate in – and make up your own.

I’m not trying to tell you how to do Christmas – that is entirely up to you. Every family will take a different approach. There is no right or wrong way to do Christmas! And the challenges of each family’s Covid Christmas will be unique. For some this will be a truly horrendous holiday season.

But I’d love to think that from the wreckage of 2020 we can also make some positive choices about how a new family normal could look.

A Covid Christmas to remember: photo of a reindeer christmas decoration

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