A December like no other

Family with Christmas tree

December, for many, is typically a time for celebration. For those who celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa or Pancha Ganapati, and forgive me if I’ve failed to mention any other, this month is typically that time of year when thoughts turn toward get togethers, lots of food – and drink – and exchanging of gifts. It’s also the time of year that I typically write articles and offer expert opinion to the media about how to survive the stress that too is often associated with get togethers, especially when family is part of the mix.

So, I don’t think it would be too far of a stretch to think that perhaps, for many, this month’s celebrations were and will be less stressful than in previous years. This may be the first year that you recall in a long time – or ever – that you had a really great reason for not attending or organizing a big event. Whereas in previous years you may have had to labour over a lavish dinner that you felt was mostly unappreciated, invited a family member – or more – you didn’t like because you knew that there would be a huge backlash if you didn’t, or maybe overspent because you couldn’t give just one gift to your host, but had to also purchase one for each of her children.

This year, you may actually be able to take a breath, and aside from staying home because you’re obeying the law and not wanting to take risks for fear of contracting or exposing someone to COVID, you can just spend time with the people that are most meaningful to you, or at least those who are living within your bubble. You may only have purchased gifts for your immediate family. You may have been glad not to have felt obligated to commit to a secret Santa game at the office for fear of being shunned, and instead of watching over an enormous turkey for seven hours, you can cook just a turkey breast for your family.

This has been the year to try something new. To determine If the grass is really greener on the other side. And if it is, stick with it for years to come.

Having said all this, I recognize that for some, get togethers with family or close friends for a celebration is what keeps you going all year long. For some it’s not an obligation but an opportunity for connection. Perhaps you live alone and look forward to buying a festive outfit, and joining friends or family once a year to share what has become a ritual. I recognize that for you, this December may in fact, be more stressful – or at least more disappointing. And if you haven’t been leaving your home for anything other than groceries and really playing it safe, perhaps someone may recognize how isolated you are, and invite you to join them in their bubble.

I also recognize that even if you’re not living alone, even If you’re part of a family, you may not find the gift giving or elaborate prep and cleaning up after dinner a pain, but a pleasure. I understand that for you, this month may be more difficult.

If you’re like most people, you may have had enough of this “COVID thing”, may be feeling angry that it’s hanging on, may be craving spending time with people you haven’t see in a while. This is all normal. My suggestion is to remind yourself that although times are tough and different than ever before, that this too shall pass.

Regardless of your religious belief or tradition, most schools and workplaces- even when you’re working virtually – are shut down around now. Being able to take time away from work and school and from being online to either spend time alone to catch up on sleep or to practise greater self care is a good thing, as is being able to focus on people you’re living with, if you are. Tobogganing and board games, bundling up and going for walks or a drive to enjoy the decorations that many people have gone to great lengths to adorn their homes with, can be good for one’s soul.

Take this time to reflect on past traditions, and contemplate how you might do things differently in the future. Change is hard but it can also be good. Wishing you a safe, healthy and good 2021!