Discovering Unexpected Gifts

As we approach the holidays, many of us are facing questions and thinking about how we gather with family and friends to celebrate safely in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and election year politics.  The holidays are a source of stress in ordinary years due to some of the following reason: memories of the past, too much to do in too little time, financial stress, pressure to have the “perfect” holiday, weather, poor eating and drinking choices, cultural bombardment (Christmas music in stores and decorations starting after Halloween) and pressure to do unwanted activities.  Bereavement, loss, loneliness and separation from support systems can all intensify holiday stress.  Covid-19 has created a sense of loss and bereavement for some among us, while feelings of loneliness and being separated from our support systems may also impact our holiday planning and spirit this year.  The pandemic has also created an opportunity to prioritize what is most important, and the holidays are no different.

This is the year to reevaluate our holiday celebrations and focus on the activities that create a sense of meaning for ourselves and our family in the chaos and uncertainty of 2020.  Below are some questions to consider as you plan for the upcoming holidays. Perhaps they can help you discover a sense of meaning, yet decrease some stressors of the holiday season.  They are by no means an exhaustive list, but could be an opportunity to start a conversation. 

  • What is most important to you during this holiday season?
  • What enhances the meaning of the holidays for you?
  • What takes away from the meaning of the holidays for you?
  • What holiday tradition or activity is most important to you?
  • Are there traditions and activities you are doing just because you always have—or your family always has?
  • What is your greatest fear about this holiday season?
  • What is a new holiday activity or tradition you would like to try this year?
  • What are your expectations of yourself this year?
  • What do you see as others’ expectations of you during the holiday season?
  • What is something that you could do for yourself to cope with the challenges of the holidays this year?

Communicating changes to holiday traditions and routines is a critical component of navigating this process.  Try to build in as much flexibility and creativity as possible and look for opportunities for forgiveness, healing and reconnection this holiday season.  Perhaps, the unexpected gift of 2020 is rediscovering the “holy” in Holiday.

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About the author

Rachel Friesen

Rachel Friesen is a wife, mother and, by training, a social worker. She enjoys traveling, being on the beach, walking her dog on the Monon Trail and college football.