This holiday season is going to look different from most others. I will not be seeing anyone outside my household this Christmas, not live in person anyway. Without getting too much into all of that, I wanted to share a few ways we are making the season special.
Look for silver linings.
No fighting crowds at the mall, searching for parking for ages, driving around in blizzards. No rushing around to different relatives and parties. The simple advice to stay at home means we don't have to buy into the holiday rat race this year - on the contrary, that's exactly what we have to Not do. I can deal with that.
Another way has been embracing the virtual with virtual games nights, coffee dates, and family meals. It's been a great way to reconnect with people who we didn't see often anyway because they live far away, or because we had a baby. We use Jackbox to share games that we can play together.
For many of us I know it's not that easy to see the upsides of our current situation. So how do we find the silver linings? A talk I listened to recently on happiness (on the Calm app) suggested thinking of three new things you are grateful for each day. It can't be the same thing every day - it must be three new things in the past 24 hours. Seeking out the positives in each day can help create a perception that positive things happen to you in your daily life.
The talk about happiness suggested that reflecting on happy memories can be as powerful and beneficial to your brain as making them, setting off the same dopamine response. Reflecting back on Christmases past, making special foods, carrying on traditions (even if in a slightly modified way), even looking through old photos, can help get you in the spirit.
This year I made a Google Drive folder for my family with activities, prompts, and a shared photo album so that we can all share and enjoy photos of previous years' festivities. My family also has a "quote jar" where we write down the funny and ridiculous things we say to each other. This year, since we won't be together, I created a PDF of prompts for a holiday memory jar. We will each make one and share the prompts with each other over video chat - and will have the jar to look back on for years to come.
One tradition we normally have in my family is to drive around the neighbourhood on our way home from Christmas eve dinner, enjoying all the lights. This has tapered off some with my grandmother moving into a retirement home, and all of us having different homes to drive back to. This year, I learned of the most decorated neighbourhood in my town. I invited my sister and brother-in-law to follow us in their car while we enjoyed the display together on speakerphone. It evoked the same kind of festive feelings as doing it together when I was a kid.
My husband's family is originally from Denmark and we used to always love attending the annual Christmas bazaar at the Danish church in our city. This is where I learned of hygge, the Danish practice of enjoying coziness. Hygge has completely changed the way I feel about the isolation of long, dark Canadian winters. Instead of being a time to hibernate and just make it through, it is now a time to embrace and even celebrate coming in out of the cold, lighting some candles, enjoying a hot beverage and an indulgent pastry, and relaxing away the hours under a cozy blanket with a good book or some good knitting. Christmastime is the most hyggeligt time of the year, and indeed, this is something I have been more mindful of than ever while we do our best to limit physical contact with others.
To quote Meik Wiking of the Danish Happiness Research Institute: "Hygge is only possible if it stands in opposition to something which is not hygge. It is essential for the concept of hygge that it constitutes an alternative to everything that is not hyggeligt in our everyday lives. For a brief moment, hygge protects against that which is not hyggeligt. Life might seem stressful. It might seem unsafe and unfair. But life is none of these things in moments of hygge."
In this way, this may be the most hyggeligt winter ever if we let it. To learn more about how to incorporate this concept into your every day, I highly recommend The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking.
Wherever you are, however you celebrate the season, I wish you all happiness and safety.
Download my Holiday Memory Jar - print 6 pages per sheet of paper, cut and place in a jar. Write your memories down as you share them with your household or remote loved ones.