Emotional HealthFamily 4 minutes to read

“What a crazy year it’s been!”

As I prepare to write my annual Christmas letter, I realize I’ve started several of our family letters with that phrase. And this year is no exception! While our world-wide communal experience with COVID certainly underlines this statement, it’s not the only “crazy” you or I may have experienced this year.

Perhaps you’ve overcome an addiction, survived a betrayal, added a new child to your home, or become empty nesters. Maybe you’re in a new house, a new apartment, a new city, or a new country. You may have lost a loved one this year, ended a relationship, or gained a new love. Hopefully, throughout it all, you’ve gained a new appreciation for the person God created you to be.

The only constant in this life is change—especially in 2020.

In light of this, it might be time to look at our holiday traditions. I don’t know about you, but my holiday situation this year is definitely looking different than years past—which can be a good thing! Shaking things up can be healthy and even fun. 

Although my husband and I have been “empty nesters” for the past two years, our oldest daughter has been able to make the trek from southern Oregon to our home in northern Oregon during her school break to spend her Christmas vacations with us; while our younger daughter has been “Making Magic” for Disney World guests in Orlando, Florida. We were able to connect as family via FaceTime and open presents together—it almost felt like we were still together. My mother-in-law was also able to come over and enjoy time with our family.

This year, however, will be different. For our family, this will be the first year that I won’t be having Christmas in my home, with at least one of my kids.

Hazel graduated from her Master’s Program last spring, and now works as a mental health therapist for children and adolescents—a job that comes with a lot of responsibility and a schedule that doesn’t allow for two weeks off at Christmas. Emma continues to work at Walt Disney World and Christmas season is an especially busy time in the hospitality industry. My mother-in-law moved into a senior community last February and we aren’t sure right now whether she’ll be able to leave the community due to COVID concerns. 

Here’s to our new normal!

Just like us, your old traditions may not be appropriate or possible this year. Things change and although our heart-strings may tug a little, wanting us to continue those tried-and-true traditions we’ve developed over the years, embracing change with a positive mindset can be a healthy thing.

Let’s look at ten ways to shake up your holiday season and embrace this new normal:

Write a holiday letter! Yes, we’re bringing back an oldie but a goodie. Part of the fun of this experience is getting the whole family involved. Have everyone write their own paragraph, from their perspective, about how this year has been. Even your littles can dictate their thoughts to you. What have been the successes, the concerns, the hopes, the dreams of each family member. As your family grows, these annual letters can become a diary of your years together.

Decorate! We all “need a little Christmas—right this very minute!” There’s something about twinkling lights and bringing out the ornaments you’ve collected over the years that brightens the home. Turn on the Christmas music, put some cinnamon, cloves, and orange peels to simmer on the stove or in the crockpot, and enjoy the beauty of your home.

Bake some cookies—and have a cookie decorating day with the family. You’re home anyway and what better way to enjoy time together than creating a delicious snack that’s a work of art, too!

Speaking of works of art: go to the craft store and have each child choose a porcelain ornament to paint. Over the years, you’ll have a great collection that stirs memories and warms hearts every year.

Watch movies together or maybe bring out the old family movies. Pop some popcorn, brew up some spiced cider or hot cocoa, and snuggle on the couch together.

Play board games or cards (unless you have a couple of highly competitive family members, like I do!), or maybe work on a 1,000 piece puzzle together!

Take a drive to look at the neighborhood light show. Bring along a thermos of hot chocolate and crank up the Christmas music!

Read the Nativity Story. Go to a candlelight service or find an online church service to attend. Don’t pass by the reason for the season.

Fill a need. Do you know someone who might need a little extra help this year? Maybe an anonymous gift left on their doorstep, or a bill paid for them, or a basket of holiday goodies would give hope to a person or a family who is struggling in this season.

Honor yourself: recognize possible triggers during this season and take proactive steps to address them. Reach out for support from family, friends, or a counselor who can help. Identify healthy self-care, and  take time out for yourself so you can be there for others without burning out.

Whatever your holiday season looks like this year, whatever your new normal looks like, take the time to be present in all you do. Embrace the beauty you find in this season, connect with those around you, and give thanks for God’s amazing gift of his Son, Jesus. May your holiday season be blessed!