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5 Ways to Make the Holidays Meaningful in 2020

(*This article first appeared on Baptist News Global. You can view the original article here.)

This year is, without a doubt, unlike any other. The daily events happening on a personal, professional and political level are enough to make all of us want to disappear from time to time. As we look ahead to the holidays, what can we do to make them special, rather than one more way to dread 2020?

It’s true that things will undeniably be different this year. You may not be able to travel the way you’re used to, it may not be safe to go visit grandma or have all your loved ones gather around your table, and the big Christmas party you always host is now a fraction of the size.

Here are a few tips to make the best of our current situation:

Take advantage of the slower pace. The holiday season usually is so filled with the hustle and bustle of parties, events and shopping that we just operate in a constant state of chaos. This year, most of that chaos is being removed for us. Slowing down may be difficult (I know it can be for me) but this is an opportunity to focus on what is really important, rather than getting sidetracked by the trivial, meaningless things that often rob us of our time and attention.

Instead of striving to “keep up with the Joneses” this season, take a breath. Read the book that has been sitting on your nightstand for months. Write a handwritten letter to someone you miss. Sit and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa by the fire with your pet. Let your soul breathe.

Our hearts need healing and respite after such a tumultuous year. Don’t rob yourself of that gift.

Consider observing Advent. If you don’t already, consider observing Advent this year. With the long-lasting effects of a global pandemic, we all have things we are grieving: family we are missing, weddings we’ve postponed, loved ones we’ve lost, graduations with far too few people present, big life moments that somehow feel empty, dreams that have been paused, trips that feel too far away to be excited about.

Disappointment seems ever present and grief like our daily companion. Taking time to pause, to reflect and to ground ourselves this holiday season may be just the thing our souls need. If you’re looking for a progressive lens through which to view Advent, consider Low: An Honest Advent Devotional, by John Pavlovitz or A Weary World: Reflections for a Blue Christmas, by Kathy Escobar.

“This year may be different, but that doesn’t mean giving back has to stop.”

Volunteer virtually. The holidays are typically a time of year when we look for ways to give back. We volunteer at the local soup kitchen, buy toys for kids whose parents are incarcerated or hand out sandwiches in the park. This year may be different, but that doesn’t mean giving back has to stop.

Earlier this year, our church did a Volunteer-a-thon and provided a fantastic list of virtual volunteering opportunities. I invite you to check out the resources they’ve researched and listed.

A couple other options would be doing a “Safer-at-Home Service Project” with Together We Rise to help foster care youth, or partnering with Glennon Doyle’s non-profit Together Rising to support families in need.

You also could serve those in your local neighborhood by raking leaves or shoveling the driveway for someone living with chronic illness, the elderly or a single mom who is trying to do it all. Whatever you choose to do, I encourage you to still find ways to give back this holiday season. Families need it now more than ever.

Deliver doorstep packages. It will be hard to gather for our usual festivities this year like we are used to doing. However, that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. There are creative things we can do to still engage old traditions in a new ways.

You can use platforms like Elfster to create a virtual Secret Santa among your co-workers, friends or family. You also can make goody baskets with all your favorite baked goods and deliver them to people’s doorsteps. It keeps you safe and socially distanced, while still sending love to those you care about. I can almost guarantee this will make their day.

Remember, simple acts of kindness not only remind us of our humanity, but of the fact that we are all connected and in this together.

“Sit down as a family and brainstorm ways to keep the holidays special.”

Be creative with your kids. If this year has been hard on us, it certainly has been hard on our kids. They, too, are enduring lots of change, disappointment and fear. I encourage you to sit down as a family and brainstorm ways to keep the holidays special.

Perhaps make a list of all your ideas and put them in a basket. Then pull one out every time your family is looking for something to do together.

A few ideas that would offer you some fun while keeping you safe include baking cookies together, decorating a gingerbread house, going ice skating or ice fishing, building a snowman, sledding, doing a puzzle, or cuddling up to your favorite Christmas movie by the tree. Letting each family member choose at least one activity they want to do during the holidays will give them sense of belonging as well as a feeling of control over their environment during a time that feels so out of control to us all.

Finally, if in past years you’ve taken your kids to visit Santa at the mall, consider dressing up like Santa yourself and making a home visit. This will create a Christmas memory for your young ones they’re sure to never forget.

Yes, the holidays will be different this year. But different does have to be negative or bad. Lean in, dig deeper and see what gems arise as you find new and meaningful ways to celebrate this season.

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