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Preparing for a different kind of holiday season

Believe it or not, it’s that time of year again — time to start preparing for the holiday season.

One thing is certain: This year has been like no other that we can remember, and the holidays can’t be expected to be what we’ve become accustomed to, either. So, how do we deal with the fact that COVID-19 will actually make it dangerous for us to gather with family and friends to celebrate?

I believe that is going to require an entirely new approach.

If your family is like mine, you have several holiday traditions that you typically follow. For us, Christmas Eve is the time to get together at my in-laws’ house, eating ham sandwiches with horseradish sauce, baked beans and homemade sweets. After everyone arrives and has been fed, we all sit down in the living room and exchange gifts.

That get-together usually involves 10 people or so — not a number large enough to cause concern about violating the governor’s health orders on social gatherings. But they are all people that we unfortunately have not been seeing regularly. That means if we meet up with them, we could expose them to germs we don’t even know that we have. I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.

Many of those same people would eat Thanksgiving dinner with us during an ordinary year. But that is not the way to describe 2020. I suspect my husband and I will eat at home alone, maybe connecting with family members via an online platform.

If we are flexible and creative, though, there are plenty of things we can do to make this holiday season special — even if it is very different.

For starters, we can do a great deal of our shopping online. That means that special meals and gift-giving won’t have to be sacrificed. I already ordered and received one gift for my little niece that I don’t think I would have found in a local store.

But how do we hide packages that are delivered by UPS or by FedEx from those who share our homes? Again, creative solutions may be necessary. Perhaps you have a neighbor who wouldn’t mind accepting a delivery so that you can still surprise your spouse.

Although it may not be wise to assemble a large group of people around a Christmas tree to open gifts, maybe we can find other fun ways to provide presents to the ones we love. Instead of meeting up, perhaps you can organize a drop-off schedule, making a day of delivering presents to front porches, –much like Santa Claus.

Traditions are great, and they help create memories for individuals, couples, family and friends. But if we can’t safely observe some of our favorite holiday traditions this year, let’s not allow that to bring our spirits down. Why not start some new traditions instead?

Here are a few ideas for some possible inspiration:

∫ Grandparents — maybe you can’t be with your grandchildren this season. After all, they may have been attending school or day care, and that might make it risky for them to spend in-person time with you. Even though youngsters are likely to deal well with a COVID-19 infection, they could unwittingly spread the virus to you. Instead of bemoaning the loss of time together, why not arrange to read them a Christmas story over the phone or via a platform such as FaceTime or Zoom. “Twas the Night Before Christmas” would be a great tale to read aloud on Christmas Eve.

∫ Siblings — if you live far apart and usually travel to see one another during the holidays, you may decide that is too risky to do this year. Chances are, however, that you know your brothers and sisters better than anyone else does. Think back to the things you used to do together as kids. Recall favorite colors, pastimes, bands, etc. Instead of traveling or exchanging expensive gifts this year, come up with a plan to customize a gift or gesture in a way that will being back special memories.

∫ Close friends — although you may talk all the time, good friend still miss seeing one another in person when that can’t happen. Consider giving gifts that will encourage your friends to spend time with you and with one another once the danger of the pandemic has passed. Gift cards or reservations for resorts, spas, concerts and similar getaways might be the perfect solution.

∫ Couples — perhaps you’ve been together day in and day out for months now. In fact, you may be the only person your significant other sees on a regular basis. That can start to wear on even the most devoted of lovebirds. Consider how lockdowns, layoffs, social distancing and other aspects of the pandemic have affected your relationship before you decide on the perfect gift. If you need a little time apart, maybe a wife should buy her husband a fishing pole and encourage him to visit a nearby lake (a place where he can still practice social distancing). Maybe a husband should consider setting his wife up with some goodies she can use to pamper herself — bubble bath, spa products, etc. — and then giving her the space to do just that.

Obviously I don’t have all the answers about how to make this holiday season special, but I do intend to try and make the best of it. Allowing ourselves to despair will only make things worse, and that is the last thing we need to do right now.

So, take the time we have at our disposal and, rather than being bored, get creative. Plan ahead to have the happiest of holidays.

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