The winter holidays are typically a time when we can  embrace the moment and spend time with our loved ones. Nothing else compares to that special feeling.

Our annual traditions, adopted or created, that we so often look forward to, may not be available to us this year, however. While this can be upsetting, this is an opportunity to start a new tradition: incorporating the new with the old! In the future, it will be a memory known as ‘how I spent the holidays during a pandemic’ one that would be difficult to forget.
It is also a year to pause and reflect. Let go of the traditions that are not serving you. If they make you feel stressed or you are dreading their arrival, scrap them! Just because something is a tradition, does not mean it generates joy or fond memories. You cannot force yourself to be happy, but you can eliminate unnecessary stressors. Instead of expectations, set intentions. What do you hope to get out of your traditions? Whether it is to have fun, reconnecting with family and friends, or creating lasting memories for your children, go in with a fulfilling purpose rather than a superficial one like wanting to impress others or striving for perfection. Holidays can be unpredictable and spontaneous, but that is what makes them fun and notable!

Ideas to get you into the spirit of celebrating:

 

Christmas ornaments

GO CLASSIC

Traditions do not have to resemble the complexity of a Hallmark Channel movie. Even the smallest tradition (like a type of food you eat) is extra special when it only happens once in the year. Some examples include: 

  • Baking a signature dessert
  • Having a movie marathon
  • Watching holiday themed episodes of your favourite shows
  • Making crafts
  • Reading a holiday story
  • Tracking Santa’s delivery route
  • Listening (and/or dancing) to a holiday themed playlist
  • Designing a gingerbread house
  • Writing a letter to Santa
  • Hosting a family game night
  • Mailing holiday cards
  • Donating items, money, time, or skills
  • Decorating the home

2 people skating in an outdoor arena

PARTICIPATE IN PUBLIC ACTIVITIES

People have learned to adapt and modify activities to fit within health and safety protocols this year. The holiday season is no different. Both individuals and organizations are allowing drive-bys to take place to show displays such as holiday lights- check out this one in Uxbridge! https://uxlights.ca/

The Pickering Museum Village has a Christmas Drive-Thru Tour: https://calendar.durham.ca/tourismevents/Detail/2020-12-12-1000-Christmas-Drive-Thru-Tours to learn about how popular Christmas traditions started. Some towns are moving forward with a drive-through parade, check out their websites or contact them for more information!

toboggan on a snowy hill

GET OUTDOORS

  • Walking: the winter scenery is photo-worthy!
  • Tobogganing: it’s like a natural theme park!
  • Snow angels: make a family of them!
  • Stargazing: the contrast of the winter darkness makes them shine brighter!
  • Snowmen: take advantage of the packing snow!
  • Winter scavenger hunt: what can you discover in nature?
  • Snowball fights: it’s a classic!
  • Skating: if you cannot access a rink outdoors, public skating has opened in Brock with pre-registration
Holiday arts and crafts

BE CREATIVE

Allow the holidays to become a time for creative expression.  When engaging in creative activities, our brains respond as if we were doing meditation or yoga, increasing our positive emotions, and reducing stress and anxiety.  Outline of ideas you can fill in with your imagination:

Surprise others
Catch your loved ones off guard by doing something out of the ordinary.  After your child has gone through their bedtime routine, sneak into their room a few minutes later and take them for an adventure!  Dress them up in winter gear or load them in the car, bring snacks and a hot drink or visit the local store to pick some out, and explore all the lights in the neighbourhood! 

Homemade advent calendar
An advent calendar can be more than chocolate!  You could include a small activity each day (word search, riddles, word scramblers), different kinds of treats, or a note each day with a compliment/quote/healthy challenge. 

Make gifts
Try to make at least one present for someone by highlighting a skill or showcasing your talent.  Whether it is knitting a scarf, writing a poem, making a photo album, creating a wooden sign, or cooking a meal, a homemade gift is a labour of love.

Garage sale gift exchange
Unlike a traditional gift swap, a ‘garage sale gift exchange’ involves visiting a yard sale, secondhand store, or antique barn, and searching for the most strange/interesting/funny item you can find.  Wrap it the way you would any other gift and swap with others.  Make it more of a game by giving the item a name and description or awarding a small prize to who selected the most unique gift.

Explore cultures
Each year learn about a new tradition outside of your culture.  Do some research and incorporate a food or activity into your own celebrations.  Take a photo of your new tradition each year and make it into a scrapbook to document what you have discovered! 

banana bread

PLAY WITH THEMES

If you are connecting with friends and family virtually over the holiday season, try implementing different themes or challenges to keep the interaction engaging!  For instance, each person could be tasked with creating a unique hot chocolate and must present it to everyone as if they were on a cooking show or make a homemade decoration on-screen that can afterwards be swapped through the mail or porch drop-off.  Use https://www.drawnames.ca/ to determine who you will give yours to.

Parents and child decorating Christmas Tree

BRING OUT YOUR INNER CHILD

Think about what made the holidays feel so magical to you when you were growing up.  Perhaps it was the one time you were allowed to stay in your pajamas all day or how you got to connect with loved ones you don’t talk to often.  Holidays are not just for children- it is a time to let go of the daily responsibilities, work stress, and racing thoughts for even just a day to enjoy the present.

HOLIDAY SELF CARE TIPS

Take a break from media.  News and social media can trigger anxiety and mess with your self-esteem.  Reduce your exposure to experience the moment.

Ask for support.  Nobody should go through the holidays alone.  There are a lot of resources available and wanting to help, including your loved ones.

Practice gratitude.  Just name 3 things.  Ex. A pet, a hot meal, good friends.  Doing this regularly rewires our brain to filter out automatic negative thinking and promote feelings of well-being.

Say no. You can’t make everything happen.  If you overburden yourself, you won’t be able to fully enjoy the activities you are looking forward to.

Remember the basics.  Food, water, physical activity, and sleep.  They are key to a healthy holiday season.

Traditions can become little wrapped up presents of the past connecting you to the people or memories you love most.

Sarah Spoljaric

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