It is no secret that we are having a pretty rough year as a planet and as a species. The Coronavirus pandemic has dramatically affected the usual way of things. The disease has devastated many lives and communities, and the mental toll on all of us this year has been great. Studies have shown that Americans are more depressed during the pandemic than they were in the period before, and we are now entering the season where such depressive feelings are magnified.
The holidays are typically when we get to reflect on the year and celebrate with family, but this year thousands of us will be forced to forgo such festivities. However, it isn't all bleak. At The Spanish Group, we work with, and for, thousands of individuals across the globe, and we have been inspired by the stories of strength, perseverance, and resourceful creativity that you have shared with us.
We have never felt closer to so many of you than we do now, during our shared struggle with Covid.
Hearing these personal stories and watching so many of you find ways to overcome Covid has helped us to deal with many of these issues ourselves. We have seen that just because you can't celebrate with the family the way you are used to, it doesn't mean this holiday season needs to be a sad one. In fact, this could be an excellent opportunity to make unique memories and new traditions.
To give back a little bit, we have compiled some inspiring stories about how people worldwide are dealing with the pandemic and finding ways and reasons to still celebrate. Hopefully, these insights will help improve your outlook on the world this holiday season in the same way so many of your stories improved ours.
We Still Have Reasons and Ways to Celebrate
It is hard when you are missing friends and family, but we can learn from one another how to best overcome the emotional toll of the pandemic.
Diwali During The Pandemic
Usually, on the 14th of November, millions of those living in, and from, the Indian sub-continent celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. An important day for Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs, Diwali usually involves gathering with family, praying, eating a traditional meal, and lighting fireworks and candles. The celebration lasts for the better part of a week, and each day has its own meanings and activities. However, the five-day festival had to be altered this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Many families in the United States are now instead dressing up and decorating their homes, as well as cooking traditional meals, and then sharing all of this with family members via Zoom. Many have spent time giving their parents and grandparents some serious Zoom training sessions to ensure that they can participate in these family events. One family is putting together a singing game called Antakshari as well as a rangoli drawing contest and developed quizzes to play with the family. Anything that helps you all to interact on these special days will be beneficial.
Smaller-scale substitutions seem to work and also provide new opportunities for bonding. Diwali usually involves many traditional Indian sweet treats, but rather than going out and buying these treats, or traveling to India and having them first-hand, families are instead learning to make them at home together.
Hanukkah and ‘Zoomover’ in the United States
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Passover have all already occurred during Covid and many Jewish families are getting quite good at celebrating during Covid. 'Zoomover' was the name given to this last Passover, and it is pretty self-explanatory as to why. Like Diwali, Passover was a holiday that was saved in many ways by being able to video call with friends and family. Families spent the Seder in readings and discussions over Zoom, and used the year's adversity to help reinforce the power of the holidays. The Passover story begins with adversity, and its lessons are just as important as ever.
This same mindset is being used for Hanukkah. Because what many of our purest holidays truly celebrate and help us remember are the ways we come together and overcome adversity in the most trying of times. For the practitioners of Judaism across the planet, this pandemic is being used to better understand the lessons their ancestors endeavored to bestow upon them.
During each of these days, amid this battle against this terrible pandemic, we are able to find some element of victory, find something to hold on to, to give us hope for the future. - Rabbi Ari Saks
Christmas in Bethlehem
In the Palestinian town of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, they are also broadcasting a message of hope that no matter how bad things are, 'Christmas isn't canceled.'
And while there can be no visitors in the Palestinian town, and the nighttime lockdowns are strict, they are adament that they will never let the flame of hope and celebration be extinguished. The mayor, Anton Salman, made a point to let the globe know that a giant Christmas tree will still stand in Manger Square.
Simultaneously, through the US and Europe, those looking to still make Christmas special are coming up with novel ideas. In Germany, some towns have adopted drive-through Christmas markets, allowing parents and kids to get a Christmas experience through guided drives and specially tailored audio tracks.
Making New Traditions and Tweaking the Old
While being forced to interact over technology can feel limited, it can also be a great tool for bonding when used creatively. There are countless sites and shops selling kits or offering lessons for unique crafts and creations (like these different DIY Christmas Ornaments you can make at home) that you can make with one another while on a video call. While we may not be able to touch one another, we can share tactile projects.
Baking cookies with Grandma over Zoom will still be a memorable experience.
Take the time to come up with activities, or a competition (one creative family we heard about is having a gingerbread house competition culminating in a vote over social media) that you can share with your family this season. You may love it so much that you will continue to do it for years to come. A positive outlook and the energy and effort to try new things will be your most important tools to get through these holidays.
The Holidays are Still Important
For both tradition and your mental health, the holidays are still important. Though times are tough, we can find inspiration in how so many of us are coming together and coming up with ways to share these special times with each other. This year will require more thought and planning, but it doesn’t have to be less special for it -and if you are feeling guilty about not seeing family this year, remember that it was for their own well-being that you are making the choices you are.
The CDC Guidelines for Events this season are important to adhere to. Check them out and see what you should and should not do this holiday.