I don’t know about you, but I’m looking towards this long winter of safer-at-home with a bit of trepidation. After eight months at home together, we are really going to miss gathering with family and friends for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.
Instead of focusing on what we won’t be able to do this pandemic year, I’m taking some time this fall to proactively plan what we CAN do this year.
Revamp Holiday Dinners
There is some real freedom in not gathering with others for traditional Holiday Meals. By celebrating holiday meals with just your household, you have the ability to re-imagine what the dinner and what the whole day looks like.
Take time to think about the holiday foods that you love, and plan on making them. All the other things that fill up the table? Leave them til next year. In fact, this year our family is embracing the fact that turkey isn’t our favorite meat — but we love pork tenderloin. I made this super-simple sheet pan dinner for us on Thanksgiving, and then during traditional “leftover days” I made our beloved green bean casserole, mashed and sweet potatoes, and we ate lots and lots of canned cranberry jelly.
Movies and Music
Movies make the season for my husband. We’ll start with Planes, Trains and Automobiles on Thanksgiving and move through It’s A Wonderful Life, classics from our childhood, and on to the newest to-be-classic, Jingle Jangle.
A number of our local radio stations moved to all day holiday music in early November and it could be a fun household activity to find a few Spotify holiday playlists that everyone can enjoy.
One of our family traditions is using an advent wreath at dinnertime. We light one more candle each week, and sing a Christmas hymn together for each candle we light. By week four when we’re singing four hymns before dinner, it can take a while. But it’s become a meaningful tradition. In years when we’ve had houseguests, they have enjoyed taking part along with us.
I am a great lover of Advent Calendars. I have several permanent ones, and every year you’ll also find new chocolate ones in our home. This year, though? This year, we’re going big! To help my household through this long stay-at-home winter, we each will have an extra-special calendar. This year, some folks are using one calendar to count down December, and a new calendar to count down between Christmas and Inauguration Day. A third advent calendar would take you from Inauguration Day to Valentines Day. A fourth would take you to March 11, close enough to the Spring Equinox (March 20) for me. Here are some great possibilities for our teens/adults:
If you’ve got younger ones at home, some great extra Advent Calendars include things like:
Take Time for Creativity
I have friends who make it a practice to take photos every day for a year. They’ve backed off a little, but are still regularly posting sunset photos.
Another friend made a Sky Scarf: using yarn from her stash, each day she knit one row that looked like the sky on that day.
If you already have a hobby, art or craft that you could lean into this winter, do so! If not, consider trying out some new practices. There are many artists out there who offer options for daily art inspiration. So far, I’ve enjoyed options from Laura Horn and Alisa Burke.
Our family is planning to take some time each week of December to create some ornaments for ourselves and to share with others. Etsy has many options including masked gingerbread people, felted mini balls, punch tin ornaments, and so much more.
If you’re an extrovert in need of more companionship, you might even want to invite a friend or two to do this in their own home too, and then meet virtually each week to discuss your art and life.
So many wise people are making the hard choice of not getting together with family or friends for the holidays this year in order to do what they can to keep COVID at bay. But just because you won’t be sharing the same air space doesn’t mean you can’t connect.
Set up Zoom calls with friends or family and bring home takeout from similar places to share a meal across the miles.
Use Teleparty (formerly Netflix Watch) to watch movies together with friends in different places.
Play games together from afar. When we do this, sometimes we zoom with an extra screen that is pointed to a game board in one house so that all the players can see the action. At other times we go through Steam with their thousands of online board games and computer games ready to play or through Tabletopia.
Moments of Simplicity
When my family and I were on sabbatical in France in 2011, I bought a big tin of European cookies like this one. Every night I would make hot cocoa, we would each get to pick two cookies, and we would sit in our darkening kitchen and talk about our day. It became a cherished part of the rhythm of our lives.
My sister lives in a rainy area, and she spends 15 minutes each morning walking outside, imagining her face soaking up the sun (or at least cloud-filtered light). This ritual helps balance her sleep/wake cycle and staves off seasonal affective disorder.
Whether you live alone or are part of a household, consider creating a morning or evening ritual to be your companion this winter.
And of course this is a perfect year to embrace the Danish/Norwegian concept of Hygge. Hygge is all about creating an atmosphere of cozy contentment. Instead of railing against the cold and dark, you prepare for it. Adjust your attitude and your surroundings, and enjoy what this season has to offer.
During much of the pandemic, my front porch has been my office. Now that the days are cooling off it might be natural to move inside. But I’m going to do what I can to embrace hygge for my home office. I’ll wear layers, a scarf, and if needed a comfortable coat. I’ll have a blanket on hand. I’ll keep a pot of hot tea by my side, and I’ll endeavor to continue to spend a good portion of my work time outside. (This, of course, is easier to do in North Carolina than in Manitoba!)
Each year when we “fall back” to standard time, my family begins lighting our porch not with a single light but with strings of tiny white lights. This is the first practice we put in place to embrace the increasing darkness.
We’ve spent the last few weeks considering different options for making a firepit in our front yard. We considered building our own, but I’m happy that instead we’ve decided on a Solo Stove which will make setup, fire time, and clean-up a breeze.
We’ll be pulling out a wide assortment of throws and wraps so that we each can have something to cuddle up with both inside as well as outside on our porch.
We’ll be lighting our Advent Wreath at dinner each night, but we may extend this candles-at-dinner practice all through the winter. We may take up the practice of before bed hot cocoa time again.
If you’d like to lean into hygge this year, check out The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen
What ideas do you have about how to cherish the winter of 2020? What tips and hints can you share with us? Leave a comment below. Or contact me if you’d like to work with a coach about how to embrace the Winter of 2020.