Toward the end of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, the 1964 animated television special, a huge blizzard threatens Santa’s ride to deliver presents to all the children of the world. After receiving a weather report he says to Mrs. Claus, “We’ll have to cancel Christmas.” Before he drops the bad news to his crew he spies Rudolph’s red nose and Santa realizes that the blinking beacon will save Christmas.
How could Christmas be cancelled?
Even as a small girl, I questioned this plot twist. Despite a historic blizzard, Christmas wouldn’t be canceled if Santa couldn’t bring the doll I coveted. We still had our tree glittering with glass bulbs and homemade ornaments. Colored lights spanned our front porch. My dad played a constant stream of holiday music that emanated from our monolithic stereo console. Christmas was already here! How could it be canceled?
2020 IS the colossal storm threatening to cancel our usual holiday plans. Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention is recommending smaller gatherings this year, inviting only those individuals within your close family unit. If you do choose to congregate, the CDC has compiled exhaustive lists of recommendations to help keep celebrations safe.
My husband and I had planned to drive down to Texas over Thanksgiving to celebrate with my son and his girlfriend, but decided it wasn’t worth the risk. Also, before the pandemic, we wanted to fly out to Northern California in late December to spend time with my oldest son and his wife. Instead we will toast them all during scheduled video chats.
These scrapped trips broke my mama heart. I mourned, yet, also felt a profound sense of peace. Holiday traditions are not etched in bedrock. They may evolve, bend, twist, and shift, and 2020 is slamming us with the biggest shift of all.
I asked a group of friends, how they maintained their balance in this most unbalanced of holiday seasons.
Advice for this holiday season
1. Honor others’ decisions
You may not agree, but it is important not to hurl accusations. Everyone has their own levels of safety and comfort. Honor them. Oh, and don’t forget to honor yourself.
Sue Wood Englert, a college sorority sister told me,
This will sound strange, but this year I will let go of guilt for “not being there.” I always feel a bit guilty for not traveling to see my mom, but this year it could be dangerous for her if we did.
2. Dismiss the guilt and follow your own compass.
Let go of “what you’ve always done” and make room for other paths.
Who knows? You may end up incorporating some of 2020 changes into your future traditions. How about embracing the concept of an “old fashioned Christmas, but also taking advantage of current technology?
Mary Kay Thompson, a bookclub friend, says,
We will put up the tree and decorate minimally. We plan to use Zoom during our holiday meals, and if possible open presents together.
3. Set free the old expectations, and allow for simpler (and perhaps even better) ones to take their place.
Offer grace to others, just as you’d like it extended to you
For many of us, grace is before the holiday meal. We hold hands as we recite our gratitude. But, perhaps, grace is more than a few words before the turkey. “I think one way to maintain some grace is to acknowledge that we’re missing family and not hide those difficult emotions. We need to remember also that this is temporary. There will be an end; this too shall pass,” says Tonya Kelly.
Betsy Curlin, an old friend, says,
I feel like this is a season of my life and I just need to embrace it the best I can. It will pass. We will be able to get together in the future, just not right now. I’m already thinking of the stories we can tell the grandchildren in the years ahead about surviving 2020!
Grace is empathy. Grace is forgiveness. Grace is love.
4. Give from your heart, practice gratitude, hang on to hope.
My dear friend Ann says,
An “Old Fashioned” Christmas is about connecting to our loved ones. Aren’t we fortunate that we can text, call, or email? Or Zoom or Face Time! We aren’t pining away for a letter, we can connect instantly. We should be grateful. None of us ‘needs’ any more stuff. We should donate to the people in our communities who are facing hardship, and we should be grateful that we have food in the pantry and a solid house for shelter.
Kevin Beebe, a friend and Lutheran minister, says,
Gratitude leads us to pause and search the horizons of hope for one moment to give thanks for the hope we’ve already found. It grants us a moment of rest in the never-ending journey of hope—for God and/or for an end to the pandemic. Gratitude is a rock cairn on the road.
Each time we pause to build it, we rest and give thanks and mark a moment in which hope became reality. We can look back on the cairns of gratitude from before and find strength to keep going, keep seeking hope.
Gratitude teaches us to see hope, not just in the future, but unfolding around us in the present. It trains us to see love and hope as real, tangible things. Without hope, we perish. Without gratitude, we will be unable to find hope.
In How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, another holiday classic, the Grinch learns Christmas cannot be stolen. Even though he confiscates the Whos’ baubles, Christmas comes anyway. When he hears the sweet voices over the hills, he experiences a life-changing “aha” moment.
So welcome the holidays, even if they are smaller, peculiar, or even a little weird. Light the menorah. Decorate the tree. Pass the kikombe cha umoja, the Kwanza unity cup. Ring in the new year over Zoom. Grow your hearts and carve that roast beast.
He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!…
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!…
Welcome Christmas while we stand
Heart to heart and hand to hand.How the grinch stole christmas
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! book and lyrics by Theodore Geisel.