• on 14 December 2020
  • By

Johnathan Thomas, MBA, PhD, D.DIV

After a dampener of a year that stole festivals, celebrations, reunions, and all the related joys of a normal course of life, it is time to think about Christmas. If all goes well, there may be a vaccine in place against COVID by then and the pandemic itself may have entered a declining phase, heading into slow oblivion. That is the glass half full view of things.

The grimmer side is that the pandemic may enter a renewed phase of active infection which may send countries hurrying to close boundaries and keep populations indoors all over again. So how do you plan ahead for Christmas? If there is one thing you can be sure about right now, it is that Christmas will look nothing like it has in the past. You may have to think twice about visiting Santa or even family.

The Rockettes’ Annual Christmas Show has been canceled and this comes as no surprise, since most of the country’s theaters and cultural centers continue to remain closed. Most of the promised shows and tours by prominent musicians have also been called off. All this does not mean that Christmas is canceled. It just means you have to be a bit more creative about making it another joyful and meaningful memory for you and your loved ones.

Here are FIVE ways in which you can plan for Christmas in a way that still promises some fun and quality time and does not hinge on the opinions of the pandemic.

1.) Meet up with those in your social bubble

A recent study showed that as many as 51% of Americans feel that they will not get to spend Christmas with extended family or friends this year. This cannot be too far from what the rest of the country feels. And it is heartbreaking because it is Christmas that makes the heart grow fondest. This is when you really miss the people who exasperate you every other day of the year.

But there is no reason to despair — what it points to is the fact that family bonding and holiday merriment will need to be more virtual in nature this year. In the new normal of social distancing, it may even be kinder to elderly parents and relatives to stay away and reach out with a nice gesture instead.

Being together in spirit instead of being physically present, in the hope of many more Christmases to be spent together, will be the essence of Christmas everywhere for this year. Accepting this notion right away and keeping your family members prepared is the safest and most practical way to plan ahead for the year-end in 2020. Plan B though it may be, plan a special lunch with those you already interact with and keep the spirit of the holidays alive for all.

2.) Travel short distances — safe locations

That exotic year-end destination you have dreamed about for ages may put you in quarantine for the entire holiday season this year! Since the shape of travel outside the country is difficult to predict right now, it may be safer to stick to small, manageable plans for the year.

Your best bet? Camping! Head for a National Park you have never visited or simply plan a road trip across states you have always meant to visit. Let physically distanced travel be the main consideration. You will be thankful to be away from the crowds jostling in airports and the extended procedures in view of the pandemic.

Plan a cancellation-proof holiday by going DIY. If possible, avoid staying in hotels or motels too and live up to the camping dreams you have always carried in your heart. This could be the best opportunity to create some new experiences and memories.

3.) Year-end fun and experiences

Those year-end Christmas special events and galas you were planning to book tickets for in advance are either already canceled or not announced at all. But fret not — by year-end, keeping in view the challenges and opportunities relevant for that time, there will be a whole new Christmas in sight.

It may not be what you imagined, but you can count on event organizers and big brands to have something for you and your family to look forward to. Of course, the overarching concern everywhere will be social distancing.

Look for small events in your locality instead of heading to more crowded public spaces. Or better still, plan your own fun nights in your backyard if you are staying in. Bring in the biggest tree you have ever had. Make decorations at home as a family. Have your own tree-lighting ceremony. It will be a DIY Christmas like none other! And the kids will remember it for a lifetime.

4.) Gifts, gifts, gifts!

Now, this is one aspect of Christmas that no one can take away from you! The joy of gifting and receiving gifts can — and should — go on as planned. In fact, why not be a tad more generous this year, considering everything the family has been through and everything you have all had to give up?

The only thing to remember here is to plan early and maybe even start stocking up and buying early. Again, the shape of things to come in December is as yet unclear and there is also likely to be a huge rush that could affect deliveries at the year-end.

This may not be the year to wait for the best sales as stocks are not as certain as they used to be. If there is any particular gift item you have had your eye on, it is better to get in touch with the retailer (or e-tailer) early enough and make sure you or your loved ones are not deprived of this bit of Christmas joy.

5.) Create a new family tradition

Do something in your neighborhood that you have never done before. Maybe volunteer for social service. Organize a clothes drive for the homeless. Join a caroling group. Do something deeply meaningful that you have never done before, and it could just be the start of a beautiful new holiday tradition.

The wise thing to do right now seems to be to plan a Christmas that cannot be shaken or stirred by the temperaments of the virus. Quiet, socially distanced, and intimate. More of Netflix than Broadway. More of nights in than nights out.

Whatever December may bring, one thing it cannot steal is the spirit of Christmas. Just as we have adapted to a lot of what is being called “the new normal” we will also adapt to new ways to celebrate Christmas. And it will continue to be as heart-warming as ever.