by Tom Sims
I know it is a very unusual and challenging year and it has the potential to suck the life out of the holidays. However, it can also be an occasion for making them more special than ever.
I confess. For me to write about scaling back on Christmas may create a credibility gap for some. My wife and I have been doing it for years, little by little, bit by bit, decoration by decoration, dollar by dollar. On the other hand, it may add an air of “It can be done” to the discussion. That being acknowledge, this year takes everything to a new level. You might say a “new low,” but it could be a “new high.” It might just be another dimension.
There was a year we visited family in Virginia, and there was a freeze with a snowstorm. All the power went out. Mom had a fireplace and a wood stove, but both chimneys needed cleaning on Christmas Eve. Have you ever tried to find a chimney sweep on Christmas Eve? My wife did. We built a warm fire for comfort and cooked on the woodstove and an outdoor grill. It was a lovely gathering on Christmas Day. But we were together. And it was the first time in years.
We lost power once in San Jose. It was just the four of us. We went to Denny’s. It was also a lovely time, but we had somewhere to go.
In my time, there have been many occasions for adaptability and many times we have been unable to spend much money. Now, we simply choose not to spend much money.
Personally, for me, since I value family year-round and my extended family lives across the country, the holidays are about the music. Andrea and I love attending the Christmas Eve services at one of the churches in our city that still has a full choir and orchestra. That will not happen this year, but we will have music.
We will also have some baking.
And we will have texts, emails, and phone calls to family.
But, back to music.
Music of the Soul is a Facebook page I set up to cater to myself and people who share my eclectic tastes in music and the arts. During the holidays, there will be many songs posted there to enjoy and keep you in the festive spirit. You can also create a seasonal playlist on YouTube of favorites you run across. One of my current collections is every virtual choir I can find.
Advent Devotionals or the equivalent in your faith or spiritual practice can make the season meaningful for you. This has become increasingly meaningful to me in both reading them and writing them. Choose a book, a series online, or your own program and go through it daily. Share thoughts from it with people in your home and with friends online. I will be posting some daily at facebook.com/tomsims and at pastortomsims.com. If you want to learn how to set up your own blog, I can help you. Write to me at pastortomsims@gmail[dot]com.
Take part in Giving Tuesday … and Wednesday, Thursday, and every day. Many community benefit organizations are having a hard time raising money right now, but their work goes on. Visit Giving Tuesday in Fresno on Facebook to find out about local needs in the Central Valley. Make raising money for non-profits a family activity during the holidays.
Create New Recipes and share them with the world. You can share them and pictures or videos of them at Eat Well Fresno or anywhere. Just contact the administrator and ask for posting privileges.
Epiphany is a great holiday that completes Christmas for Christians. Make the holidays count by stretching them out to Epiphany in January or by doing some version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Keep it simple and cheap.
In fact, start on Christmas Day and, for the next twelve days, write Christmas notes to people with whom you have lost touch. Call, write, email, and text people.
Artistic Endeavors. Do something artistic you have never done before. Search YouTube for ideas.
Give Creative Gifts. This year, make or think up gifts that do not require shopping or spending. Use your imagination.
Plan a Family Zoom Party with stories, poems, songs, videos. If you have kids, make it a talent show. Have everyone make similar dishes for snacks and share the recipes as well as screen shots of them. End the evening with a watch party watching your favorite holiday movie together.
Make Video Cards for family and friends. Instead of Christmas cards, record your cards and send them electronically. You can include songs, poems, or just personal greetings in your own voice with your own smile.
Build a Story. Set up a Facebook group, page, or even, just a message thread for your family and friends. One person can start the holiday story and others can contribute. Build upon what the last person posted and see where it goes.
Crafts. Make things. What else can I say? Get ideas online and share the results of your work by posting pictures.
Develop New Exercises since your gym is closed. Do presses against the kitchen counter. Find creative ways to use the furniture to build muscles and endurance. Take videos of your efforts and, yes, record your results.
Learning is always fun. When I have time, I like to learn about new things. There are so many free courses online. Why not find something the whole family can learn together?
Service to Others. Turn some of the ideas above into projects to serve other people. Some volunteering may not be possible, but you can look for things you can do in your neighborhood for people while maintaining safe distance.
Take a Trip Down Memory Lane by looking at old pictures, taking pictures of those pictures, and posting them online for friends and family. Focus on pictures of holidays past. Include pictures of your decorations this year as well.
Maximize your joy, fun, and togetherness in any way and every way you can.
Remember that it is sometimes the simplest holiday that turns out to be the best.