Silver lining, made of tinsel

When I was a child, we had Christmas carolers in our neighborhood. When they sang, they stared straight at me. The eye contact was more excruciating than when people sang happy birthday. To avoid it, I threw on a coat and joined them. My parents noticed familiar faces in the crowd and waved goodbye, assured I'd be safe.

It was wonderful. I stayed out late, fueled by cookies and hot cocoa. Looking back on it, it seems like another world. Do people even carol anymore?

Christmas car

I think we've all romanticized the idea of Christmas, and much like Clark Griswold, our ideas of what it should be don't align with our reality. Blame it on Bing Crosby and Hallmark movies, but I've got a touch of Griswolditis. I want to sing carols around the piano, but people tend to surround the TV instead. By the end of the day, I seem to have memorized all the offers at the local car dealerships, blaring at a ridiculous volume. Sledding and snowball fights are fun, but ears are muffled by headphones, faces buried in gaming consoles. With screaming kids, political headbutting and everything in between, the chaos dulls the merriment. 

The current pandemic has changed the way many of us will be celebrating this year. Smaller groups will be gathering, and many are lamenting the loss of their traditions. But what if 2020 serves as a year of reflection? Were the traditions meaningful, or just what we're used to? Maybe your aunt serves cheap wine and your in-laws get overly-competitive about presents with brand names.

Consider a smaller gathering a chance to try all the things you've wanted to do but were bound by obligation. Here are some silver linings and new things to try:

Pajamas all day: Ever see this tradition and want to try it, but were bound by well-dressed relatives? Now is your chance!

Yorkshire pudding and roast beed

The big taste test:  This holiday, treat yourself to something more elaborate! With a smaller group, you have less stress, more time, and can play around with new recipes. I adore Yorkshire pudding and roast beef, a traditional English dish for the holidays. Or try the Italian tradition of Feast of the Seven Fishes. Bon appetit!

Think about it: If you stay home with your immediate family, you're likely surrounded by people with like-minded political views. Exhale.

Stressed spelled backwards: Sick of your aunt's soggy pumpkin pie? Buck tradition with exciting new recipes. Your home will smell like warm sugar if you try baking pastries. You can stir up a batch of homemade ice cream, with chocolate and crushed candy canes.

chocolate peppermint ice cream


Time travel: Are you used to sitting on jammed freeways over the holidays? By staying home, or even in town, the gift of time has been handed to you. Do something special with it. Watch It's a Wonderful Life or do a virtual yoga class to work off that peppermint ice cream. 

Games: Now that you're in a small group, you have time for the intimate board games, like Scrabble, which has a four player max. You can play Cards Against Humanity without offending your staunch uncle Carl. An intimate game of chess goes well with a slice of chess pie!

As you plan your 2020 holiday, remember that if you look for the good in things, you'll always find it. It's the same if you look for the bad in things, so I'd stick with the silver lining.

I hope you find a new family tradition that suits you better than an old one. I hope you can share this tradition with extended family next year. Most of all, I hope you stay safe and healthy this holiday season. .  



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