Planning for 2020 Holidays During COVID-19

Mid-October brought the arrival of Amazon Prime Days, along with Black Friday-like deals at a number of other retailers. Naturally, I started thinking about Christmas shopping and asked the kids to compile their wish lists, hoping I’d find their perfect present on deep discount. A few weeks ago, I heard a news report telling people to expect delays with mailing packages around the holidays, so I was hoping to avoid that crazy by shopping early. Yay me!

My husband and I started chatting about gifts and he said “So, will Thanksgiving and Christmas be virtual this year?” That stopped me in my tracks. I mean, I am fully aware we are in the middle of a pandemic. I’m also fully aware that it is not ending anytime soon. But hearing my husband mention our beloved holiday season possibly being reduced to a Zoom meeting took my breath away.

And yet, here we are. I mean, March through August lasted 3061 days, and the first quarter of school felt like an entire school year, but is it really time to prep our menus and holiday cards? Yes. And with COVID-19 still very much an active virus, our time spent with friends and family could look drastically different this season. So preparing now is probably prudent.

I’m insanely blessed with very flexible parents and in-laws. We have a rotating schedule of where we celebrate which holiday, and we are extremely fortunate that this year does not involve travel. Every other year, my side of the family gathers at Christmas, and we come from different areas of the country and Canada. Fortunately, we did that last Christmas, before the Canadian border was closed and we were in full lockdown. So this year, we were already just planning to gather with only people in a 10-mile radius. Or do we gather at all? My heart hurts just thinking about it.

Since school started, my kids have been spending school days with both sets of grandparents because they were in an all-virtual or hybrid schedule and my husband and I were both in the classroom full-time. When they are with them, they wear masks in the house. I suppose we could still do that, but what about when it’s time to eat, drink and be merry? The CDC recommends eating outside if possible, but rarely is that an option in the Midwest in November and December. Do we spread out in different rooms to eat, then don our masks for game-playing, puzzle-building and present-opening? We have barely seen my sister-in-law and her family since March, and when we did meet, it was 6-feet apart, on a driveway, with masks. Again, an outdoor gathering does not seem likely, so what will we do?

In my heart of hearts, I believe the best thing to do for our family is to celebrate the holidays alone, just the four of us. The thought of one of us potentially bringing something to a relative makes me so nervous. Do we want to be wearing masks around our family all day? Just as we did during lockdown in the spring, it’s time to get creative, people! We need to come up with ways to connect with friends and family if we can’t gather in person. Here are some ideas my husband and I have tossed around:

  • Create a family text thread and play holiday photo tag. Share old holiday photos and reminisce about days gone by.
  • Ask everyone to name a few of their favorite holiday songs, then create a playlist to play in the background while eating a meal or unwrapping gifts over Zoom.
  • Share a list of favorite family recipes, then take photos while cooking and afterwards to see the final product.
  • Before sitting down to eat, gather family on Zoom for a toast. Discuss things you’re thankful for, pray together, or reminisce about a favorite family holiday memory. 

While my heart hurts thinking of spending the holidays connecting with friends and family over Zoom, I know we can make this work. What creative ways do you have for celebrating the holidays this year?

Jen was born and raised in Overland Park. After going to Indiana University for college, then living in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, she grew exhausted of circling for a parking spot and headed back home to be near family. She and her husband Matt are parents to a 10 year-old boy and a 8 year-old girl. Jen teaches kindergarten and her husband teaches high school, so they wonder how they’ll relate to their kids during the middle school years. She spends her free time cheering on the Chiefs, Royals, and Hoosiers, hanging out with family, laughing with her teacher friends, and fostering a love/hate relationship with boxing. She also loves traveling, Target, coffee, wine, sunflowers and all things pop culture.