Holiday Planning…During a Plague

Stock market watchers often talk about whether “this time it’s different”: Does this bull market reflect the same conditions as the last one? Is this downturn different from the one just before the last recession?

This time, is it different?

Almost always, circumstances might be different, but business cycles are more or less the same. The market goes up, it goes down, but generally has continued to advance.

Last month I posed a different question to a group of colleagues about whether this time it’s different: With pumpkin spice and holiday treats everywhere since we hit Labor Day, will holiday planning need to be different this year? No Trick-or-Treating? Probably not the usual travel to grandma’s? Maybe not to church or temple, and families and friends not gathering/celebrating in the usual way.

A colleague in Florida said he’s planning to have holiday celebrations with family and travel as per usual, and they’re hosting a wedding. Because, Florida.

For everyone else, there has been a swell of guidance about staying safe through the rest of 2020. West Coast states (California, Oregon, Washington) have issued Covid-19 travel advisories, urging a 14-day quarantine before mixing households. Here in Washington state, we’ve started a new four-week stay-at-home order, from November 16th until December 14th:

  • Indoor gatherings are restricted to the immediate household members, unless others participating have self-quarantined for two weeks prior to the get-together and had a negative Covid test 48 hours before
  • Indoor dining at restaurants is prohibited
  • Receptions for weddings and funeral are prohibited, ceremonies are limited to 30 people
  • Movie theatres and gyms are closed
  • Retail and grocery stores, as well as religious services are limited to 25% capacity

So, that’s bleak. Many of the things most of us do to enjoy (or survive) the holidays are off limits. But many are not, or can be reimagined. So let’s concentrate on those. This is an opportunity to focus on the meaning of the holidays, rather than the hype, and to make the end of 2020 more positive and hopeful than it could be otherwise.

Who’s up for some disruption?

Governor Jay Inslee and First Lady Trudi Inslee spoke directly to Washingtonians, reaching out to ask everyone to reconsider gatherings in our homes, calling this sacrifice an act of love to keep each other safe. They ask that we join them in changing up the 2020 holidays so that we’ll all be here for the holidays next year.  Could some of these changes have silver linings?

Yes, you might not be traveling to the old homestead as usual…

…which means you avoid travel hassles.  Delayed flights, packed airplanes, the crush getting out of the city just before the holiday.

…which means missing the conversation (or one-way diatribe) with your diametrically-opposed relative.

…which means maybe less drinking / overeating / other method of self-medicating to cope.

And one for the singletons…which means not having to explain why you are still single

There are other ways to still *see* family and share the holidays, despite physical limitations. This past weekend’s style sections offered a host of Ideas for a Virtual Thanksgiving.

So many of our holiday traditions center around food. Many still can. But for one year only, you can also mix it up, to share, pass along, or skip a favorite dish.

Yes, you usually pull off a Thanksgiving turkey / Christmas goose / Solstice field roast…
….but is it still a labor of love? Or maybe just labor (that you can skip this year with a bulletproof excuse)?

….but who really likes turkey? And who doesn’t stress about it? Maybe this year, let it go. Have chicken, or lasagna, or mac-and-cheeseburgers (see below)! 

…but ordering take-out or delivery from your favorite restaurant supports local business when they need it (order a special meal a day early or a day later if they won’t be open on the holiday). Order meal delivery for other family members or friends who live elsewhere from their favorite places as a special treat.

Maybe 2020 is the year to: Try new food / new restaurants / new cocktails

  • The Seattle Times’ Food Writer Tan Vinh recently wrote up his five comfort food favorites in the area.  Yes, a mac-and-cheeseburger is a thing.
  • If you can’t share a meal, share a recipe
  • If you can’t share a recipe, share a meal.  Food pantries are overwhelmed. Offer donations to a local food bank, find one near you.
  • If not a meal, bake to end hunger, one loaf of bread at a time.
  • Try a new cocktail: many restaurants will deliver cocktail kits and other adult beverages to your door.

Gift giving (or bargain hunting) can be central to getting your holiday groove on. Start some holiday shopping and go for impact where you can: supporting local artisans, stores and makers now may mean the difference in having them still be here when we are through the pandemic.

Many local businesses have pivoted to online storefronts, making it easier to support your local economy. Many are also taking action to give back to their communities. Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood launched a Black Friday fundraiser in 2013 – Ballard Gives Back — to encourage socially conscious and local gift shopping. This year they’ve added the Ballard Alliance’s virtual marketplace.

Participating shops are open IRL too – with strict health guidelines in place.

Those of you with social justice intent, discover new shops to support:

DoneGood notes that we give $400 billion to charity every year but spend $130 trillion annually buying everyday stuff. Don’t overlook the day-to-day power of your pocketbook.

With touch football and other contact sports off the table, there are other options for getting outside. Local outdoor equipment manufacturer and travel company, REI, started its #OptOutside campaign in 2015 to reflect its mission of outdoor exploration. Initially as a countermeasure to the consumerism of Black Friday, REI closes both its retail stores AND its online shop the Friday after Thanksgiving, giving employees the day off. The highly successful campaign (garnering a 7000% increase in social impressions and 2.7 billion media impressions in its first 24 hours) has grown into a cultural movement. Be part of it! Until the weather is too much, get outside for a walk, a hike, a neighborhood stroll, and connect with nature. On its website, REI offers a guide to recreating responsibly in Covid times.

Light it Up!
Add to your holiday light display, or make a plan to get out for a walk or drive to enjoy the lights in your neighborhood. Check out this list of holiday events in the Seattle area for 2020. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Datebook offers a guide to lights and other holiday-themed events. (Check for changes to events before you head out, as restrictions in your area may change quickly.)

Host a video holiday Happy Hour with the Other Coast friends you were planned to have visit this year…Play online Mahjong over Zoom…Watch a movie or digital event with family and friends near and far. You can find guides to get your tech set up, here, here and here.

Connect with nature – Take a walk.
Connect with art – Tour a museum online.
Connect with music – Find an online performance.
Connect with the written word – Write a letter.
Connect with spirit – Check on where you can worship online.
Connect with self – Read a book. Take a bath. Have a nap.

Thanksgiving this year will be different. If you are housed, warm, fed, and Covid-19-free, give thanks. If your family is all still with us, be glad. If you need a new quarantine activity, consider a gratitude practice: Gratitude changes you and your brain.

Not exactly the top of the holiday wish list, but if you haven’t already, get a flu shot. See your doctor and dentist, or use this time to learn how to access telemedicine. Don’t put off self-care. Your health – physical, mental and emotional –  is one of your greatest assets, and it’s worth protecting.

In Washington state, we’ll be coming out of this new time at home just in time for the Winter Solstice, on December 21st. The shortest day of the year, the Solstice marks the beginning of Winter. From this point, the natural world will offer us brighter days ahead.

During a year in which many of us feel like our lives are not our own, we have some power. Use it! What can you do to change things up? If there was ever a year to flip the script….

The decisions we make in our homes could be the biggest factor in getting everyone we love safely through the pandemic, and getting us all back into the world. This year has been so phenomenally weird on a global scale, let’s pay it back by disrupting the heck out of this year’s holiday season.

Happy holidays – stay safe – onward to brighter days ahead!


For more holiday planning guidelines:
CDC guidelines on holiday celebrations and small gatherings
AARP’s 7 questions to ask while planning for holidays
Holiday travel planning from the American Red Cross
UW Medicine’s guide to COVID-19 Holiday Safety