Record highs in Covid-19 cases, hospitals across Europe overloaded, healthcare workers on their knees and hearts breaking from being torn apart from families during the holidays. Due to circumstances we should not travel, but must find unique ways to stay connected.
Virtual caroling: My daughter a doctor in Minneapolis area will be working over the holidays to help stem the tide, but she figured out a way to connect with her grandparents in Illinois. We are going caroling at their virtual doorstep. We practiced a list of Christmas songs on line; I played my guitar in Switzerland and she sang Silent Night, Drummer Boy, Winter Wonderland and other old favorites.
Phone calls have never been more comforting especially with WhatsApp era where we can see one another’s faces on the screen.
Read books like The Night Before Christmas, Polar Express and How The Grinch Stole Christmas together on Skype with grandchildren, who are quarantined thousands of miles apart from you.
Set up a zoom call where everyone gathers from their own living room. One friend’s family made the Sunday dinner Zoom call a weekly tradition to keep up on her kids in the Carolinas, Massachusetts and Minnesota. Or set up a family games night.
Write an old fashioned card with your own words or better yet a letter. When was the last time you received a real letter in the mail that could be read and reread and cherished forever?
Put up the Tannenbaum. Through the dreary dark days of winter, we wake up to the twinkle of the white lights on our tree.
Light a candle. Say the name out loud in honor of the memory of everyone you have lost this year. Give a word of thanks for each friend and loved one who remains a part of your life even though you may be separated by distance.
Bake cookies – sugar cookies, gingerbread, spritz. Fill the house with the aroma of warm frosting and melting butter.
Hang outdoor decorations. European villages have always put twinkling lights in the chateaus, town halls and corner cafe windows. This year even individual home owners are stringing outdoor lights in neighborhoods to bring joy during this time of darkness where people are confined to homes.
Hold a baby. My niece and nephew-in-law took Covid tests in order to travel safely from their home in Wisconsin to Illinois to introduce their new baby, Hadley Marie, to her great grandparents. My 86-year-old mom, who recently lost her brother to Covid-19, became teary eyed holding her first great grandchild in the circle of life.
In a year where it is especially difficult to feel gratitude, appreciating the giving spirit of the holidays and understanding the value of kind words, thoughtful gestures and strong connections year round has never been more important.
Like so many others, the pain of being apart at this season is especially acute, but it also reminds me of how lucky I am to be loved and to love so much that it hurts.
In the meantime, I focus on the memories of favorite foods, surprise gifts and special traditions from previous get together and practice my singing fa la la la la la la la until we can be reunited again.