Okay, so as I described in this space back in the era I now call Early Pandemic, all of us who are seeking to be as pandemically responsible as possible are back to high alert (some of us never really came back down from it), trying to keep ourselves and others alive and reach toward healthy holidays in these challenging times. Despite the best efforts of those of us who continue to be as pandemically precautious as possible in the US, though, we’re in the middle of the worst wave of infections yet, in large part because of unhealthy leadership encouraging COVID denial and minimization at the expense of public health. The CDC is strongly discouraging travel over the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, and I suspect the same is around the corner for Christmas.
The “Too Long, Didn’t Read” Answer (But Keep Reading!)
So how do we cope with this challenge? Well, those who follow closely should know my TL;dr answer: we do what we can where we are with what we’ve got to keep working toward a better world for us all. The challenge is to translate that to reaching toward healthy holidays in 2020.
Translating the AS Charge to Pandemic Holidays 2020
But what does that look like in today’s pandemic holiday circumstances? That’s what this article is all about. Specifically, it talks about ideas for how we can continue to connect with loved ones without gathering with them in person, especially not inside.
Side Note: Don’t Forget to Keep Speaking Up Against the Toxic Crap!
An important side note: You should absolutely also keep speaking up against the toxic crap that’s out there as you enact or adapt whatever works for you from the below list. As last week’s expert guest blogger Lee McEntyre reminded us, there is good reason to keep speaking up against misinformation and disinformation just now. Go read that post if you need an incisive analysis and encouragement in that direction.
Focusing on How We Can Connect
But today, we’ll be talking about how to offer connection to loved ones and others who are lonely at these times while assertively saying no to in-person gatherings as much as is feasible, especially indoor ones. The goal? To reach toward literally healthy holidays as well as we can.
Collaboration Is Part of the Gig
Quick disclaimer: Some of the ideas here are contributed by other friends and AS followers or are ones that have come across my social media feeds. They have either been passing on ideas, often from indeterminate sources, or asked not to have attributions assigned. I love this. We do best when we work together toward a healthier and more connected world for us all!
Let’s Start at the Very Beginning: Some *Can’t* Responsibly Distance
Okay, so before I dive into this list, let’s be clear: not everyone is ethically able to stay fully socially distanced during these holidays, and it’s important to recognize that it is for their sake that those of us who can must keep doing what we can.
This list includes essential workers, especially healthcare workers. It also includes people with coparenting agreements that are being court-ordered to comply with holiday kid transfers.
If you are one of these people or someone in a similar category I may not have mentioned, may you stay as safe as possible while you undertake your difficult responsibilities. May the rest of us support you, but in a socially distanced manner.
And may the rest of us stay as distanced as is feasible. A healthy holidays to us all, as much as is possible. May all of us reach toward that goal the best we can.
A Reminder Why Distanced Holidaying Is So Hard: Our Wiring
It’s hard, though. And for good reason. As I remind my interpersonal communication students regularly, we are wired for close relationships, and we use the word “close” as a metaphor for intimacy for good reason. As Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski remind us in their excellent book Burnout, a 20 second hug is one of the things that can take us through a lot of stress processing. (Man, do I miss regular hugs—and I’m not even a hugger!)
So yeah, it’s not just a cultural thing, but a hard-wired thing that we want to be in person with people. And yet…when we can, it’s more loving right now to socially distance, as our health care system is in its worst crisis yet.
It’s Also REALLY Cultural
It’s not all wiring, though, this desire to get together in person this time of year—it’s also incredibly cultural. And these particular holidays and their timing and expected formats are especially cultural.
In the US, we gather together in honor of Thanksgiving because certain people thought a certain version of history was important to commemorate and for many employers to give many people the day off to celebrate (one that is pretty d*mned colonialist, let’s be honest—and ended up being about spreading disease, ironically).
Christmas, too, is really incredibly cultural about how it is observed and celebrated (and has been politicized in a very unhealthy zero-sum way, as I described in a previous piece).
Remembering “Those Other” Holidays
But these aren’t the only holidays that are being celebrated at this time—there are many religious and other holidays clustering at the end of the year.
People Are Often Being Stubborn in Unwise Ways
And let’s face it, the drive to have so much in person gathering right now is deeply partisan in many circles, driven by those who simply don’t believe this virus is a big deal.
Here’s the thing, though—it’s not an all or nothing proposition. It’s not a question of “holidays under fire because Democrats hate them and want to control us.” Nope. Just nope.
No, it’s a question of “how can we best connect with each other during these holidays in the midst of the constraints placed upon us by this virus and the need to keep ourselves and others safe in the face of it”?
In short, it’s how we can do our best to love others and reach toward literally healthy holidays in light of external constraints.
It’s Not a Zero-Sum Game
The truth is, we can absolutely connect across the distance, especially now, when technology allows for that so relatively easily. It’s not the same, no, but the suggestions I’m offering below can help to bridge a lot of the difference for those willing to make the effort.
May We Remember Those Who Are Usually Left Out
One of the most interesting/disturbing things to me is that those making these unwise arguments about why we must get together in person are some who are the least inclusive people. They don’t seem to care about the people who are usually left out, those who Jesus said should be gathered in for the feast from the highways and byways.
But we can be concerned about gathering these people in as well as possible, while ALSO doing it in a pandemically precautious way.
May this pandemic holiday season remind those who regularly receive the privilege of having time off remember those who don’t, now and every year.
And may those who are used to celebrating with family remember those who don’t have that privilege, now and every year, including those who are separated from family through trauma responses, other disabilities, deaths, and other reasons.
May we all remember to reach out to all kinds of marginalized and vulnerable populations, both in COVID era and beyond.
How to Reach Out: The Nitty Gritty
So it’s time to get down to it. Let’s say you desire to stay connected to friends or family this 2020 holiday season, but are able to avoid holiday travel and gatherings with those outside your home or isolation pod/quaranteam. How do you reach out and connect across the distance?
Here are a few rough ideas (remember you can adapt these to whatever holiday or non-holiday practices you may wish to—I’m creating this list to be adapted as needed, and am offering it in very little particular order):
- Use Zoom and Other Video Chat Platforms. To start with, Zoom is globally removing the 40 minute cap at least in the 24 hours around US Thanksgiving, so that’s a great time to connect with others in a more unlimited way on a platform nearly everyone now knows, at least a bit.
- Eat (or drink) and/or cook together from a distance via video chat such as Zoom. Whether you coordinate food or each order or cook it together, eat together (but distanced) at the same time.
How might this work? One pandemically responsible restaurant in a town I know is offering curbside on US Thanksgiving with individually packaged local Thanksgiving feasts ready to be dropped off at different houses so you can all eat together via Zoom, etc. If you have people in different locations, find out what’s going on in each town regarding curbside and delivery for local restaurants. If you have people in need or sick, send or drop off ready made food or send them money via venmo or PayPal!
- Like to play cards or games together? There are online platforms for that. One I just heard about is Trickster Cards—there’s an app for that, and it doesn’t require a login to play multiple popular card games. I haven’t played it myself, but I know others who have. I do know it makes space for people “watching” the game, too. If you miss the getting together option, a lot of these can be combined with the phone or videochat platforms like Zoom to offer more space for “feeling together.”
- Watching shows or movies together from a distance. Streaming services have made it difficult to watch things together on places like Zoom if you don’t have the same services, but if you have access to the same media, you can watch together from a distance and call or message/text snarky comments back and forth during the show or movie. (I’ve been doing this with distanced friends during the pandemic—it’s not the same as being in the same living room, but it works.)
- Virtually attend worship services together for those who may wish to (try not to be snarky with those who don’t!).
- Send thoughtful gifts. If possible, try to support local businesses while you do. Optionally, have package-opening gatherings on Zoom. For instance, early in pandemic a friend who was dealing with a pandemic pregnancy was experiencing a lot of anxiety, so I found a local bookstore in her community that took orders over the phone and dropped the books on her doorstep for free. If you don’t have much money, mail, a phone or Zoom call, or even just staying in touch via messages can help offer a personal touch to help someone feel less lonely.
- Miss singing or musical instruments together? Have a phone or Zoom singalong!
- Online Dance party! Do a dance party on Zoom, where one person provides the music via phone or video chat and everyone dances to it.
- Exercise Together: Have someone screenshare an online exercise program on Zoom (such as yoga) and do it together.
- Have everyone do facials or pedicures together from their own homes.
- Have everyone paint something together on Zoom while sipping on their own choice of beverage and snacks. (Or, you know, just have a happy hour.)
- Miss traveling? Take each other on glamorous tours of each other’s living spaces, or create a venue, whether on social media or elsewhere, to post or collect pics past or present of outdoor activities you might have been able to safely do.
- Mourning a death or had to have a smaller wedding or other celebration/ritual than usual? Schedule a Zoom time or times when everyone can share stories or commemorate the occasion from their own living spaces in a safe and distanced way. Record it if you can!
Obviously, these, too, are all culturally defined suggestions. I hope they inspire you to adapt them as needed.
Whatever you choose, if you try to collect multiple people together, keep the following in mind toward inclusion:
- Ask about people’s abilities and needs and adapt to that where you can.
- Keep it all mostly digital if everyone has access and abilities to get there. If you have multiple people gathered together because you live together, etc. and are trying to fold in distanced family members, sound can be a challenge if there are a bunch of people running around. (This is an insight from being an educator this fall–I’m sooooo glad I was teaching all on Zoom, having heard horror stories of those who were trying to mix and match some participating online and some in person.)
- If you have people across time zones, try to pick a time when most people can be involved.
- Help those who need help with technology. Try to offer assistance for those who might not know the technology. Also consider
- Offer a space for negative emotions and sadness as well as the experience of joy when possible. This article explains why. It’s been a rough year for almost everyone–let’s offer space for everyone to work through their stress by feeling the feels.
- Think ahead and try to plan a space for in-person meeting when things really do get better.
Well, this could go on for awhile, but I’ll stop here. I hope this list, imperfect as it may be, could help inspire you toward ideas for safely celebrating with others from a distance.
Whatever you end up doing, friends, I hope you continue toward literally assertively standing up for a healthier world for us all.
A Final Charge
Go team #AssertiveSpirituality! Let’s figure out ways to stand up for a more healthily connected world across the distances required for public health. We can do this thing.
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