It’s September! The autumn leaves are just starting to turn their brilliant reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. People are headed out to the apple orchards and cider mills. They are getting their warmer clothes out of storage. It also means the holiday season is nearly upon us and it’s time to start thinking about what we want this year to be like.
COVID-19 has certainly turned the world upside down. It’s likely that the global pandemic will still be going strong throughout the remainder of 2020. This means that our holidays may be affected. Our holiday gatherings may be smaller, and we may have to wear facemasks with our holiday outfits. We will likely still be social distancing at the office Christmas party if we have a party at all.
COVID-19 doesn’t have to remove all the joy of the season.
With a little bit of advanced planning and emotional work, we can make this year’s main holidays ones to remember.
Here’s our Early Holiday Preparation Guide to help get you started!
- Set expectations.
One of the most important things you can do right now to prepare for the holidays this year, is to think about what you expect from the upcoming holiday season. Undoubtedly your expectations will be different than in non-pandemic years. Spend some good, quality time thinking about what might be the reality of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years 2020. Who will you spend each holiday with? Where will you be for each big day? What budget are you giving yourself for gifts and other holiday essentials? For whom are you expecting to buy gifts this year? Asking these questions ahead of time and thinking about the answers with a clear head will help you to manage emotions later in the heat of the holiday moments.
- Set aside finances now.
People spend an enormous amount of money for the end of year holidays. Whether we are buying gifts or special food and drinks or decorations, our finances take a big hit. If you haven’t already started doing so, start putting aside some money in a special savings account now so you have a cushion when the bills start piling up. That will help reduce some money-related stress and will provide peace of mind, allowing you to enjoy the holidays, rather than worrying how you’re going to pay for it all later.
- Prioritize Charitable Giving.
We’re just going to assume that you want to be a generous giver to your favorite charities at the end of the year. Not only do you get a tax write-off, but you also get to do some good in your city, your nation, and your world. Start to think about what charities you might want to give to. Explore their year-end projects and see how you can make the most positive difference through your giving. Some charities run matching campaigns in December. Giving to those will expand your gift and make a bigger impact for those in need. Deciding now how you want to give will help you make a better-informed decision, rather than relying on a last-minute emotional appeal on December 31.
- Plan your diet.
Let’s face it. We all overeat during the holidays. There are cookies and cakes and candies. There are turkeys and ham and stuffing and gravy. All of these special “once a year” treats eventually pile up and we end up loosening our belts one or two notches. The diet industry booms in January and we are ultimately filled with regret. This year, let’s ditch the regret and start now in planning how we will eat and exercise throughout the holiday season. Let’s make a commitment to fit into our skinny jeans in January. Yes, we can treat ourselves, but make a plan for how you’ll make careful food choices, and maintain an active lifestyle even when the cold weather hits.
- Organize your Commitments Carefully.
There are so many good, special, high-quality activities that go on during the holiday season. Most are meaningful and are worthy of photos and special outfits and an attitude of celebration. However, when we try to cram all of the activities into our schedule, we cannot enjoy them all. This year, think about which activities are truly most meaningful to you and commit to only those. As hard as it may be, pass on anything that doesn’t make the top cut. People will understand. Especially in this year of extra pandemic-related stress, we have to pick and choose our events carefully. Commit well to what inspires you and leave the rest.
Overall, make a renewed commitment to focusing on what matters. The last six months of quarantine and fear and illness and uncertainty have taught us all so many lessons. Let’s take all that learning into the holiday season and apply it in meaningful ways. Take time to explore the important aspects of the holidays. Reflect on what God has done in your life and in the lives of your loved ones.
Make goals for 2021 that will change the way that you live and that will create new boundaries and renewed priorities filled with love, generosity, and empathy for humankind. This holiday season can be one like no other. Let’s together commit to making it one to remember.