Raise your hand if you're familiar with the song, "We Need a Little Christmas."
Now, raise your hand if you know when that song originally appeared, and in what context.
For everyone else: it originated in the 1966 Broadway musical Mame, set at the beginning of the Great Depression. And the underlying theme was: I know the calendar says it's too early for Christmas decorations, but after this year I need all the cheerful holiday spirit I can get.
Sound very contemporary? This year, some homeowners started trimming their trees by the end of October. After a 2020 where everything imaginable seemed to go haywire, just about everyone is "needing all the cheerful holiday spirit I can get, right NOW!"
Whether or not your Santa inflatables are out of the garage yet, you may be feeling (as the song says) that you've "grown a little sadder" and life's "grown a little colder" this year. Especially if health concerns and/or economic difficulties mean your family will miss the usual visits to Grandma and/or community festivals and/or piles of gifts.
Thankfully, there are still many ways to bring a "little Christmas" spirit into your own household.
Denmark's population is noted for enjoying life-and in winter (not just the Christmas season), their hygge tradition illustrates that. Rather than any perceived obligation to throw huge gatherings and spend hundreds of dollars, hygge depends on finding contentment in coziness-physical snuggling, soft lights, hot food savored mindfully. Give your family lots of that this December-and be thankful that the 2020 slowdown has gifted you with more time for it.
Even if there'll be just three people "home for the holidays," those three deserve better Christmas dinner than cold-cut turkey on everyday plates. Smaller recipe or not, serve your regular holiday menu (you can always freeze the extra turkey) on your regular holiday dishes. If you've always been the guests, you can still cook whatever you would have brought to the party, and you can set a real table with special plates and cloth napkins. Continue whatever "gathering" traditions you can, from reviewing the year's blessings to playing Charades.
Besides being the next best thing to meeting in person, long-distance video conversation is easy and inexpensive these days. If you don't know how to organize a family Zoom chat or its equivalent, someone close by will: one of your children, or a friend you can telephone for instructions. If multiple households usually share the party, try to synchronize your holiday meals, so you can still eat (and talk) "together."
Traditionally-a tradition now too often lost in "holiday rush"-December included much time for reflection, prayer, and life review. For yourself and for the family as a group, set aside extra "quiet time" this year. Count 2020's unexpected blessings. List lessons learned. Make plans for 2021 and beyond. Remember that, whatever the challenges of the past year, you've come through them and you can still find all the holiday joy you need!