As we enter December it’s hard to not notice that the holidays are indeed here! Many locals put up lights well before Thanksgiving, we can’t help but see the tree lots and how do we forget all the guidelines, requirements and suggestions from last week’s Thanksgiving? This may leave us to feel a little sad, confused and even worried about the time ahead. Is the happiest and most magical time of the year canceled? No, it’s not canceled!  There are still new and different ways to celebrate and even connect with loved ones. Is it the same? No. Is it ok to feel a whole lot of different feelings about it? Of course! But if you think about it, we all now have a new opportunity to give each other a much-needed gift of protection by finding new ways of connection. The gift of health, that’s a pretty awesome gift to give!

Here are some festive, fun and contact-free new ways to try connecting over the next several weeks:

Virtual Game Show Cook-Off: Challenge friends/family to a game show style cook-off. Agree on the ingredients each individual household will have and how much time they will have to prepare.  You can start by zooming and making sure everyone understands and then it’s off to the races to whip up a dish!

Virtual Gingerbread House Making: from local shops to online shopping its pretty easy to secure a gingerbread making kit these days. Have a virtual party where each household makes their house, enjoys chatting and laughing, just as you would in person.

A Reverse Light Parade: Drive around town to look at the lights! Make it more festive by bringing along some cocoa and listening to music. Even if this is a solo drive you will be impressed with the enthusiasm of the community and their holiday spirit. This connection to community counts!

Secret Santa: Gather all your friends and then some! One person will need to collect all the names of those playing. This can include people you don’t even know, such as friends of friends! Have them assign each person in the group a name and address. Then you send out a gift to your secret person. Maybe you don’t know Jim’s cousin Cheryl, but you will when her gift shows up at your door!

Virtual Tours: Maybe you are missing your annual ski trip or adventure to a warmer location. Online you can tour just about anywhere in the world! If you are missing your connection to nature, just google it. Taking time to watch a virtual video or look at places you love can spark that same sensation or connection, even though its virtual. Maybe you can lay on the beach, but you can look at the photos, close your eyes and maybe for a minute you can imagine you are there.

Send Mail: Sending something as simple as a notecard with a teabag in it can really make one’s day. When we receive those simple acts of kindness it warms us from the inside out. Connect with family and friends by sending a random gesture, just because!

Virtual Counseling: Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! If you are feeling disconnected or even if you aren’t, teletherapy and counseling gives you a safe and healthy way to share, explore and grow. Many people prefer to be at home in their favorite chair while connecting with their “person,” which suggests telecommunication options like this will still be around long after Covid-19.

Connection is that feeling of worth, joy, love, comfort, peace and alignment with someone who cares about us. It’s that chance to be “you,” and to also offer that to others. If people can live in the same house and still feel disconnected to each other, don’t you think that means we can find a connection in other ways than just in person? If we are honest many people do this all the time! Think of military families, missionaries, students who travel far away for school or even move to different countries. While we may be feeling “disconnected” from our traditions this year, and while that is still 100% valid, there is encouragement in knowing that others have found new ways of connecting for a long time, and we can too.

We live in a time where a virus is so easily spread, but even more easily spread when in close proximity. Our disconnection this year isn’t about missing out on the cookie swap, or not having that moment of peace at Christmas Eve service and it’s not even about missing out on seeing the grandkids Christmas morning. Our disconnection isn’t about finding loopholes and excuses for why you can bend or break the rules to host a New Year’s Eve gathering or first of the year brunch. It’s about protecting each other. It’s about saying, “my connection to you means so much to me that I will not put your health and the health of those around you in jeopardy.” If you knew that your annual holiday potluck would result in losing a coworker, or that just having a few close friends over to decorate cookies could shut down a school would it be worth those brief moments of connection? It’s a lot of “ifs” that come into play. But if we all commit to doing this together, we can find new ways to connect in order to try to offer everyone the protection they need and deserve. It’s hard. It is ok to feel sadness and grief over a tough year. But we must stick this out if we want to connect in the future. We can champion this situation to find new ways to connect now! And in reality, it’s the greatest gift you can give this season! The way you connect is a gift to protect!

Mary Hoadley

Director of The Wellness Center