Faye Rozario, Staff Writer

Photo Source: HomemyDesign

Though there hasn’t been much snow in Toronto this year, December seems colder than usual. The city’s reinstatement of quarantine has stained this usually bright time of the year into a dull shade of gray. Lights twinkle on public buildings and suburban houses, but the streets are empty. Advertisements for limited time offers glare at me from various screens, inviting me to spend money on items that probably won’t be delivered in time to be gifted. The usual buzz of excitement for upcoming family get-togethers and winter activities with friends is missing in these socially distant times. The holiday season has arrived, depressingly devoid of its usual flare. 

Typically, these are times for people to come together. To say that COVID-19 has ensured that this year will be slightly less connected would be an understatement. But what authority convinced everyone that a holiday season spent with fewer people or even alone need automatically be classified as a bad one? Though all the commercialization and drama may persuade us otherwise, this time of year holds a special something in and of itself. Whether you’re keeping the celebrations limited to a small group of loved ones or braving this merry month on your own, the holidays are an opportunity to look past the bleak year that it has been and simply enjoy ourselves. Before the holiday spirit dies within you, take a look at this simple three-step guide on how to keep it alive. 

1. Keep in Touch (Figuratively, Not Literally)

We all know the benefits of social media, Zoom and Skype calls, FaceTime. There has probably been no shortage of virtual interaction amongst people throughout the year, and the holiday season will definitely not be an exception. However, it would not be a revelation to say that for some, this is the loneliest time of the year. Surrounded by expectations of community and domestic bliss, multiplied by the effects of the pandemic, it is easy for those who don’t have a strong support system to lose themselves in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

That’s why this holiday season, take some time to pay attention to people outside of your holly-jolly bubble. That friend that you haven’t spoken to since midterms when you need their notes? Ask them how exams are treating them. Your co-worker who used to bring you snacks during your breaks? Text them about something you ate or did recently that reminded you of them. The cousin that always tells the best stories but won’t be visiting you this year? Let them know that they will be missed. Check up on your loved ones and remind them that they are loved. Chances are, it will make their day and yours as well. 

2. Give from the Heart

For many people this year, job losses and financial strain have put a damper on their holiday shopping plans. Though it is difficult and certainly not ideal, these circumstances need not eliminate the prospect of gift-giving. There is that familiar saying, however, that it’s the thought that counts. If you’re navigating this holiday season on a not-so-holiday-friendly budget, then it’s the perfect opportunity to prove this sentiment correct. 

There is no concrete set of rules that determines what a ‘good’ gift is. If you like to bake, make a few batches of your best desserts, portion them out for your loved ones, and send out those bundles of joy. The options for artsy individuals are almost endless. Draw your parents from your perspective, write a poem for your significant other, record yourself learning to play your best friend’s favourite song. If you don’t really have a special skill or hobby that could lend itself to gift-giving, collections of pictures of memories are an easy way to show how much someone means to you. Any attempt at doing something for someone you care about makes a difference.

Little acts of kindness are valuable not because of their monetary worth, but rather the love and thought put into them. So, take a little time out of your schedule to create a gift that comes from your heart rather than your wallet. ‘Tis the season to give!

3. Cherish Your Traditions… or Make New Ones!

The holiday season is often defined by the traditions that compose it. These are the recurring events or practices that get you in the festive mood and separate this month from the rest of the year. In this ever changing world, holiday traditions can be the slice of life that grounds you and encourages a focus on the things that are constant. 

The beauty of tradition is that it is personal and intimate. That one dish that you eat every year may not have significance to anyone else, but to your family and culture it is the makings of a feast. Maybe there is a specific movie you watch on repeat every holiday season, one that’s been seen so many times that you can quote the characters’ lines as they play out on the screen. Decorating a certain area may be a task designated to you alone, based on a long-standing consensus on that being your domain. These are the ritualistic activities that make the holidays feel like the holidays. 

Yet for those who are away from home this year, or who have lost loved ones, existing traditions may not fit into their holiday celebrations this year. And that’s okay. Find something new to be your signature recipe. Visit a certain spot that brings you peace, and make a commitment to return to it next year as well. Maybe holiday karaoke is in the cards for you this year. Whatever it is, it’s worth your time if it keep you in the spirit of the season. 

These three steps are merely glimpses of normalcy in a year that has been anything but conventional. This season has the potential to center us all again and serve as a reminder that there are still things worth celebrating. If we put our minds to it, we’ll find that this really is the most wonderful time of the year. 

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