By Dr. Holly Holmes-Meredith, D. Min., MFT, Board Certified Clinical

Bill Yarborough, CHT and Certified EFT Practitioner

Are you wondering how the Covid-19 pandemic will impact your holiday plans? Will you need to make adjustments to your established holiday traditions?
In mid-October CNN reported that CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield stated they are seeing an increasing threat in the spread of infection through small household gatherings. He said, “With Thanksgiving coming up, we think it’s really important to stress the vigilance of continued mitigation steps in the household setting.”
If your tradition has been to observe the holidays by gathering with your immediate household family, you may not need to change much. But if your traditions have included gatherings with extended family members and friends and/or attendance at church, holiday concerts, parades, sporting events, and singing in-person with a choir, the pandemic will likely require adjustments.
Changing cherished habits can be unsettling. Even in normal times, the holidays are stressful for many. A December 2017 Psychology Today article reported that a survey by the American Psychological Association found that 38 percent of people indicated their stress level increased during the holiday season.
There are, however, things you can do to lift your holiday spirits and enjoy the benefits of connecting with family and friends during the coronavirus pandemic.
If weather permits in Contra Costa County, you could celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, or other religious observances in smaller gatherings with family and friends outdoors. Meeting and eating on a backyard patio, in a park, or outdoor restaurant are possible safer options than indoor dining. You may even choose to exchange gifts outdoors. We recently purchased outdoor heaters, so they can continue our patio gatherings during the colder winter months.
Nonetheless, family members who have traditionally traveled long distances to celebrate the holidays may be separated for the first time in years. That could be rough on individuals who find themselves alone.
The inability to enjoy a holiday meal together does not mean you cannot enjoy a conversation together, perhaps even exchange recipes. You can plan a phone call, Facetime chat, or even an extended family Zoom gathering on Thanksgiving or Christmas. You can also spice up those calls.
With Zoom or Facetime, a grandparent can witness their grandchildren’s reactions while opening gifts. If singing Christmas carols is one of your favorite customs, Zoom offers the ability to sing together virtually. YouTube videos such as “How to Sing Together on Zoom” offer a brief lesson.
There may be other family traditions you can continue with modifications. If your tradition included playing games, there are online sites with a number of online multiplayer games to choose from, such as for adults and for kids.
Luckily, there are certain traditions you will not have to forego. You can still watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on TV, and football games will be aired along with the countless holiday movies, musical specials, and Christmas religious services.
This unique holiday season offers us an ideal time to strip away some of our compulsive traditions, providing an opportunity to experiment with new ones that better reflect what the holidays are truly about. For example, you may wish to cozy up by the fire with a book or TV show sipping a cup of hot tea and relax rather than engaging in the holiday hubbub. Your family may decide to cut back on gift-giving and focus more on the religious origins of Christmas or its spiritual meaning to you.
Ever since Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol”, charity has been an important aspect of the holiday season. Providing a larger portion of your budget and/or time to help those in need could fill you with a greater sense of the holiday spirit. Likewise, reaching out to those in isolation because of the pandemic could provide them with a welcome gift.
Some of us have found relief through outdoor physical activities during the pandemic. Those opportunities may be constrained at times by winter weather. To help keep your spirits up and avoid gaining pounds, explore the exercise options available online or YouTube. Your gym may offer online workouts or provide exercise equipment and outdoor classes.
If, heaven forbid, you lost a loved one to the pandemic or just find it too difficult to make it through the holiday blues, seeking professional assistance from a qualified practitioner can help. Many practitioners are available online or in person using a variety of therapeutic techniques to assist you. Teaching professionals often have interns who charge minimal amounts.
If you are that creative individual who has developed new holiday rituals or online activities that you plan to engage in, we’d love to hear about them. Or, if you have questions or comments, please reach out to us via the contact information on our websites: Holly at or Bill at