Lessons learned from a COVID Christmas:
Enjoy the little moments
LAURA CHURCHILL DUKE SPECIAL TO SALTWIRE NETWORK
Leigh Creelman says that last year was the first in a very long time she slowed down and enjoyed her family at Christmastime. Typically for her family, the Truro woman says, Christmas always involves a lot of running around. However, COVID had different plans last year. Instead Creelman’s family didn’t run around on Christmas Eve. She worked as usual, but when she arrived home, she could just stay there. The kids could be excited without going so many places. “It made the evening more magical for our family,” she says. The days after Christmas, she says, were also beautiful as she and her family spent time together at home. “With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I truly had forgotten to take time to just breathe and take it all in,” admits Creelman. It is this focus and these feelings that she plans on incorporating again this year into her holiday season. "My kids are getting older, so I just want to enjoy them," she says. Jess Blanchard, from Lunenburg feels the same way. In previous years, Blanchard says she would plan activities for her family every weekend from mid-November straight through to New Year’s Day. Many of their weeknights were kept busy as well. COVID put a kibosh to those plans last year, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. “As much as we missed so much last year, it really hit home how much we run ourselves thin during the holiday season,” she says. To avoid the hustle and bustle of years gone by, Blanchard says she picked a couple of events that her family truly missed last year, but plans to leave most of their time free in hopes to fill it with spontaneous activities with friends and family, just enjoying their time together. CHANGED CHRISTMAS There is no doubt that last year’s pandemic restrictions changed how many families across Atlantic Canada celebrated Christmas. This caused many to re-evaluate which holiday traditions they truly missed, and in what ways they could maintain a less stressful season. Luckily, many families were fortunate to have another member close by, so the pandemic restrictions didn’t affect them as much. This was true for Nichole Piercey’s family in St. John’s, N.L. She says their family usually has a quiet Christmas, anyway, so 2020’s COVID restrictions didn't have a huge impact. Together, Piercey's family watch movies, eat finger foods with the kids, and Grandma spends Christmas eve night with them to watch the gift opening in the morning. The pandemic did not alter any of those traditions. For others who were separated from friends and family, though, Christmas was challenging. Because of this, they say they are done with COVID and just want the holidays back to how they used to be. Last year, Megan Christopher stayed at her Lower Sackville, N.S. home, but this year she plans to have her normal Christmas dinner like she usually does with family and friends. “I’m looking forward to just seeing everyone again, having a turkey dinner, drinks and laughs. I want life to be normal again,” she says. Nena Snyder of Dartmouth is another person who is tired of the COVID restrictions and can’t wait to bring back her family traditions. For her family, that means the 35-year-old tradition of pie night. A few days before Christmas, Snyder typically gets together with her aunt and daughters to make over 30 pies — eight to 10 different types — they are then eaten after the main Christmas meal, or when anyone has a hankering for a snack. Attendance at pie night hovers around 30 people across three generations, plus the added friends and guests, says Snyder. COVID restrictions made pie night impossible last year, but she is hoping they can proceed this year. NEW TRADITIONS Instead of bringing back old family traditions, several families started new ones, inspired by last year’s COVID Christmas. Eden Couture from Dartmouth says that for her and her boyfriend, last year was the first time they had spent Christmas without their families. So, they decided to make their own traditions, like DIYing, decorating ornaments, and having non-traditional food like pigs in a blanket, mozza sticks and cookies. Although it was quiet and different, she says it became one of her favourite Christmases. This year, they are planning on keeping up the tradition of making ornaments, so they have something to look back on, and especially enjoy the ones they made during that first COVID Christmas. “The holidays are what you make it,” says Couture. Jess Bannerman was in a similar boat in Charlottetown last year. It was her first year married and she was unable to spend Christmas with her family in Ontario. Instead, she and her spouse created their own traditions by buying matching pajamas and opening their stockings together at midnight. Although they will be going home to Niagara this year, they are keeping these COVID Christmas traditions alive but are including the rest of the family as well. “We are already looking for a new pair of matching jammies for this year,” she says. No matter how we celebrate Christmas this year, Ashley Hilchie of Lawrencetown, N.S., says it would be a missed opportunity not to learn from last year’s experiences. For her family, it will be about eating the turkey dinner on Christmas Eve while having a more snack food-type approach on Christmas Day. She’s not planning on travelling anywhere and is just going to lay back with those she loves the most. “I think it's safe to say that most found the true importance of those around us we love,” says Hilchie.