In the midst of this challenging year, I had a great Thanksgiving. Our IDEAS community here in Jordan gathered for dinner, as we usually do. The difference this year?
We actually got together on Thanksgiving Thursday!
Thursday is a normal workday here in Jordan, so usually we celebrate Thanksgiving on Friday. But this year, due to Friday lockdowns in Jordan, we regrouped, worked out details with our various projects, and all managed to take Thursday off. Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day – a small joy because of Covid restrictions.
Then, I spent Friday with my family in the US. Not literally, of course. During pandemic restrictions, they figured out how to play a favorite boardgame online, which means that now I can join them. In the past, I’d call on a holiday and have one or two minutes talking with each person. This year, we had hours of chatting on WhatsApp as we played. A special blessing brought about because of Covid.
The holidays will be different for most of us this year, but they can still be special, as I’ve learned from years celebrating away from family and friends.
Here are 4 tips for celebrating Corona holidays:
1. Accept that this year will be different, and grieve. There will be sadness which may hit at unexpected times. My first year overseas, the end of Ramadan fell in early December. I was surprised that I was sad as I watched my local friends celebrate. I was anticipating Christmas away from family. But after I grieved, I was able to move on and enjoy what was, not what I wished could be.
2. Identify what traditions are important to you, and then figure out how to make them happen. This may take creativity and work, but that can become part of the fun. I’ve had colleagues in Turkey who were set on getting a whole turkey to cook for Thanksgiving. In our city, we could only buy turkey pieces. This meant that a friend from a nearby city carried a frozen turkey for five hours on a bus from the capital. Then I rented a car and drove an hour to get it from our friend. I will always remember the journey of that turkey in Turkey!
3. Enjoy a slower holiday season. For the first time in years, I was in the U.S. last December. I was overwhelmed by the busyness and realized that I have become accustomed to more space for quiet in my Christmas season. The restrictions we have with Covid this year will give me more opportunities to write, pray, and ponder Jesus’ birth.
4. Be ready to embrace unexpected joys! My first year overseas I had to work on Christmas Eve, which was fine since I was missing my family and didn’t want to be home alone. When I arrived at my last class for the evening, the university students I was teaching tried to coordinate their phones to play “Jingle Bells,” and then they cancelled class and took me to a café to celebrate. This is only one of many unexpected moments of joy I remember as I look back at holidays spent overseas.
None of us know what shape the holidays will take in this strange pandemic year. I’m holding plans lightly, knowing the situation can and most likely will change over the next month. But as I remember other unusual holidays overseas, I find myself anticipating what this year will bring.
May we all find small moments of great joy as we celebrate Christmas in 2020.
About the Author: Libby is an IDEAS Associate and professional librarian. She currently resides in Jordan and works with libraries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Enjoy other blogs by Libby, such as Are You a Firehose or an Irrigation System?