December: Lost and Found

Monday Author:  Susanne Skinner

“There will come a time you believe everything is finished.
That will be your beginning
.”
~ Louis L’amour

The day after Thanksgiving I put my feet up, ready to troll Black Friday specials on the internet. To my surprise, there weren’t any, or at least none compelling me to make an immediate purchase.

The Year the Earth Stood Still, 2020, Pandemic, Covid-19, lost yearWe’ve been living in an online world since March. From where I’m sitting, there’s nothing left to buy—be it wanted or needed. The traditional holiday season kick-off fell flat; another reminder of the year nobody expected. December announces the end of 2020 and with it comes a feeling of loss.

Coronavirus Christmas

It’s a bleak and empty feeling. December has always been my favorite time of year. Instead of celebrating, I find myself searching for the holiday spirit in the midst of a Coronavirus Christmas.

The holiday season is effectively cancelled. Annual traditions are not possible if they involve large gatherings and travel. Visits with our kids are delayed until the risk of spreading this disease is gone.

My seasonal joy is overshadowed by the death of my father in November.  I need to rethink December if we are having any semblance of a celebration. For starters, I’m planning a neighborhood cookie drive-by.

Christmas baking, one of my favorite holiday rituals, is getting a late start. I am still in Maine and won’t return to my Florida kitchen until mid-December. The season will be half gone, which sits uncomfortably with my need to be organized and baking by the first weekend in December.

I am adamant that holiday cookies are happening, although I am rethinking packaging and distribution. These are recipes I make once a year, and I’m not about to let that tradition slide. I’ve got plenty of holiday gift bags for delivery to mailboxes and front doors.  It’s a small piece of normal in my upside-down year and I need to hang on to it.

Neighborhood potlucks, luncheons, and cookie exchanges won’t happen in the interest of everyone’s safety. Keeping in touch virtually is still better than not seeing one another at all.  If this year has taught us anything, it is to make the best of the unexpected.

This is not the December any of us wants, but it’s the one we’ve got.

Where Are You Christmas?

No doubt about it—2020 is going out with a bang and a raised middle finger. It’s a stretch for me to find joy this year and I wonder if others feel the same way.

Sad Christmas tree, Charlie Brown, One ornament, DecmeberLoss, disappointment and grief are the emotions leading me into December. An escalating pandemic, political unrest and unprecedented job loss and unemployment reflect the despair so many of us are experiencing. We all know someone negatively affected by crisis-driven circumstances.

My annual Christmas letter and cards may not get sent this year and I am trying to be ok with that. I am unable to find words that normally come so easily. Sending a joyful letter when many are dealing with a year that went sideways feels out of place. Sending a gloomy one is just as bad. As one internet meme put it; 2020 is like looking both ways before crossing the street, then getting hit by an airplane.

Church is another important December tradition, from the familiar carols and candles to the solemnity of Advent and midnight Mass. But places of worship are closed. The new normal is streaming services on social media. We’re trying to keep things real in an unreal time.

Even without a pandemic, December comes with its own brand of stress. People are trying to meet the demands of their regular lives, manage holiday expectations and invent new ways to be traditional. We’re doing this AND dealing with an unprecedented global health crisis

We might not feel like celebrating but I am determined to give it my best shot.

Finding December 

December, Christmas Isn't a Season It's a Feeling, Edna Ferber, Christmas spiritEdna Ferber’s words remind us of the many reasons we love Christmas. The circumstances we’re dealing with are an invitation to return to the real meaning the holidays hold for each of us.  

Whatever we believe in, the current pandemic doesn’t take away cherished traditions, even if we’re doing them differently. It’s an opportunity to let go of the marketed version of Christmas and rediscover December.

This is the year we get to redefine the holidays, centering ourselves around memories, music, food, and of course—family.  We can still be together even when we’re apart.

Finding the Christmas feeling is easier if we let go of what we expected and celebrate what we have—each other.

What is Lost is Found

I want to feel all the feelings of Christmas. Listening to holiday  music fills my heart and home with past Christmas memories. We’re keeping the tradition of adding a new ornament to our tree and decorating the dock with lights.

December, A Different Kind of Christmas, 2020, pandemic, Covid-29, social distancingIf you aren’t a baker why not give it a try? It makes your house smell like Christmas! I’m on your internet speed dial if you need suggestions! If you are a baker, challenge yourself with an unusual or complex recipe.

A pandemic should not steal Christmas from us. Holiday magic lives in each of us—and our spirit of giving is strong. Sharing is one of the best ways to rediscover your December soul.

This is also a time to show compassion for those who are struggling. Shelters and food banks need canned goods and pantry staples. Shop the buy one/get one sales and donate the second item.  It’s what my Dad did, and I’m recommending it become a new tradition this year and in years to come.

Even though my Dad is no longer with us, the memory of his generosity helped me find something I thought was lost.  Dad understood that Christmas lives in the heart of the giver.

This entry was posted in Food and Cooking, Friends and Family, Susanne Skinner and tagged , , , , , , , , , , by Aline Kaplan. Bookmark the permalink.

About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. Aline’s articles have also appeared on the Atlas Obscura website. She has been an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America since 1988 and is a long-term member of the Spacecrafts science/fantasy writers’ group. As a tour guide, Aline leads architectural and historical walking tours of the city for Boston By Foot, ghost tours for Haunted Boston and historical bus tours of the city. She lectures on Boston history and has appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as on TV for Chronicle, an award-winning television program that broadcasts stories of New England. As a lecturer, Aline has spoken at Brandeis and Tufts universities for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has also addressed as service organizations and local meetings. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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