No doubt, it’s been (another!) challenging year. So many of us had hoped the pandemic would be a thing of the past by now.

It’s more important than ever to aim for a relaxing and safe festive season.

Start by keeping in mind whatever public health measures your region is imposing. And then reflect on the kind of holiday you want to have. Don't set yourself impossible or difficult goals. Once again this year, many of us hope to find happiness in simpler celebrations.

Here are a few ways you can keep the celebrations safer and more mindful.

  1. Shop smart, shop local – or avoid shopping altogether
  2. Budget for what you really want
  3. Rethink gift-giving
  4. Plan for smaller holiday gatherings
  5. Keep your holiday decorations simple
  6. Leave the cooking to someone else
  7. Practise self-care
  8. Enjoy fun, outdoor winter activities

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1. Shop smart, shop local – or avoid shopping altogether

Online shopping has surged during the pandemic. By now, it may be second nature to find everything you need online. And you might be impulse buying for emotional reasons too.

As the world reopened this year, supply chain issues and labour shortages have caused inventory shortages in many sectors. If you can, shop early to avoid disappointment. Make your list, and be flexible. You may find alternative gifts that would bring as much joy.

Many local stores have moved to also offer online shopping. Most continue to offer curbside pickup as well. Think of supporting small, local businesses and makers. Many have been hit hard by COVID-19. Think back to last year’s gifts. Chances are you’ve discovered local treasures that could make other loved ones happy. 

2. Budget for what you really want

Maybe all that online shopping this year left a dent in your budget. Or you lost your job during lockdown. Or had to dip into your savings to cover pandemic-related expenses?

Be realistic about your budget and stick to it. That may mean a shorter list of recipients or a smaller budget per gift. And if you use your credit card to pay, remember that January is right around the corner. Plan now to pay your bill in full when you receive it. You’ll avoid expensive interest charges.

Remember to include the cost of any events or small gatherings in your budget. 

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3. Rethink gift-giving

You’ve already been through one pandemic holiday season. Families went without ‘must-haves’ and long-held traditions. You may be more concerned with keeping your loved ones safe than doing things as ‘you’ve always done.’

Why not talk to your family about foregoing gifts? They might be relieved to ditch the stress of holiday shopping. There’s more to the holiday season than gifts, after all.

If your family insists on gift-giving, get creative. Chances are, you’ve learned new skills during lockdown. Why not use them? A hand-knit scarf, a beautiful cookie box, an original painting are some great ideas. As the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts.

Grandparents may insist on giving larger gifts to mark the occasion. A contribution to your child’s RESP is an investment in their future.

4. Plan for smaller holiday gatherings

Again, this year, huge bustling parties are out.

Take advantage of smaller, more intimate gatherings. That way you can reconnect more meaningfully with the ones you love.

When planning your gatherings, respect any public health restrictions in place. Be extra careful around those whose health is fragile like the elderly and children too young to be vaccinated.

Vaccines may be a contentious issue in your social circles. Be respectful of people’s choices, but also of your own. You may not feel comfortable mingling with unvaccinated loved ones. In that case, politely send your regrets. Or offer to see them during an outdoor activity like tobogganing.

Skip the elaborate meals, open houses and big bashes.

5. Keep your holiday decorations simple

When it comes to decorating, less is more. Think of using natural materials, like straw and bark. Repurpose tree branches indoors and gather pinecones from the garden. Dress up mantels and tables with vintage ornaments and tinsel you already have.

Festive candles and twinkling lights might be enough to transform your home.

6. Leave the cooking to someone else

Some people look forward to holiday baking and cooking. For others, all that prepping can be a source of stress. If that’s you, give yourself permission to skip the fuss this year. Who needs dozens of cookies for small gatherings anyway?

Many local restaurants will offer ready-made meals and goodies to make up for many difficult months. You can support them by pre-ordering a few holiday favourites. It's a gift to your community, but an even bigger gift of time to yourself.

7. Practise self-care

Quieter holidays might give you the gift you need most: time for yourself.

Take advantage of quiet hours to:

  • read books and magazines or listen to audiobooks,
  • write greeting cards (remember those?),
  • watch your favourite holiday movies, or
  • simply indulge in a good, long soak in the bathtub.

8. Enjoy fun, outdoor winter activities

With winter's shorter days, getting outside is even more important.

Make it a priority to seek out sunlight every day. Everyone needs daily exposure to natural light. Fresh air is especially welcome when you’re cooped up inside for most of the day. It could be a simple walk around the block to see the lights. Or a longer walk with a friend in the park or the woods.

The holidays are a time to cut yourself a break. Focus on what’s important:

  • connecting (whether virtually or in-person) with those closest to you,
  • enjoying the emotional warmth of the season, and
  • taking time to remember what truly matters.

This article is meant to provide general information only. It’s not professional medical advice, or a substitute for that advice.