Confessions,  Living Abroad

Holiday Experience 2020 (Dani)

Dear Mary,

The holidays will certainly look and feel different this year! Due to the ongoing health pandemic and the return to lockdown procedures in a number of countries, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us will not be celebrating in exactly the same way we usually would. As such, we wanted to take this opportunity to share a little bit about our holiday plans, how things will be different for us, and what we’ll be doing to still keep the season bright regardless. Despite the unusual circumstances, we do believe you can have a joyful holiday season and wrap up 2020 in a positive mood.

Dani’s Take on the 2020 Holidays

If the Coronavirus pandemic had never hit, my husband and I likely would have been heading to the United States to celebrate the Christmas season with my parents. Because our families are located in different countries (both from each other and from us), our goal is to switch off who we spend this season with each year. Last year, we spent Christmas in the UK with his family and so this year it would have been my family’s turn.

Even so, I don’t think we’ve seriously considered that plan since March. After the summer, when things felt more under control, we began to consider the possibility of going to the UK for Christmas, but not the US. We don’t feel completely comfortable traveling right now, but a three-hour flight is a lot different from a nine-hour one. Still, as the holiday season grew nearer and the case numbers grew higher, our hopes of spending this time with either family evaporated. The final nail in the coffin came last Friday when the UK announced their current restrictions, which will prevent even our family in that same country from seeing each other.

If I’m being completely honest with you, this is not the first time I’ll be spending the holidays away from family and so I have to admit that I’m not feeling as affected as most other people I talk to right now. I think after nine months of living with the reality of this virus, I’ve grown accustomed to plans being altered and things not going the way we want. After a very serious three-month-long lockdown in Spain, I don’t actually feel as restricted about our Christmas plans as I would if we hadn’t experienced the 2020 we have experienced up until this point.

Making Seasons Bright, Regardless

While I wouldn’t say I’m thrilled about our altered plans, I recognize that I’m really lucky. I have my husband here with me in Granada and we know our families are healthy and safe where they are, too. I don’t say this because I expect everyone to “look on the bright side;” you have every right to feel crummy about broken traditions and unfulfilled expectations this year. I simply have some experience with this and also find myself in good company.

In our home, we’ve done what we can to continue to make this season bright—we decorated our place and have been playing Christmas music sporadically. We sent out Christmas cards to loved ones and gifts to our immediate family. We have been fortunate to receive a number of packages from our family abroad, as well.

On the 24th and 25th we plan to celebrate the way holidays always have been celebrated in our families—with delicious food and good company! The company will be mostly ‘virtual’ this time, but the food will be made with just as much love as always. So far, my plans involve a full English breakfast, Tuscan lentil stew, and tortilla-chip-breaded chicken legs and fixings.

We will Zoom with my parents on Christmas Eve and my husband’s family on Christmas Day. We’re planning to open up some of our presents ‘together’ on camera as well as participate in one or two ‘pub quizzes’ created by family members, which will result in extended video chats with families calling in from 6+ homes! We sure plan to be social without leaving our home.

Other than that, our holidays are likely to be low-key. Perhaps we’ll go for another walk through the city to take in the sparkling Christmas lights or we’ll watch a Christmas movie or two with hot cocoa. Either way, I’m really fortunate to have my husband with me so that, even though we are “alone at the holidays,” we’re not really alone.

As you may remember, I often find it difficult to really, truly take a day off and so I hope that this unconventional, quiet Christmas will help me lean into unplugging, resting, and rejuvenating. Obviously, our plans involve a lot of technology to be able to connect with family this year, but I hope that otherwise I can step away from my phone and spend quality time to myself and with my hubby.

At the moment, we don’t have any plans for New Years but I’m not particularly fussed. Usually, New Year’s Eve is one of the times you want to be surrounded by tons of people, at some big celebration, and that doesn’t sound one bit appealing this year! I’m sure we’ll think of some way to make the milestone special but, as with Christmas, we’ll really be making it our own this year.

What are your plans for the holidays? Are you feeling down about them or finding ways to make them feel special despite the circumstances? Whatever the case, we wish you all the best at this special time of year!


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