Whether your family is distant, dysfunctional, or non-existent, don’t despair! You can still save Christmas!
Yes. Saving Christmas (or any other December Holiday from Hanukkah to Kwanzaa and beyond). It’s at the heart of nearly every holiday movie or television special ever created, but what do we do when faced with our own holiday challenges? I’ll give you two choices. We either: A) Give up and slog through the usual holiday despair or B) Rise to the occasion, throw out the old defective convention and hurl ourselves ferociously into something new and insanely satisfying for all involved.
If the holidays have always been a difficult time for you, this is a great year for you to mix it up and add a refreshing dose of joy to your December celebrations. Cousin Covid is here for a visit, so we’ve all got to do things differently, anyway. Skip the long-distance travel, the large gatherings, and the fake smile. This is your year to get real and do things your way!
Tired of family celebrations that end with Uncle Fred in an alcoholic rant while Aunt Enid bursts into tears? Skip it! Sick of being compared to your perfect sister hour after hour while everyone brings up that time – that ONE time – you threw up on the turkey? So sorry, you just can’t make it this year?? No, this year you need to celebrate on a smaller scale with your intimate pod or stay home and do what you want. Blame it on Cousin Covid.
Make this year your best non-traditional holiday celebration ever!
What’s a tradition, anyway, but voices from the past telling you what to do? Keep the traditions that work for you and set aside (or wholeheartedly toss out) the ones that make you want to scream. For your present this year, I’m giving you permission to make your Christmas – or other holiday celebration – all about the present and not about the past. Stop worrying about the Martha Stewart lofty ideals of what you think a holiday celebration should be and just be you doing your own thing in your own way.
One of the best ways to do that is to have a Misfits Christmas/Hanukkah/ Kwanzaa/Etc..
You heard me right. A Misfits Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Etc. Remember in the Rankin/Bass Christmas special when Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Hermey (the elf who wants to be a dentist) end up on the Island of Misfit Toys with a Charlie-in-the-Box, a dolly with no nose, a spotted elephant, a train with square wheels on its caboose, a water pistol that squirts jelly, and a bird that swims instead of flies? Yup. That’s it. All the toys were sad because nobody wanted them, but ultimately they all found homes that accepted them as they were.
Now it’s your turn to gather in the misfits you know.
Friend, family, neighbor, acquaintance. You aren’t having a family gathering, you’re having a “framily” gathering of friends and others who form a new and unique kind of family during this special time together. Lots of people have been quarantining alone for most of this strange year. Maybe you’re one of them. Have a special celebration with family to feel some togetherness.
Let’s get planning.
- The Venue: Your first decision is where to hold your celebration. Will it be in person or virtual on zoom or some other social distancing platform? Look at the infection rates in your area and decide accordingly. Nobody wants a novel virus for a present.
- The Guest List: This is YOUR party, so you get to do it YOUR way. Have a big guest list in the virtual world or keep it down to a few special people who get you. You’re not being guilted to invite anyone and as a Misfits Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Etc. there’s no social pressure to keep out anyone who is different, either. Get thoughtful. Get compassionate. Get weird. Who are the misfits you know who long to be accepted as they are? Bring them together and see what happens.
- The Theme: You can go all out on the Misfits idea and build an Island of Misfit Toys in your yard, or you can take it down a notch and give your Misfits celebration a different kind of theme. There are a number of bizarre, unique, and special holidays in December to choose from. Celebrate on December 16 with National Chocolate Covered Anything Day or December 21 with Look on the Bright Side Day.
If Looking on the Bright Side isn’t your thing, make it an out of control Pity Party with music from Puddles Pity Party, the sad-faced clown with the sweet and sorrowful voice. Make it a Charlie Brown Peppermint Party with everyone dressed as a different character from the Peanuts comic strip and enjoy peppermint-themed snacks. Make it a costume party or a fancy cross-dress ball. The holidays make you tired? Then throw a pajama party where everyone comes over to take a nap. Make it the quirkiest dream-come-true event you’ve ever imagined!
- The Date and Time: No one gets to fight over whether you hold your holiday celebration on the eve, on the big day, or on any other day. You can pick your time and date or you can try to work out the time and date that will work best for your guest list. Is there a particular day that’s always been hardest for you to face? If you’re ready to change your attitude and experience of that particular day, hold it then. Have a set time that keeps your blood pressure low. You can have a teeny tiny ½ hour-long party for five introverts where you all sit quietly reading together or a 3 hour socially distanced dance fest with a DJ.
- The Decorations: You’re doing this your way, remember? If you want to have a single jingle bell tied to a doorknob as your decoration, that’s your prerogative. If you’re having people over, ask them to bring a misfit decoration and let your guests do the decor as they come. You may end up with Happy Graduation and birthday balloons competing for overhead with Mother and Father’s Day swags. In the virtual world, you can go all out in fancying up the little bit of wall that will show behind your head – or not and go with a festive virtual background.
- The Food: If you aren’t much of a cook or don’t want to hassle with the details of catering, make things easy on yourself and go with an online virtual party. That way everybody has to provide their own snacks. You get to load up on the munchies you love and hog them all with no guilt. I am wrapping myself around the artichoke-spinach dip in a bread bowl and no one can pry it away from me! Going with an in-person gathering? How about chili or tacos? You’re in this for the fun, not for wearing yourself out doing a full turkey dinner unless that’s what you want to do…even if you are in your house by yourself. Heck! Costco, Sam’s Club, and any number of grocery stores and restaurants would love to provide you with a take-and-bake full turkey dinner to enjoy at home, even if it’s dinner for one.
- The Gifts: if you’re having your event in person, have a gift exchange and keep a low dollar amount so no one who is strapped for cash during this strange hello-your-job-just-disappeared year is embarrassed. If you’re throwing a Zoom party, then everyone has to buy something for themselves unless you set up a “Secret Santa” system ahead of time so people can drop off or mail an anonymous gift to be opened on-screen during the party. Doing a Pity Party? Tell everyone to spend $2.00 or less on a gift for themself and to wrap it as pitifully as possible. Take turns opening the gifts on-screen and vote with the ol’ Laugh-O-Meter to see who has the most pathetic laugh-until-you-cry gift.
- The Activities: One of the worst things about family holiday gatherings is boredom. People sit. They eat. Then they sit some more and watch television. B-O-R-I-N-G. You need to punch it up a little. Play games (Yahtzee works pretty well on Zoom). Do a trivia contest. Do Mad Libs. Dance. Make a holiday craft. See how long you can balance a spoon on your nose. Have a sing-along of all your favorite holiday carols…did I mention that December 20 is Go Caroling Day? If you’re on Zoom be aware that there’s a time delay, so all your singers will sound terrible together. Have one person at a time lead a song as everyone else is muted as they sing. It will be more like a duet than a group sing for the people who are singing along, but it will sound much better than the cacophony you’d have otherwise.
This year is different, so do something unprecedented and make this a holiday season you and your family will always remember with a smile. And if you’re looking for a modernist home – or any other style – in the desert with a perfect spot for your shiny aluminum silver Christmas Tree or your minimalist angled concrete Menorah or your traditional wooden Kwanzaa kinara, give me a buzz. I’m Stephen Burchard, The Desert Bowtie Realtor, taking the (k)nots out of real estate.