Reimagine holidays and celebrations

If the holiday gatherings and family celebrations we cherish are disrupted, how will we handle the long, dark season ahead? As we all work together to slow and turn the outbreak of COVID-19, we may find some silver linings: More meaningful holidays. Deeper connections. More time to slow down and reflect.

PacMed therapist Eun Ku and the Living Well Alliance team share ideas for how a pandemic winter can be an opportunity to create the holidays we’ve always wanted—as well as birthdays and other missed gatherings.

Connect more deeply, outward

Reimagine the pandemic as an opportunity to avoid the “holiday rush” and instead connect with others. You might call Grandma on Sunday, spend time journaling on Wednesday and write a holiday letter on Saturday. You can also deliver gifts to friends’ doorsteps and say “hi!” from a distance.

With birthdays, a group video gathering might be a fun choice—but there are other options! Plan ahead and make a one-on-one date for virtual tea and conversation with a friend. Make sure you both have tea and cookies at the ready. A good, old-fashioned greeting card is a wonderful thing to receive in the mail, especially with a newsy letter, photo or loving note tucked inside.

Is a friend celebrating an anniversary? Choose a simple but fun menu, draw up a complete grocery list and share it with your friend’s household. Shop separately (no contact, pick-up groceries work well!), and then turn on Teams, Zoom or Facetime in your kitchen and cook together. A good screen and speakers are helpful. This works great with stir-frys and other fast meals. Have a glass of wine ready for when you sit down to dine together!

Connect more deeply, inward

Set side time for yourself. To manage the mental health impacts of isolation, choose healthy, self-soothing behaviors. You might try yoga, breathing exercises, contemplation, reading poetry aloud or meditation.

If you have experienced a loss from COVID, the slower and more contemplative pace of winter may open up new space to grieve. Use these quieter months to reflect on the past year, loved ones and the changes that have taken place. If the feelings that come up seem too powerful to handle on your own, it can help to work with a mental health professional to process them.

Get creative and stay active

If you love holiday outings, engage the family in a virtual trip-planning adventure. Research the places you want to travel to in the future, when safety allows. Or take a short drive to treat your brain to beautiful winter scenery or holiday lights—on homes or at a display like Stanwood’s Lights of Christmas. Another fun idea: Pretend you’re spending your holiday abroad and explore recipes from cuisines around the world.

It’s healthy to keep moving! If you enjoy decorations, add more ornaments or lights throughout the house. Change your front door decoration for New Year’s, the first day of snow, Valentine’s Day… Mix up your décor by painting a wall, rearranging furniture or putting up new artwork or photos. Take regular walks or search out some new spots for winter activities you love—like a hidden sledding hill or an open-air ice rink where you can maintain social distance.

You can learn more about therapist Eun Ku, LICSW, CMHS, EMMHS, and our other behavioral medicine providers at All behavioral medicine visits are currently taking place via phone or virtual session. To schedule an appointment, please call 1.206.621.4045.