My dad used to say of New Year’s Eve that it is the most overrated night of the year. There is so much pressure to have a great time, it is almost impossible to achieve that goal. Of course, the same thing can be said of the entire holiday season – great expectations can lead to equally great disappointment. If all of that is true in a normal year, how can we hope to enjoy the season during the pandemic? I have a simple answer to this question – One Something.
Pick a holiday, any holiday, and think of all the traditions you have that make it special – and that make it overwhelming to even contemplate due to COVID-19. My suggestion is that you choose one of those traditions – just One Something – and do it.
Here’s how this worked for our family’s celebration of the Jewish New Year in September. Thanks to COVID-19, no one felt comfortable with an indoor event for the twenty-two of us. No one even felt comfortable with a communal meal served outdoors. And no one wanted to schlep picnic dinners for their family to a central location – even if we scrapped all the traditional dishes and just brought PBJ’s.
Instead, we had what turned out to be a cookie swap. Everyone made a batch of cookies and divided their recipe six ways, one for each household present (my three adult children and their families, me, my ex-husband, and my daughter’s in-laws). We all met in my daughter’s backyard, which was large enough to allow for social distancing. Everyone ate dinner before attending, so dessert was all that was on the agenda when we arrived at dusk.
According to my seven-year-old grandson, Dylan, the evening was a huge success and Rosh Hashana is now his favorite holiday! When pressed to explain why, it is because he loved playing with all his cousins, in his back yard, in the dark. And of course, he – and everyone – loved eating the cookies.
As the matriarch of the group, I’d have to agree that our holiday was terrific. We had so much fun chatting away that we neglected to even bless the wine that we purchased and drank in single-serve containers. But even without prayers, this was possibly the most spiritual Rosh Hashana I have experienced with the family. Gratitude was everywhere. We were so very glad to share the holiday any which way we could.
Did I miss eating the traditional foods, the matzoh ball soup and the brisket? Yes, of course. And I also missed the ten-year tradition of baking cookies with some of my granddaughters in advance of the holiday. But as my One Something, I baked the traditional cookie on my own and brought it – divvied up – for everyone to share. With a little adjustment to my mental set, it wasn’t just good enough, it was wonderful.
I am reminded of my daughter, Shana, and the planning of her wedding in 2004. Whenever she ran into a brick wall with Plan A, she refused to go on to Plan B. She created a new Plan A instead. In the end, she had the most wonderful wedding she never knew she wanted.
With the One Something mindset, we can all have wonderful holidays during the pandemic. I have thought about Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and New Year’s Eve and boiled them down to their One Something essence. Here are my plans.
Every year I make a batch of fudge for Thanksgiving, and everyone loves it. In fact, they clamor for it year-round, but I refuse them, keeping it special for November. Guess who can still deliver fudge to several households to see all the beloved faces and to share a moment of holiday joy?
When I think of Chanukah, I think of making potato latkes in advance with my two daughters. They call me the latke-Nazi because I’m stern about NOT flipping the latkes too frequently! But we laugh as they continue to flip away to their heart’s content. We laugh even more thanks to the margaritas we consume through the whole flipping process. I’ll miss this evening with the girls. But latkes? I can deliver those door-to-door too.
And then there’s New Year’s Eve and the traditional invitation for all the grandkids to sleep over so their parents can have a night off. A favorite element of our evening is a scavenger hunt to find all the snacks and celebratory paraphernalia I buy for them. Clearly, the sleepover is off, but I can easily create goody bags for each family as my One Something. And don’t worry, kids! I will remember to include everyone’s favorite item, a can of Silly String per person, to be shot off as each family does its own countdown to the new year.
As for me, what do I think about being alone on these holidays? I’m thinking I’ll wear myself out with the cooking and the delivering, and then I’ll come home to relax. Yes, I’ll eat some of the fudge at Thanksgiving and some of the latkes – along with a margarita – in December, and on New Year’s Eve, I will rejoice that someone else is cleaning up the mess of all that Silly String!
As a final note, I promise that if you wait until each holiday arrives, you will be disappointed by the sad, boring, lonely day that awaits you. But if instead you have a game plan, a wonderful holiday can be yours. One Something is my pandemic plan. I hope you’ll give it a try.
Yes, the holidays are on the horizon and shopping time is here. I hope you’ll consider the quality giftware I sell on Etsy. Sweatshirts, T-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, note cards, and art prints await you. And I have a new product, adult coloring pages! Check it out!