We asked readers to write about how they plan to connect during these insulated months and recharge from this tumultuous year.
In Northern Minnesota the winter arrived in October, having evidently gotten the news that we weren’t up to much anyway. Winter decided to make its chilly landing with considerably more aplomb than previous years. Gone was the sneaking frost, inching its way in. Instead, we had quick snow accumulation, and the days were suddenly cold enough to necessitate emergency clothing measures — snow pants, for heaven’s sake!
This year, concerned with getting more than candy from strangers and neighbors, we elected to do reverse Halloween. We dropped bags of sugar-bomb snacks at neighbors’ houses, and sat around a yard fire to enjoy our own spoils.
We are handling Thanksgiving and Christmas the same way: fires in the yard with friends and family, closer groups and shorter visits, catching up and communing until we are too cold to sit anymore, or the wood runs out. With patience and creative thinking, we aim to retain joy in the holidays, despite the pandemic. Bills are paid, we are still healthy, and we are in this together. That is likely what we’ll remember the most.
I got divorced at the beginning of the pandemic, which means that I have been living alone (with my pets) and single for the majority of this eon. Thinking about the holidays can be a little daunting, but this epidemic continues to provide unique opportunities for growth.
About a decade ago, I renamed Thanksgiving “Grateful Day.” I wanted to spend the day with my friends and family, but didn’t want to support a holiday that was created to celebrate the genocide of Native Americans. I attempted to change its meaning, but I still don’t think it is far enough removed from the original intent. This year is the perfect opportunity to start boycotting it all together. Since I am not responsible for anyone else’s holiday experience, the pets and I can just treat it like any other day and not participate in the whitewashing of Native history.
I identify as pagan, so my favorite holiday is winter solstice — what Christmas used to be before Christians reappropriated it. On that day, I reflect on my previous year, make a list of emotional burdens that are not serving me anymore, burn them, and get excited about future possibilities. This healing and centering ceremony helps me listen to my inner voice while also connecting me to the collective voice.
This holiday season, I intend to connect with myself, my people, and my community, and find out what folx need. This year might be challenging because not everyone is used to spending holidays without their families and friends. But this situation opens the door for us to be even more intentional about making authentic connections with the people we love, even virtually. I am, surprisingly, looking forward to all of it.
Living in the Midwest, especially in Minnesota, has a way of ushering in the holidays very intensely. As soon as summer ends, fall and winter begin, and everyone gets excited about hot chocolate and street lights.
That experience is unique for Somali Americans that live in Minnesota because we celebrate little of the winter holidays. We celebrate Eid, which rotates throughout the year because of the lunar cycles, landing in different month each year. Somali Americans wish those days were state-recognized holidays, so adults and kids could takeoff from their required duties. That is something that has been in the works for a long time.
Meanwhile, most Somali Americans use the holiday time of Thanksgiving and Christmas to stay home with their family and friends since everywhere is closed and most aren’t working. A majority of Somalis are Muslims, so their holiday seasons differ from Christian and Jewish populations whose holidays fall into the winter seasons.
For me personally, the holiday winter season has been a time to slow down and making time for what is important such as spending time with family and friends. This year of course has brought new challenges to all of us with the pandemic changing all our routines and schedules, so many of my family and friends are being careful and minimizing harm to others by taking precaution when with one another, even if it means having virtual gatherings.
One of the unfortunate effects of my divorce and gender transition is that Thanksgiving and Christmas have become sad days — some years, I spent one or both holidays alone or as the third-wheel at a friend’s gathering. Truth be told, I just want to get past the holidays and simply make it to January 2, a blank page and fresh start for the new year.
This year, the virus lockdown will only complicate things; I know that is the case for so many others, too.
Still, I have some hope. For the past several years, my oldest daughter has spent the holidays with me. In the past, we have sometimes gone to a nicer restaurant and then a movie. More than once, we’ve eaten in, with me as the cook for her favorite meal: spaghetti. It’s not much work, either: she insists on Ragu, the red-sauce-out-of-the-jar that she grew up with.
Yep, even I, the world’s worst cook, can do that!
Last Christmas, we started a new tradition: writing down a favorite memory of each other. Because I’m neurotic, I typed out a couple pages of several memories.
My daughter was more judicious and gave me a holiday card with several handwritten paragraphs. She referenced a memory of me during a family vacation at Disney World 20 years prior when I still presented as male. Her words — loving and affirming, written with tremendous heart — quickly had me crying.
That card is now among my most cherished things. Because of the comfort it offers me, I have gone back to the card and its wonderful words many times during this difficult year.
I plan to ask my daughter if we can exchange more written memories this Christmas.
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