Celebrating Holidays During COVID-19

With the holidays approaching, many are wondering if there’s still a way to make them celebratory after a difficult year.

Madelyn Olson

With COVID-19 rates continuing to rise in conjunction with the start of flu season, celebrations this fall and winter are most likely going to be in a way never done before. We’re still in a pandemic which limits not only our ability to gather in groups, but for many their finances too.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the United States is experiencing an increase of COVID-19 infections, which lead us to the grim milestone on Nov. 4 with more than 100,000 new infection cases in one day. The CDC cited small household groupings as one of the main causes, then warned the increase will continue as people spend more time indoors due to the change in weather and the holiday season.

This leaves many wondering if there’s a way to make the holidays celebratory, or if it’s to be one more disappointment at the end of a long, difficult year. Nancy Vandenberg of the EvCC Nutritional Science Department explains the key to making the holidays feel festive is two-fold: creating meaningful experiences within the reality of the situation and switching from spending money to spending time.

Nancy Vandenberg. (Screenshot from The Clipper Tries: Holiday Baking & Table Setting)

The acceptance of a disappointing situation and having a fulfilling experience aren’t mutually exclusive. For Vandenberg, she is still hosting Thanksgiving but instead of in her home it’s in her garage. This allows for social distancing in a well-ventilated area and a fun memory. “I hope my granddaughter remembers [this] because it’s a little wacky and very different than our normal [traditions] and even uses it as a fun story: ‘remember the time we all ate in Grandma’s garage?’”

Think about your favorite holiday memories. The things that make those lasting moments and traditions generally require time more than money. One possible positive side-effect of the pandemic is that many of us have more time at home. 

Current EvCC student Austin Elliott says, “For three years my mom has asked me to come over and help her handmake a Thanksgiving banner to hang around the front door, and I would say ‘no’ but offer to buy her one because I was working and going to school. This year I’m still doing both but only part-time because of COVID-19, so I said ‘yes’. Making that became my favorite holiday memory as an adult. Holidays have felt like a chore the last few years but I don’t think this one will.” 

Your holiday activity doesn’t need to be expensive or perfect. Elliott’s banner was “clunky” looking when finished and was made with what supplies his mom already had at her house: construction paper and fishing line. Any hesitations about putting it up for all to see disappeared when he realized the process of making it made him happy, and that was enough.

However you choose to celebrate, it’s normal to feel frustrated about the holidays not being the same as they were in previous years. However, if you allow yourself to look at the changes the pandemic is imposing on us as a way to get innovative, you can move past the feeling of what this year has been lacking and onto new memories, stories and traditions that will last longer than the virus.

 Nancy Vandenberg’s Pumpkin Muffins

1 egg

¼ cup oil

¼ cup applesauce

1 cup cooked pumpkin–thaw first if frozen

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

1 ½ cups white flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (can sub white flour if you can’t find this)

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cloves

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon ginger

Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, soda, and spices. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg; beat in oil, applesauce, pumpkin and milk. Add dry ingredients all at once; stir just until moistened (the batter will be lumpy). Spoon into a 12 muffin-cup pan sprayed with oil. Bake in a preheated 375° oven 15 – 20 minutes or till the toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the pan by running a knife around the edge of each muffin and then it will easily pop out.