Christmas. Hanukkah. Las Posadas. Kwanzaa. New Years. We are heading into a holiday season like no other in our lifetimes. Mostly we’re going to celebrate alone or in very small ‘pods’ of people we can be confident aren’t carrying the novel coronavirus that has stolen so many aspects of life in 2020.  And for so many, COVID-19 has stolen much more than a calendar year. It is hard to think about ‘celebrating’ at all, to be honest.

And yet recognizing and celebrating history and faith and the future is critical for our collective cultural, mental and emotional health, right? What a gift that we have these upcoming opportunities to get restored and prepared to face the next, hopefully final phase of this pandemic fight. But we must proceed carefully, which means different holiday traditions than most of us have ever experienced. How to make the most of this very unusual holiday time? As employers, as communities, as families and friends, what have you got on the drawing board? I’ll share what I’m thinking, but really hope you will share in your comments.

I’m thankful for technology that has allowed for connecting safely – though less satisfying than the chance to hug those you love. From office party trivia contests and online karaoke to book club Zoom sessions, let’s share tips for using technology over the holidays, even with those who don’t have the most sophisticated and powerful tools. How are you going to be connecting?

I’m thankful for the power of food: in every culture, we have connections that are strengthened by “breaking bread” together. It is also over an aromatic table that we learn about each other’s cultures, beliefs and special gifts (lutefisk, anyone?). So let’s share ideas for how best to share the feasts of holiday meals in new, pandemic-induced ways. How will you be sharing the important foods of your culture with others? How can we ensure that this year is not a step backward in reaching across our cultural differences, but is instead a chance to feel more connected than ever?

I am so grateful to those who are serving on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 and want to challenge all of us to determine how best to honor them. My suggestion: we must be prepared post-pandemic to recognize the work we need to do as a society to recognize the value of teachers, of nurses, of first responders, of hourly workers in food preparation, in e-commerce and in public safety. In the same way we must acknowledge how the American economy was built on the indefensible platform of slavery, we must recognize that a mostly unbridled market economy has under-valued the contributions of so many workers. I say this not as an opponent of capitalism (I am a proud business owner), but as a realist about what it takes to create a sustainably competitive economy in the world of the future. “We all do better when we all do better” is the mantra I find most compelling (credit to the late Senator Paul Wellstone).

I’m grateful for the tradition of gift-giving. Not so much to be a recipient (really – I am a 64-year old woman who doesn’t need any more stuff) – but for the realization that I can bring joy or relief or surprise to another person. One of my favorite traditions in recent years is working with my granddaughter to make her gifts for others – she is a courageous artist, so we have great fun creating unique treasures that she shares with everyone on her list. Witnessing her joy in giving is a gift for me, too. With the challenges so many are facing, this is the year to dig deep into your capacity to give – as individuals, as companies, as communities.  “Too whom much has been given, much will be required.” (Gospel of Luke).  Are you recognizing your potential to give?

So am I feeling grateful to be part of the impending holiday season of 2020: an opportunity to celebrate the fragile nature of our lives, the profound sense of gratitude to those who came before us, the exquisite interconnections of our existence, the unlimited potential of our future. Prepare to lean into the work ahead. But first, celebrate.

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