Creating New Holiday Traditions During Covid-19

Holiday scene with a family on a computer. There is also a christmas tree, a santa hat hanging off the screen, and a nearby present resting on the desk. Moxie Family Therapy offers emdr therapy, counseling for women in orange county, family therapy, and more. Contact us today for the support you deserve!

Thanksgiving 2020 looked a lot different than we thought it would. Many long-held traditions were skipped this year. The loss of our traditions can be disappointing, depressing, and even anxiety producing. However, changing things up opens the door to new possibilities. As we move through the next three weeks, many will likely feel the loss of the usual visits with Santa, and gatherings with co-workers, friends and family. And although it is not ideal, this year we have the unique opportunity to create new holiday traditions.

Setting and Respecting Holiday Boundaries

First, let us keep in mind that everyone has different experiences that shape their responses to the current pandemic and the call to continue to social distance throughout the holiday season. Holidays are difficult for any family that has lost a loved one. For some people this year, the trauma and devastation of losing a loved one to coronavirus will undoubtedly have an impact on long-standing family traditions. Further, some families may have members who are high-risk and are committed to taking every precaution to limit the spread of the virus. Others may have been hard-hit by the economic impact and simply cannot afford to travel or purchase gifts. Whatever the situation, we need to respect each other’s holiday boundaries. AND we must also feel empowered to set and stick to our own.

Understandably, it may be hard to tell Aunt Helen that you’re not coming to Christmas dinner. Sadly, explaining to your children that they aren’t going to see Santa at the mall will be hard. Further, for many, it will be anxiety provoking thinking about having to tell your parents to stay home this year. But rather than focus on the traditions we can’t do, we can flip our perspective to focus on what we can do to create new holiday traditions.


Giving to others, especially during the holidays benefits us all. Charitable giving is scientifically proven to improve self-esteem, increase our sense of connection to others and the world, and to actually make us happier. In addition, it teaches our children about charity, opens their eyes to the benefits of giving back, instills kindness, and promotes their own self-esteem. It’s a win-win!

3 Ways to Give this Holiday Season and Create New Family Traditions:

  1. Adopt-A-Family/Child in need. Many non-profit organizations host adopt-a-family/child holiday giving programs. Find an organization that serves a population that resonates with you and your family—children with terminal illness, homeless families, children in foster care, elderly individuals living in nursing homes, domestic violence shelters, etc. and buy them clothes and gifts they need. To find nonprofit organizations in Orange County click here.
  2. Toy/clothing drives. A lot of organizations collect new toys to distribute to children in need each holiday season. Locally you can purchase new toys to be donated to Ezrah’s Hands, CHOC Children’s, the Orange County Social Service Agency’s Operation Santa Clause, and South County Outreach among others. You can also create a new holiday tradition of purging your toy bins/closets each year. In my family we do this just after the Thanksgiving holiday. We go through their toys and books and they each make a give-away pile. We then donate everything to a local church for their childcare program. Other organizations that accept used toys and books include Goodwill of Orange County and Salvation Army as well as daycare centers, religious organizations, and shelters.
  3. Charitable Contributions/Wish Lists. Making a monetary donation in honor of, or in the name of, a loved one is a great way to give a gift AND give back to the community. Challenge yourself to find a cause near and dear to your family. Make a donation to your favorite organization in lieu of gifts or give a Charitable Giving Card this year! In addition, many nonprofits have ongoing Wish List items that help them to better serve the community—Ronald McDonald House Orange County, Giving Children Hope, Orangewood Foundation are just a few in our community.


Undoubtedly, there is a lot of temptation to ‘make up’ for the loss of traditions this year by filling the void with stuff. And for many of us, the pandemic has already challenged our pocketbooks in devastating ways. Overextending on gift-giving, to the detriment of your family’s financial health, is NOT going to fill the void in any meaningful way. 

3 Ways to Set a Realistic Budget this Holiday Season

  1. Focus your giving on four things: something to wear, something to read, something they want, and something they need. This is actually a long-standing tradition in many homes, deployed by parents to stay on budget and ensure each child has the same number of gifts valued around the same amount each year! You can also take it a step further and make sure that the ‘something to read’ and ‘something you need’ are from Santa. In our family, this tradition was started after reading this article.
  2. Get creative. How many times has a child opened an extravagant gift only to spend hours playing with the box it came in? Gifts and toys that are creative in nature have greater meaning and longevity. Make a coupon book for your kids or spouse full of ‘freebies’ (extra screen time, an afternoon baking with mom, a special breakfast/dinner of their choice, a day of ‘yes’, or a day off of chores, etc.). Buy or put together an art kit (bead making, drawing pad, coloring books, paint set). Or buy something that challenges your child to learn a new skill (bracelet making, building blocks/Legos, cookbook, etc.)
  3. Do rather than give. Start of new tradition of doing something together rather than giving something to each other. Giving an experiential gift allows you to make memories and strengthen your relationships. While this type of gift can be costly (a family vacation or theme park, if you can afford it), it doesn’t have to be. Doing something together can cost nothing at all. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or a food pantry for an afternoon together, sign up for trail maintenance or clean up at a local park or preserve, go for a hike, pack a picnic and head to the beach, or take a drive around your neighborhood to look at holiday lights with hot cocoa and homemade popcorn.

No matter how you and your family spend this holiday season, it’s important to remember that we can celebrate in new ways and create new holiday traditions. Unquestionably, the holidays can be a source of tension and stress for parents, children, and teens without the added challenges of a global pandemic. If you or a loved one are struggling with loss, depression, anxiety or trauma this holiday season, please reach out—we’re here to help. 

Follow these 3 easy steps to get support during the holidays:

  1. Click here to schedule a free consultation 
  2. Meet with one of our caring and qualified therapists
  3. Begin therapy from the comfort of your own home

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