With winter gearing up to take on full effect, some of things I know I’ve looked forward to are the Holidays! That time of year, that gets us through the blistery cold months of November, December and January. Everything about holidays brings me a sense of warmth and joy, I even get excited about the smell of the holiday’s pumpkin spice, cinnamon, bonfires, mulled wine, acorns and baking.  The way it feels to watch the Diwali fireworks behind the Diya lit temples, walking around the Christmas market amongst the snow flurries and a cup of hot chocolate in hand. That time of year is here, having started with the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur in September, moving into the Hindu festivals of Diwali, heading towards thanksgiving, Kwanza, Chanukah and Christmas. Yet the question arises,

“How do I celebrate during the time of COVID-19?”

Holidays bring up plenty of emotions, whether you look forward to reunions with family, or dread them, there’s excitement, anxiety, depression, hope, and it all comes wrapped with a gift. Having lost so much this year to the pandemic, I imagine feeling celebratory may be the last thing on one’s mind. However, it’s during times like these that thinking about what we have in our lives that is good, supportive and joyful may be the truest way of celebrating. During the five-day Hindu festival of Diwali, the first day Dhanteras celebrates and acknowledges the wealth we have in our life, whether it is monetary, or just that which we find supportive, it’s important to feel humbled by all that you have. The second day of Diwali which has been ever present in my mind as of late, celebrates the internal power we all carry, the fierceness that everyone of us has the ability to tap into. It is the day that we look back on the darkness in our life and give name to it and the impact on our lives, how we persevere through it because in acknowledging and celebrating the dark do you find the light.

This year has certainty provided us darkness, with emotions of uncertainty, anxiety, isolation, fear and sadness but with holidays on the horizon there is a sense to find ways to make them just as celebrated.  Gatherings during the upcoming holidays should be limited to small circles or kept virtual. The CDC lists out ways  coping with the holidays this year can be managed. Having just celebrated the festival of Diwali, I bring my own take on celebrating from afar. My family and I baked together, prayed together and kept away from the temples which are usually buzzing with lights, people, colors of rainbow silks. We got dressed in our finest sarees, kurtas, and jewelry. Decorated the house with extra candles and colors to bring the feelings we enjoyed into the home. This is one way of going all out without going out. I found myself, reflecting on all that has transpired this year, the hardships and the wins. This shared sacrifice gives to the larger gift, one where we are looking out for each other through safety and respect.

The holidays can be hard when you’re without your family or solo. The need to isolate for the sake of health can make setting up plans with others difficult. It can feel unfair, another thing to add to the list of disappointments this year has seemingly brought upon us. The fatigue of virtual gatherings can take effect and the urge to forsake the safety and social distancing practices thus far can arise. In an effort to combat these feelings, the New York Times came out with an article recently laying out ways in enjoying the holidays even when your solo  and without necessarily flying solo. But sometimes planning ahead isn’t enough to make it through this time of year and additional support is needed. This makes sense that not all struggles can be solved by baking your favorite batch of cookies or adding extra decorations to your home. Sometimes, you need someone to talk to, someone to help you get through the difficulty of isolation, the stress of the time at hand. I think about how our mental health and its protection is something we can gift ourselves. Finding ways to help maintain the health of our mind, just as we do our body.