The holiday season, although traditionally a time of cheer and joy for many, can be notoriously difficult for others due to family pressures, expectations and intricate family dynamics. This year presents different challenges, especially in Hong Kong. With travel difficulties and quarantine restrictions imposed, many families find themselves having to adapt to circumstances (as has been the theme for the past 18 months) and in the city again. This can present challenges and an emotional rollercoaster as many are unable to reconnect and recharge with extended family and friends over the holiday period. Many of us have memories and traditions associated with the holiday season, and not being with loved ones can make daily life feel harder than usual.
However, as always there is joy to be found and silver linings hiding in the situation if we find ways to create it for ourselves. If we take this time and rare occurrence of global circumstance to think about what new traditions we want to start or to incorporate from our family of origin into our Hong Kong family it’s a step in the right direction in creating cheer.
For some, people made this city home when their children were born here and have been watching them grow up as Third Culture Kids, for others their Hong Kong home evolved with friends becoming family and or fluffy four-legged buddies defining the family unit. Regardless of individual family set-up, this special city has had the ability to become home for thousands of international people from places far beyond the borders. For this Christmas, not being able to cross these borders with increasingly high walls, feels heavy and our sense of home in this city is in flux as the pandemic horizon changes week by week. Not to make light of the situation but rather to find joy in what we do have here, here are three ways to create family-cheer for yet another pandemic Christmas.
Create your own family advent calendar
Instead of just a chocolate advent calendar this Christmas create an activity Christmas calendar with each family member having an equal number of activities contributed to the calendar. This could be as simple as singing Christmas Carols together, making Christmas cookies, watching a Christmas movie or a scheduled video call with Grandpa and Grandma. Sharing this as a family activity one Sunday afternoon will get everyone excited about the coming weeks as anticipation creates high levels of joy and boost well-being.
Sharing this calendar online with extended family will allow other family members to get involved, stay more in touch, or create shared events/movie nights/games across time-zones.
2. Christmas Gratitude journal
Create a family gratitude journal for ‘Another Pandemic Christmas’ with each family member writes in once a day, whether you live together or apart. For families that are apart having a shared google document, with each family member using a different colour you can track each other's gratitude in the lead up to the holiday season. This will also allow images to be shared that highlight the grateful moment of the day. Gratitude has great psychological benefits and is also shown to increase during times of loss and although we can’t be with all the people we wish we were with this Christmas, this time of distance between us allows us to build greater appreciation for each other and gratitude for the times shared in the past.
3. Fireplace Evenings
As a family, pick one day a week in the run-up to Christmas for fireplace Christmas carols and daily or yearly reflection. There are plenty of youtube clips of fires to create that sense of cosiness, some are silent while others have the King of Christmas, Micheal Buble, playing in the background. Although we have had to spend a lot of this year living with each other through periods of lockdown, taking this time to truly connect with one another todo an annual reflection can allow for deeper connection in the run up to Christmas.
A quick check in activity for both adults and children, What’s been your rose, bud and thorn of 2021? Your Rose is something that has blossomed, your bud is something in progress, and your thorn is a stuck point or a challenge you’ve faced.