The holiday season is officially upon us. While Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations have looked different this year, one thing remains the same: the festive season is a time of family togetherness and hope.
Across the country, we’ve been asked to limit physical gatherings, but that doesn’t mean partaking in holiday traditions has to stop. Instead, Canadians are getting creative and finding new ways to stay connected by adapting to COVID-friendly holiday traditions.
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…
Christmas is a magical time of year for 37-year-old Kim Daley, especially with three children in the house. The Daley family would usually spend Christmas morning together with the grandparents at their home in La Salle, Manitoba, followed by a walk and some evening tobogganing.
This year, the festivities have changed to include virtual family get-togethers, a gingerbread decorating “event” and dropping off treats and meals to loved ones. Kim is trying to take this year in stride, knowing that the disruptions in life won’t last.
“The holidays can be stressful in a regular year, but when you throw a pandemic into the mix, it takes things to a whole new level,” Kim says. “But there will be normal years again, and it’s okay if things aren’t the same this year. Practice a little kindness and patience with yourselves, because 2020 is an unusual year!”
For 79-year-old, Terry Shepard of Kingston, Ontario, the holidays will be quiet but meaningful. Traditionally, Terry and his wife Jane spend time with their blended family of five children and 10 grandchildren. They too will be holding virtual chats with loved ones and a brief outdoor exchange of presents where possible.
“Family is at the heart of all our traditions,” Terry says. “In years past, this meant juggling competing family pressures—whose side are you spending the holidays with? What day? What time? But no matter how complicated things can get, we can always keep it simple and focus on quality time spent together, even if it’s virtual.”
Practicing Self-Care While Living with Crohn’s or Colitis
Amidst all of the holiday activity—and the significant stressors brought on by living through a pandemic—it’s important for those living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis to be mindful of their own needs and practice self-care.
“I can handle the stress when things are busy and the adrenaline has taken over,” Kim says. “It’s once the down time hits that the symptoms creep up and I experience a flare-up.”
For Terry—his thankfully rare—flare-ups strike with urgency, generally in the morning. This possibility makes holiday planning and adapting challenging.
“We talked about driving to Toronto to exchange presents with the kids, but long car rides, especially in the morning, are not ideal,” Terry explains. “Even though I rarely experience symptoms, it’s impossible to know when, making it hard to adapt holiday plans.” To help avoid flare-ups, Shepard stays vigilant about taking his medications as prescribed.
Meanwhile, Kim tries to keep stress levels down, get enough sleep, and carve time to relax and unwind. It also means planning ahead as much as possible to minimize holiday stress.
“I’ve had to learn to shop early instead of last minute, be flexible with substituted items, and stock up on the items we use often that have good best before dates,” Daley says. She cites curbside pick-up as a safe way to shop for groceries, presents or other necessities. She’s also cognizant of her meals, and tries to minimize how often she orders out as these options typically involve foods that can aggravate her symptoms.
Santa is (Still) Coming to Town
Of course, no Christmas is complete without Santa. Luckily, the Daley family’s community is rallying together to take care of that.
Atop a temporary “sleigh” (flatbed truck), Santa will visit her community where families can wave from their driveway, and leave non-perishable goods donations on their curbside for volunteer elves to collect.
“The Winnipeg Santa Parade is a highlight of the season for our family,” shares Daley. “Since it was cancelled this year, a thoughtful neighbour came up with this wonderful idea. Not only does this relieve families of the added pressure of traveling to the city, but it’s a great new tradition for our small town!”
A Holly, Jolly, Holiday!
Despite the changes we need to make this year to have a safe and happy holiday, there are still many meaningful ways we can connect to loved ones this season. For those living with Crohn’s or colitis, it is important to take the time to listen to their mind and body in the way that works best for them.
Many events and activities may be cancelled this year, but the spirit of the season is not! Whether it’s dinner together online, sharing hand-written holiday cards or even doorstep deliveries of holiday treats, there are plenty of different ways we can still deck the halls, and spread cheer this season.
Happy holidays to all and be safe.
For more information on celebrating the holidays at home this year, watch our latest webinar on COVID-19 Vaccines and Being "Home" for the Holidays
for the latest COVID-19 guidance for people with Crohn’s or colitis from the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s COVID-19 Taskforce.