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Adapting Our Holiday Traditions during the Pandemic

The holiday season is upon us! As we all prepare to celebrate some of our favorite holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or New Year’s Eve, it’s clear that things are going to look a little different this year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our holiday traditions — like everything else this year — will have to be updated for 2020.

At New Moms, we’re adapting our annual Christmas celebrations to be COVID-friendly while still making the experience special for families in our programs. Instead of an in-person Christmas party and toy store like past years, our team has created Operation Santa — an online shopping experience that still empowers moms to pick out gifts for their children. Each mom fills out a wishlist, choosing gifts from our impressive collection of donated presents, and dedicated staff and volunteers assemble the packages to be dropped off at each family’s door. Moms are also receiving a gift bag full of goodies just for them! We are so grateful for everyone who donated during the Christmas drive to make Operation Santa possible!

What is your favorite holiday food? Sit down with some of our New Moms staff and participants as they share with you their favorite foods they get to eat this time of year.

Not only are we changing things up at New Moms, but our participants and staff are also adjusting their personal holiday traditions.

Like a lot of people, New Moms participant Mercedes said her Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are going to be limited to her immediate family. 

“Usually we have a big get-together for Christmas and New Year’s but we’re obviously not going to do that,” said Mercedes, who is a production assistant in our Job Training program. “We’ve got to keep our distance from everybody, so it’s going to be very small, like only my immediate family, the people I talk to on a daily basis.”

Aniah, another participant in our job training program, agreed that the biggest change for her family is going to be the size of the festivities.

“We usually have a huge family gathering,” said Aniah, who is pregnant with her first child. “But this year we’re trying to stay within our area and within our own household. Not that we don’t trust our family or anything, but you just never know who they’ve been around. Even with just our household it will still be fun. We’ll make the most out of it.”

New Moms Family Support Specialist Jennifer Ruiz said her family is going to try to stay connected via technology like FaceTime and Zoom. Normally, her family rents out a dance hall on Christmas eve so they can eat, dance, and celebrate with one another. She said they usually have 150 people at the party.

What is your favorite holiday tradition? Hear from moms in our programs and New Moms staff members as they describe their personal holiday traditions.

“I’m just sad that our usual typical Christmas isn’t going to be the same. I’ve always celebrated with my family, every single year it’s like the same thing. I guess we’ll FaceTime each other or we’ll Zoom call each other. That is the norm now,” said Jennifer with a laugh.

Musa Macenyane, a New Moms Supportive Employment Specialist, said her family will try to use Zoom to celebrate the seven nights of Kwanzaa with each other. This year Kwanzaa runs from December 26th through January 1st.

“Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, we will not be able to celebrate collectively,” said Musa, who works in our Job Training Program. “We will not be able to get together as a community with friends and family to celebrate the accomplishments of 2020. Nor will we be able to get together to usher in 2021. I don’t know what that last week of the year will look like. We may get together via Zoom each night to celebrate. I will probably send out more cards than I normally would, but I will be looking forward to Kwanzaa 2021 to celebrate my community.”

Finding alternative ways to see loved ones during the holidays isn’t just limited to virtual gatherings. Sam Creightney, the Operations Coordinator for New Moms’ social enterprise, Bright Endeavors, said she and her friends have been trying to think “outside the box” so they can still see each other “in the flesh.”

“That’s the thing I thought about the most. How am I going to see my people during this time of year?” Sam said. “I proposed getting the outdoor firepit going, even when it’s 40 degrees out, with some extra blankets and sitting outside and conversing outside during the day versus being indoors.”

Some people have decided to start some new COVID-friendly traditions. Both Aniah and Jennifer said their families are thinking about going to look at Christmas lights.

What are you most looking forward to this year? Despite the pandemic, our participants and staff are still eager to celebrate the holidays. Let them share, in their own words, what they’re most excited for in 2020.

“I’ve never been in my entire life to see the lights and I really want to do it,” Aniah said. “I’m not sure how the whole thing works since there’s a lot of restrictions with COVID. I’m just glad they’re not canceling literally everything. They’re letting the holidays be the holidays.”

Jennifer said her family might drive out to the nearby suburbs to see the neighborhoods that “go all out” with their Christmas decorations. Since everyone is in their cars, she said it’s a safe activity to be a part of. 

And, despite all of these changes, everyone said they are still looking forward to the holidays.

“I’m excited for it because I know I’m not the only one who is going to have to change things,” said Jennifer, who works out of our Oak Park office. “It’s going to be everyone. Our moms are going to have to change the way they celebrate their holidays too.”

The pandemic has made us all rethink how we spend time with our loved ones, and for a lot of us, we now value that time together even more. We hope that you all are able to stay safe this holiday season and find comfort in your communities. No matter how unconventional your celebrations look this year, all of us at New Moms and Bright Endeavors want to wish you a joyful holiday season and a happy New Year!