THE MOM SCENE: Muddling through a COVID Christmas in Atlantic Canada

Judy Garland’s version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas has never been so accurate:

“Next year, all our troubles will be out of sight …

“Next year, all our troubles will be miles away …

“… Someday soon, we all will be together / If the fates allow / Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow …”

It’s shaping up to be a COVID Christmas here in Atlantic Canada, and even the most optimistic people are probably struggling to be cheerful right now. (The Judy Garland song made me tear up and I’m not even a crier.)

Our whole lives, we’ve been told the holidays aren’t about presents – they’re about spending time with the people you love. Now, families and friends are exactly what’s going to be taken away for many.

It’s hard not to be a little (or a lot) depressed, especially during a season where you’re supposed to feel merry and bright.

And so, counting active cases instead of counting sugarplums, here are a few ways our family will be preparing for our very first (and hopefully only) COVID Christmas

Preparing to re-enter “Stay the blazes home” mode

As much as we won’t enjoy another stay-at-home period, at least we already know what’s in store for us.

We’ll be more mindful about writing meal plans so we only hit the grocery store once a week. The kids and I made a list of all the Christmas movies we plan to watch – something we’ve never made official before – and soon we’ll make a list of special Christmas foods we want to bake.

Buying strategic Christmas gifts

Santa is bringing our family a whack of new board games this year. We taught the kids poker, Blackjack and Rummoli in the spring, so now we’ll try Qwixx, Blokus, Bananagrams and The Mind.

Our daughter is getting a tablet and tripod, partially because she wants it for playing games and recording YouTube videos, but mostly because I know how much it meant to her when she could “see” her friends on video chat during the spring lockdown.

Seriously, think entertainment this Christmas – books, board games, puzzles, video games, art supplies, etc. A sweater isn’t going to keep your kid busy when they’re bored at home!

Finishing Christmas shopping carefully

I did a lot of panic-shopping when cases first began to climb, but if I need a few more gifts, I’ll choose local delivery or curbside pick-up whenever possible. If we need last-minute Christmas items, it’s our local shops and small businesses that will save the day – and we’ll feel good about supporting them.

Christmas PJs are just one holiday tradition observed annually by many families. - Heather Laura Clarke
Christmas PJs are just one holiday tradition observed annually by many families. – Heather Laura Clarke

Finding new ways to stay connected

We always mail out 60+ Christmas cards filled with family photos, but this year I’m going to also write a Christmas letter to include, updating everyone on how our family has gotten through 2020.

I’ll text videos of the kids opening each gift to the person who gave it to them so they can see their reaction. If we can’t be with our families in Halifax on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we’ll set up Zoom calls so we can all see each other virtually.

Sticking to our traditions

COVID may be the Grinch who’s going to steal Christmas, but it can’t touch the special traditions we do inside our own houses. We’ll eat the same special foods and listen to the same beloved Christmas albums (MiniPops Christmas ’84 for me). The kids leave out milk and cookies for Santa, wearing their matching Christmas pyjamas. Christmas won’t be the same, but we’ll savour little pockets of joy where we can find them.

Heather Laura Clarke is a freelance journalist who married her high-school sweetheart. They moved from the city to the country, where they spend their days making messes and memories with their 10-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter. Follow their family’s adventures over at


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