Ever since the arrival of COVID-19, 2020 has forced us to reconsider our daily routines, life’s celebrations and holiday traditions. But is this necessarily a bad thing?

Consider gift-giving. Every year, millions of Americans participate in “Black Friday,” which has become a traditional day to shop and overspend. This, and spinoffs like Cyber Monday, pressure many of us to overspend and rack up thousands in credit card debt, which often takes years to pay off.

Because so many of us are struggling financially this year, it may be worthwhile to reevaluate holiday gift-giving and seek more meaningful alternatives—and maybe, even, new traditions.

Give back

With millions of people out of work, behind on mortgage and rental payments, waiting in food lines or simply burning out, it’s more important than ever to help those less fortunate. In lieu of traditional gift-giving, consider “giving back” to the community by donating or volunteering.

Acknowledge those you miss or who might be struggling by dropping off a homemade meal, household staples or a gift card. So far, there’s no evidence that COVID-19 spreads from food, but keep in mind COVID-19 guidelines. You can also order care packages online.

Create new memories

Although the holidays are different this year, they can still be fun. Drive around the neighborhood to view the holiday lights or go for a walk outside. If you prefer indoor activities, consider planting bulbs for an indoor garden or working on a jigsaw puzzle. Board games, video games, home gyms, crafting, cooking and reading have also been popular activities.

Think about bringing back old traditions, like caroling outside your neighbors’ homes (safely of course). If that’s not your cup of tea, consider various family activities, such as decorating your home, making decorations, baking cookies or streaming a movie. They can help you manage boredom, create connection and build memories.

It’s also important to practice gratitude and cherish your loved ones, regardless of where they are. Hug those you’re isolating with. Find time to reach out to those who are important to you, such as friends, family, neighbors and coworkers. After all, isn’t this what the holidays are really about?

To Gift?

If you’re giving gifts, it’s helpful to limit your spending or the number of gifts. You could also suggest drawing names for a “Secret Santa” gift exchange or a “White Elephant” gag gift. While this takes time, starting the conversation is important.

When choosing gifts, consider homemade baked goods, DIY gifts, a scarf, jewelry or a unique secondhand item. Or ask loved ones what they really need. Parents can empower their children by asking them to choose a certain number of gifts in each of these categories: want, need, wear and read.

“Experiences” also make good gifts. Consider paying for an annual family dinner or contributing toward a family vacation (when safe). Music lessons and cooking or painting classes also make great gifts.

Or Not to Gift?

Whether it’s due to finances, going green or wanting to reduce consumption, people have been reconsidering this holiday spectacle for years. One of the movements championing gift-giving alternatives is the minimalist movement, which offers additional tips.

A somewhat recent alternative to Black Friday is “Buy Nothing Day,” which discourages consumerism and strives for deeper connections with others. You can also check out “Simplify the Holidays,” a campaign that offers thoughtful alternatives to gift-giving. Or if you need help for next year, here are a few ways to say, “No gifts, please.”

As Martin Luther King Jr. eloquently stated so many years ago, “We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.”

If you need help with managing holiday stress, enhancing relationships or navigating transitions, take advantage of your employee assistance program, or EAP. Some include a financial benefit. To learn more about the FEI EAP, please contact us.