The Christmas season is always one of my favorite times of the year. I have such fond memories of my mom playing Johnny Mathis Christmas music on loop, the smell of pine cones wafting through the house, the kitchen filled with pies, and so much more.
In my youth, I was always in charge of wrapping presents. I even volunteered with the American Cancer Society and wrapped gifts for holiday shoppers at Marshall Fields to help the organization raise money during the Christmas season. One of my other holiday “jobs” was to help my grandmother get all of the ingredients ready for her famous fruitcakes. Family, neighbors, and friends would come from far and wide to get one of “Aunt Lillian’s” fruit cakes. Dicing the gelled cherries and chopping pecans are some of my fondest childhood memories, sitting at the dining room table with the plastic covering the fancy tablecloth.
I recognize that not everyone thinks of the holiday season and smiles fondly thinking of Nat King Cole songs playing in the background and cranberry scented candles creating a cozy home. A good friend recently sent me a text to say how lonely they had been during the holiday season. How they’ve spent holidays alone and really missed having family and friends nearby.
This holiday season, with all that is going on around us, I hope we will take a moment to check in with our friends and family. The holiday season can exacerbate depression, sadness, and loneliness for some people. The cold weather and what seems like constant darkness can make the feelings of isolation feel even more acute.
Whenever I get a little sad during the holiday season, missing my late grandparents and dealing with cold weather, I try to think of fond memories of days past. I have also found volunteering and helping others has been a great way to snap me out of the holiday funk. Cleaning out my closets and donating winter clothes to those in need is a great way to start. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or shelter is also a great way to bring cheer to those in need. It is also a way to help overworked volunteers who do this work year round.
Many religious organizations and social service institutions also have opportunities to purchase presents for families in need of assistance in making the holiday season special for their kids. We know many families will need extra assistance in getting gifts for their kids this year and a small donation or present can go a long way in helping a child have a Christmas to remember.
Hopefully, this holiday season will be filled with reflection on how resilient we’ve been this past year. Be sure to bundle up and smile under your mask, you never know who may need to feel that holiday spirit.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC.