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Don’t let the COVID Grinch steal Christmas—6 ways the pandemic can help you focus more on Christ

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I can’t help but think that maybe this is the year to really rethink Christmas.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers are facing major staffing shortages, and nobody knows how stocked store shelves will be this holiday season. News reports are warning of possible major product scarcity thanks to global supply-chain issues. An August article from CNN Business states:

“The vast network of ports, container vessels, and trucking companies that moves goods around the world is badly tangled, and the cost of shipping is skyrocketing. That’s troubling news for retailers and holiday shoppers.

“More than 18 months into the pandemic, the disruption to global supply chains is getting worse, spurring shortages of consumer products and making it more expensive for companies to ship goods where they're needed.”

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With the prospect of higher prices and lower availability of goods, it seems that COVID is the Grinch who’s determined to steal Christmas this year. But there may be a silver lining: This could be the year we focus more than ever on the reason we truly celebrate Christmas. Maybe we’ll learn what Christmas can become if we take away the ribbons, boxes, and bags. By spending time with family instead of spending money on family, maybe we can put a little more Christ in Christmas this year.

So in this uncertain season when so many people feel strapped for both cash and time, here are a few suggestions you may want to incorporate into this year’s holiday celebrations.

Focus on Serving Others

Could some of the money you normally spend on gifts be given to charity instead? Perhaps request loved ones donate to your favorite charity in lieu of a Christmas gift. This could also be a great way to teach children how to sacrifice: ask them to choose a charity that you can donate to in their name in place of one Christmas gift.

There is a fun tradition called the “giving manger” where kids add straw to a replica of baby Jesus’s manger for each good deed or act of service they complete during the month. This is also a great way to keep children focused on giving and serving.

Simplify Gift Giving

Instead of buying gifts for numerous coworkers or extended family, suggest a simpler gift exchange instead. Each person could pick a single name to purchase for. Or do a “white elephant”-style exchange where no new items are allowed to be purchased.

If you have children, this would be a great year to incorporate homemade gifts, like artwork, crafts, or baked goods into your holidays. This helps children understand the concept of making a sacrifice to give to others. These kinds of gifts can also save money and are a great alternative when toys and other goods are out of stock.

Give Experiences Instead of Goods

The gift of an experience is an incredible way to build relationships. Take a parent to the theater, a teenager to a concert, or a child to a zoo. Take a cooking class with a friend or plan an overnight trip for a spouse. This is a great way to support local businesses, the arts, and the tourism industry, which have all suffered economically during this pandemic.

Use Zoom to Come Closer Together

We’ve all become professionals at using video conferencing technology thanks to COVID, so consider using it to connect with distant loved ones over the holidays. You could start a weekly December Advent devotional or plan a simple Christmas-themed scripture study group with friends in nursing homes or people struggling with loneliness. Zoom Christmas caroling, anyone?

Find New Ways to Decorate

To save money on decorating this year, go with an old-fashioned Christmas. Make popcorn or paper garlands and gather fallen pine cones and tree branches to decorate with. Consider adorning walls or trees using Christmas cards you receive in the mail; it’s fun to add more cards and see more loved ones’ faces as December rolls by.

Incorporate the Savior more into your decorating. Displaying a nativity or other symbols of the Savior can be a reminder that Christmas is about Christ.

Simplify Traditions

Perhaps the best tip for this year’s holidays is to simplify. Ask yourself which holiday traditions bring your family closer to Christ and let go of the ones that don’t. This may cause disappointment for some. It may mean attending fewer holiday events in order to spend more time with those who are most important. But simplifying and focusing our celebrations can help us follow this advice from President Thomas S. Monson:

“Let us make Christmas real. It isn’t just tinsel and ribbon, unless we have made it so in our lives. Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values. It is peace because we have found peace in the Savior’s teachings. It is the time we realize most deeply that the more love is expended, the more there is of it for others.”

These words can take on new meaning for us in 2021. Because if there’s ever been a year to rethink Christmas, this is it.

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