Light It Up! Celebrating winter holidays is good for our mental health

There’s a reason that some of our most beloved holidays occur near the winter solstice. While the year’s shortest day delivers nearly 15 hours of darkness, holidays like Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Christmas are all about welcoming the light. Whether it’s decorating the Christmas tree or lighting the menorah, the winter holidays represent a time for community, good cheer, and a brightness of spirit.

Certainly, if there has ever been a year that needed an injection of light, this is it. While acknowledging that our celebrations will be different this year, many mental health experts say the holidays can bring us happiness. The lights, colors and sounds associated with our celebrations can brighten our mood while evoking happy memories – and that can renew our sense of wellbeing.

There are plenty of ways to bring meaning to the season and joy to our hearts –everything from unpacking a treasured kinara to sending out holiday greeting cards. You can still play the dreidel game. You can still hang a beribboned wreath. You can still make kugel, black-eyed peas, or gingerbread men – albeit in smaller quantities. And thanks to technology like Zoom and Facetime, you can still share time with family and friends!

Judson Manor residents Susan and Richard Moore are among those who are planning for a very merry Christmas, COVID-19 notwithstanding. Beyond the pandemic, this is also the couple’s first Christmas in their new home. But while the changes have been considerable, the Moores’ newly imagined celebration will hit all the highpoints.

Their brand-new, apartment-sized tree will be blazing with lights and a well-edited collection of beloved ornaments, Richard explains. Their traditional holiday brunch of scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and biscuits is still on the menu. And they will be sharing the joy, as always, with their two adult daughters and a son-in-law – although it may be over Zoom.

There will also be a newly revived tradition: Christmas cards. “We had sort of gotten away from sending them in the past few years,” says Richard, noting that the holiday card exchange is becoming a thing of the past. “But this seems to be a year to share whatever joy a card can bring, so we will be sending them out again.”

The couple also finds reason for celebration in their new surroundings. “All the little daily things that you might have to stop and worry about in a house are just not a problem here,” says Richard. “Simply being at Judson, and knowing that there is support available – everyone from the security personnel at the front desk to the nursing staff – is very helpful, particularly if family can’t be here. We have also been so impressed with the friendliness of our neighbors; even if it is only a conversation in the elevator, being with other people reduces the sense of isolation and is so important!”

And, like many of us, the Moores are also looking toward the future. “With two vaccines on the horizon, there is reason to think this pandemic will be over,” says Richard. “Not right away, of course, but by June or July we may see a broad section of the public get vaccinated, and that really brings a lot of hope.”

Until then, however, the Moores will do their best to nurture the light of community and good cheer. “You watch the news and you see the suffering that the pandemic is causing across the country, and it is just dreadful,” says Roger. “But Christmas is a time for hope and joy – and this year, especially, we really need that.

“Even if the lights don’t seem as bright this year as in others, they will certainly lift you up.”

Click here to learn more about how to navigate winter weather safely! 


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