We can all agree that 2020 has been an exceptional year. With in-person events postponed indefinitely, schools offering blended learning and extra-curricular on pause, you might feel like canceling your social calendar completely. I most certainly did in the beginning. But we need to celebrate the special occasions now more than ever to keep the spirit alive not just for ourselves but for our children and for them to believe in a brighter future ahead. Yes, we may not be able to celebrate the usual way but celebrating nonetheless is vital to help our kids feel some kind of normalcy among the chaos around us.
The way we celebrate with family and friends on special occasions has been redefined. By taking time out to celebrate, even when you can’t physically be together, you are showing your children how they can create their own fun and enjoy the simple pleasures in life. In this way, you are not only creating wonderful memories, but you are also teaching your children life skills to help them through the ups and downs in the years to come. Let’s just hope it’s not another pandemic!
So, let’s take a look at how people celebrated early on in the pandemic and how everyone is gearing up for the celebrations and holiday season coming upon us.
Eid literally means 'festival' or 'feast' and is a time when families come together to share and enjoy the blessings of God with lavish feasts and get-togethers. The first celebration that was affected by the pandemic was Eid-ul-Fitr and because it was during the lockdown everyone was forced to celebrate in their homes and connect virtually with their extended family. Our family made the best of it by keeping traditions alive with sweet treats we made at home and planned a zoom call to celebrate with our extended family which consisted of 20+ people. We most definitely learned a lot from that call and how to make it better for the next celebration!
As the year went on and people started adapting to the ‘new norm’, it was fascinating to see how people have improvised to keep traditions and celebrations alive.
Children love to dress up and this makes Halloween one of the most spooktacular celebrations of the year. While celebrations across the city were canceled for Halloween, communities came together to mark the occasion with a safe and socially distanced celebration. I didn’t want to disappoint the children, so we celebrated at my brother’s house who lives in a community. We decorated the entrance and set up a table of individually packed gift bags with chocolate and candy for trick or treaters to take away. The kids also dressed up (with the addition of a mask this year) and walked around the community going door to door to get their treats. Boy did we have bags full by the end of the night! Even though I was hesitant at first, I’m glad I did this because it brought us one step closer to believing that things will get back to normal soon.
UAE Flag Day has been celebrated nationwide since 2013 with the UAE flag hoisted around the country simultaneously at 11 am on 3rd November. Public and private sector companies decorate their buildings while individuals decorate their houses with the UAE Flag, and these decorations are often kept until National Day to show their spirit and notion of unity. This year’s celebrations were limited to 20 people attending the flag hoisting, physical activities in schools not allowed, and souvenirs of flags could not be distributed. Despite these restrictions, many companies opted to include their employees in the celebrations by letting them attend the flag-raising ceremony virtually. Schools also showed their spirit by letting teachers and children dress up in the flag colors and broadcasting the flag-raising ceremony live to students in their classroom or virtually for students learning from home. The national spirit certainly came through despite the restrictions.
Also known as the festival of lights, Diwali is usually celebrated for 5 days. The festival is celebrated with family, friends, and lots of light decorations. The festival is also synonymous with exchanging gifts. While the celebrations may be limited to the immediate family this year, the spirit of the festival can certainly be kept alive with lighting and exchange of gifts.
UAE National Day
With the UAE National Day on 2nd December, we all get a 4-day holiday to enjoy the national spirit with a host of events and activities that take place across the country annually. Although I’m pretty sure that the celebrations will be significantly toned down this year, we can take this time to truly explore all that the UAE has to offer. This would be a great time and the perfect weather to explore the more traditional locations like Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, Hatta Heritage Village, Qasr Al Muwaiji, Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, or Qasr Al Hosn. You can also take your kids on a staycation to explore Hatta or the Northern emirates.
Christmas and Winter Break
Can you believe that in less than two months 2020 will be over? That makes Christmas just around the corner! If you haven’t already started shopping for your Christmas wish-list, then we have a great selection of kids' toys to choose from with many new products that have arrived just in time for the festive season. Apart from the gifts, it’s a great time to involve your children in decorating your home to keep old traditions alive, and at the same time create new ones. The pandemic has forced us to mostly stay home, despite our movements being restricted, we are fortunate to be living in an era where we can connect virtually. Plan a virtual Christmas lunch with the extended family or an afternoon of unwrapping Christmas gifts with the grandparents.
If you don’t celebrate Christmas, you can still get into a festive spirit for the Winter holiday season. The UAE is amazing during winter with all the winter festivals that take place not to mention the amazing weather perfect to be outdoor. So, plan outings with your family to liven up their spirit as the year ends and get your children a gift for simply making it through this year.
We can all agree that birthdays have been overshadowed this year and the brunt of it has been felt by children who miss their friends in the celebration. My boys wanted to have a birthday party, so we celebrated at home and created a list of everything they wanted to have. From their favorite food to the type of cake, the list of gifts, and who to invite for the virtual celebration, they planned it all. In this way, the boys got the birthday they wanted which overshadowed the fact that they couldn't invite their friends or celebrate in their favorite play area. The point I'm trying to make is to celebrate every occasion, even if it's on a small scale and only with your family.
Amid all the doom and gloom that has bestowed upon us this year, it is important to celebrate the small wins, whether on a personal or professional level. These small celebrations help us become less anxious and maintain our mental well-being and God knows what a roller coaster that has been for all of us, young and old. Research shows that people who practice gratitude daily and celebrate in some way are less anxious and physically healthier overall.