Coronavirus and Christmas: Why some people are getting in the holiday spirit

A psychotherapist explains why turning to Christmas amid the coronavirus pandemic might help some people. (Photo: Getty Images)

During this strange time of self-isolation and increasing anxiety around the coronavirus pandemic, there's one thing that could bring people together: Christmas.

This week, Twitter users lit up social media with photos from their communities of people who have put Christmas lights back up to spread cheer. (Or maybe they never took them down, but that's beside the point.) Meanwhile, Hallmark Channel has set up a special Christmas movie marathon as 27 original "Countdown to Christmas" holiday films will air this weekend.

Apparently, turning to Christmas during times of panic is actually a pretty good idea.

Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, says Christmas can allow people to feel hopeful.

"For most people, Christmas stirs up nostalgia. It reminds them of happy times during childhood," she explains to Yahoo Lifestyle. "Seeing Christmas lights and decorations may stir up positive emotions, like happiness and excitement and it also may help them feel safe and secure like they did as a kid on Christmas."

Christmas trees aren't readily available in March, but Morin says putting up Christmas lights is a tradition some might find comforting.

"Putting up lights might be a simple act of solidarity that helps remind people they're part of a community," she shares. "Even though they may feel alone, they're in this together."

"Lights can also be enjoyed by other people who may be able to drive by in a car — something we can do even if we are practicing social distancing," she continues. "So you might put up some lights outside."

Morin also suggests watching Christmas movies and for people to do "other activities you enjoy around the holidays" like baking cookies.

"Christmas is often about gratitude and giving — two things we really need right now," she adds. "Someone might find some solace in feeling grateful for what they have. And sharing with someone — whether it's a handwritten letter or a gift they ordered online — can help everyone feel better."

If you're not a Christmas person, then skip it.

"People who don't have fond memories of Christmas aren't likely to find solace in decorations right now," Morin notes.

But if the holidays make you happy, then what's the harm in embracing Christmas nine months early? It can also be something that bonds you together with family you're unable to see.

"Some people who are separated from family might find that decorating gives them a little peace," Morin says. "Perhaps they can share pictures of their lights or talk to family about what they're doing. Family members might even find comfort in putting up similar displays, even if they are located states apart, as a way to remind one another they're there, even if they can't be physically together."

"Some people may find Christmas traditions to be a little draining right now as it may compound their loneliness if they're apart from others," acknowledges Morin. "So it's important to consider whether you'll find it helpful right now. And if you don't, that's OK too."

For the latest news on the evolving coronavirus outbreak, follow along here. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides. 

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