#Holidays2020 - Keeping (New) Traditions in a Pandemic

We’re bearing down on the holidays — surprise! Our clocks stopped in March, too — and if you’re as overwhelmed as we are, the usual yearly holiday stress/joy/excitement may have taken on some new, more complex dimension. With travel restrictions and recommendations against large gatherings, the usual holiday shindigs are probably going to look and act different this year. But while we are all rethinking our holiday traditions, there are a few you and your family can (re)engage in to help keep your holiday spirits intact.

If the prospect of a virtual Thanksgiving has you feeling mopey, there’s a reason for that. “There seems to be something very basic in the human soul that craves some predictability and some recognition that we move in concert with the seasons,” explains Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., a licensed psychologist and marriage and family counselor. “My theory is that these markers of time are a fundamental way that we all have to make the unpredictability and stress of daily life bearable.” At the most basic level, she explains, holidays give us some comfort and strength from the simple observance that we’ve made it once more around the calendar. “On a more complex level, they provide a culturally sanctioned reason for everyone to stop, to take stock of ourselves, to acknowledge who we’ve chosen to be in our families and communities,” she said. This opportunity for reflection allows us to evaluate the steps we’ve taken as individuals, for ourselves and in relation to those around us.

ReinVENTing Your Traditions

While we know it “won’t be the same this year,” we can probably all agree this is one season that’ll live on in family stories for generations (and internet memes) to come. If you’re feeling nostalgic for some of your favorite in-person traditions, the good news is not all activities have to be suspended. Below, check out some of our suggestions to help (re)create some holiday traditions to boost your mood, improve your health, and add some cheer.


Hiking is a great way to reconnect to nature and balance mental health while reaping the fitness benefits of walking.

Take a (Holiday) Hike

“I love Nature partly because she is not man, but a retreat from him. None of his institutions control or pervade her. There a different kind of right prevails. In her midst I can be glad with an entire gladness.”

— Henry David Thoreau, from his journals

Ah, the Great Outdoors. In an era of X Box and YouTube, it’s enjoying a resurgence in popularity due to COVID-related restrictions. It offers a fresh-air infused opportunity to easily distance, and provides a boost your mental health, with the added exercise benefits of walking. 

 The National Park Service points out not only is hiking a total body effort — to navigate uneven ground, rock slides, and in some more extreme cases, peaks or steeper ascents — it enhances balance, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness. Hiking can also help improve bone density. But perhaps most relevant, it can positively affect the brain’s functioning.  A study in 2015 found that participants had reduced activity in their prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain associated with repetitive and negative thoughts — after spending 90 minutes hiking in a natural setting. And while the exact nature of the relationship hasn’t been fully identified (see what we did there?), there is plenty of evidence that spending time in nature can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response.


And with the abundance of fresh air, it’s a welcome addition to your pandemic plans. This isn’t to say you can forego the usual social distancing precautions — in fact, it’s more important than ever to keep your mask handy (or, face…y?) and to observe six feet of separation. And, as always, check your local jurisdiction for specifics on what trail rules are in effect before you go. If your usual holiday activities are up for a refresh, consider finding a trail near you, and make a plan with your loved ones. Pack some layers and a Yeti of hot cocoa, and you’re well on your way.

Find the Perfect Tree

This is a hotly debated topic — fake or real? For this year, if the hunt for a live tree isn’t already on your family’s traditions list, consider adding it. The search for the perfect tree can be a family bonding event that’s also safer during these pandemic times. Not only can you remain outdoors (and socially distanced) while you search, it can get you and your family into some more of the aforementioned beneficial fresh air. Add in the fresh scent of balsam and fir, the possibility of some Hallmark-movie snow, and the opportunity for (more) hot cocoa, and you’ve got a holiday tradition you’ll want to repeat year after year. Most local garden and home improvement centers sell trees pre-cut, and there are a variety of cut-your-own locations if you want to add a hike aspect to your tree search. Most cut-your-own locations provide a saw, and both cut-your-own and lawn/garden centers will help carry, bundle, and load onto your vehicle. 

Some tips to help you pick the perfect live tree
courtesy of Nick Huban of On the Farm, who shared this with us last year

Measure It: Before you leave your house, measure from your ceiling to your tree stand. This is the maximum size your Christmas tree can be! Take this to the tree farm and find the tree of your dreams that will perfectly fit in your house without any headaches.

Balsam and Fraser Fir ONLY: Stick with these two species, and your tree is promised to be vibrant, fragrant, and living all holiday season! 

Hydrate Every Day: Once your tree has made it in your home, be sure to water it every single day! Never let the water drop beyond the cut end or your tree will lose its ability to absorb water.

VENT Family friend and On the Farm owner, Nick Huban.
Photo courtesy of Lynda Edwards, Times Union

To Honor a Fallen Friend

We were saddened to learn of the passing of long-time VENT family friend, Nick Huban. Among his other beloved qualities and generous actions, he donated trees and wreaths to decorate our VENT Fitness locations to ensure our clubs were properly decked out in holiday spirit! We extend our most heartfelt condolences to the Huban family. We join you in celebrating his life.

We invite all VENT Family members and staff to consider supporting On the Farm this and every season.

A look at some of On the Farm’s beautiful trees at VENT Fitness

Digital Traditions

With the travel and visitation restrictions, the holidays are going to require a bit of ingenuity. Businesses are recognizing this, and are offering new deals and opportunities to help ease the transition. Zoom, the go-to video conferencing platform, has waived its 40-minute limit for its free accounts from midnight ET on Nov. 26 through 6 a.m. ET on Nov. 27.  Apple TV and other digital platforms are broadcasting special holiday programming for free, and thanks to the efforts of some very tech-savvy developers, you can watch your favorite holiday movies with virtual watch parties on Hulu, Netflix, and more.  A search on Google or Pinterest yields a plethora of “Virtual Thanksgiving Ideas” that include games, interactive meal plans, and more. And who knows — you might find this allows you closer bonding with your household and beyond, with some fun new ways to celebrate that you can employ at other times throughout the year (Pizza Fridays with the Grandparents, anyone?).

The Takeaway

Regardless of your plans for the upcoming holidays, one thing is certain; they will be unlike any others in our history. And one thing that we have proven over and over — we are resilient, and while it isn’t always comfortable, change is what allows us to evolve and grow. It is in this spirit that we wish you and your family, your loved ones and friends, a very happy, and safe holiday season.

VENT Fitness will be closed Thursday, November 26 in observance of Thanksgiving Day. Be safe, and we will see you in the clubs!