For those struggling with how to celebrate the holidays during a pandemic, members of the Fredericksburg Food Co-op have lots of suggestions, many of them environmentally friendly.
Co-op members Joni Wilson and Carmela Southers presented their ideas for “Re-imaging our Green Holidays” at a recent Zoom session, focusing on local gift experiences and ways to make virtual family gatherings fun, festive and memorable.
The duo presented ideas for a green holiday last year and decided to revisit the theme this year, focusing a little less on the environmental impact of the season and more on re-imagining holiday traditions in light of COVID-19.
“There is always stress during the holiday season, but this year the stress is different,” Southers said. “We’re missing loved ones, feeling isolated, mourning the loss of family rituals. But looked at another way, we have been forced to refocus on what’s really important.
“This year is so different,” she continued. “There’s no need to pretend it isn’t. But how can we reimagine things? How can we still celebrate and make it enjoyable?”
Southers and Wilson offered some tips for those who are interested in reducing their holiday carbon footprint.
Online shopping is even more popular than in previous years because people are wary of venturing into stores, but it’s “not a carbon-neutral endeavor,” Wilson said.
The environmental impact of online shopping can be lessened by buying less, consolidating orders, and avoiding expedited shipping.
Wilson and Southers suggested giving gifts that support local businesses and organizations. They said local museum gift shops have been especially hard-hit due to reduced visitation caused by the pandemic.
Several local gift shops—including the Mary Washington House Gift Shop and the Fredericksburg Visitor Center—accept the Fredericksburg Downtown Gift Card, which Wilson and Southers recommended.
More than 60 downtown businesses and restaurants accept the card, which can be purchased online or at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center or LibertyTown Arts Workshop.
Wilson and Southers also recommended local experiences that can be given as gifts.
Some of their ideas include local museum memberships; city tours; supporting local artists through Patreon; hiking, paddling, rock climbing or kayaking classes at River Rock Outfitter; virtual art classes for children through Ponshop Studio and Gallery; biplane rides from Shannon Airport; and a mushroom foraging adventure from Semper Fi Fungi, a local farmer’s market vendor.
“It’s fun to just reach outside the box and pick something wild and crazy,” Wilson said.
Southers said another gift idea that could have extra meaning during COVID-19 is “giving the gift of you.”
“Like a crafting lesson or virtual babysitting,” she said. “You could record yourself reading a story to someone, or you could have your grandchildren or nieces or nephews read a story to you. And virtual tutoring—parents would love to have someone say, ‘I’ll help you with your kid’s math.’ ”
Since many may be celebrating virtually this year, Southers and Wilson have ideas about how to make Zoom gatherings run smoothly and be enjoyable.
“It’s going to require the same amount of planning as if you were having a face-to-face gathering,” Southers said. “You can’t just start the computer and assume that’s going to be a good experience.”
Inviting everyone in the virtual gathering to share their favorite holiday recipe, reflect on their favorite holiday recipe or talk about their favorite ornament or holiday mug can be good strategies to keep everyone from talking over one another or avoid having to listen to the sounds of people chewing.
Southers and Wilson said one positive effect of the move to virtual gatherings is that it means families can celebrate together no matter how far apart they are.
“We usually just focus on loss,” Southers said. “But the idea that we can reach out to many more people who would have been difficult to see in a traditional year is really a blessing.”
“We’ve got to kind of get over our ‘Oh, my gosh, Christmas is not going to be like it was’ mentality,” Wilson said. “We’ve just got to reimagine. There’s a lot more out there than you would think.”