It is a challenge to feel all the warm fuzzies of the holiday season this year, what with COVID cases climbing, California back to sheltering-in-place, and people I love getting sick.

Yet I remain committed to cultivating the holiday spirit. And in that vein, I want to share some of my favorite holiday traditions to hopefully spread some joy.

The big, fat disclaimer is that being with the people I love is my favorite of all favorite holiday traditions. I don’t want to underplay how sad and hard it is going to be to not see many of my favorite people this Christmas. It’s been difficult to not see those people all year, and it is sadder and harder during the holidays. No doubt.

But there are other favorite things that I am embracing even more than usual this year.

First, the music. I mean, c’mon! Christmas music is THE BEST! Starting the day after Thanksgiving (and not before!) I listen to nothing but Christmas music for the duration of December. I have a playlist with 186 songs and growing. I added one this morning…Ingrid Michaelson’s “Looks Like a Cold, Cold Winter,” a throwback 40’s/50’s holiday vibe. The past few years I’ve enjoyed John Legend’s “Bring Me Love” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Wrapped in Red” and “Underneath the Tree,” Rob Thomas’ “A New York Christmas”, Leslie Odom’s “Winter Song”, and Darius Rucker’s “Candy Cane Christmas.” Yet my standard favorites remain Wham’s “Last Christmas,” Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas,” Elton John’s “Step Into Christmas,” and Garth Brooks’ “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” among many others (obviously…186 songs, people!). And then there are my favorite complete Christmas albums…Bing Crosby, Michael Bublé, Martina McBride, The 12 Hits of Christmas, which brings back my childhood. And always the debates about who has the best versions of classics…White Christmas (Bing or Bublé?)…O Holy Night (Martina, Mariah, Celine, Josh Grobin? All so good!). I also have my cheesy favorites from Glee, John Denver and the Muppets, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, and Air Supply. Oh, and how could I leave out Feed the World and We are the World? Good stuff.

Okay, so I could spend all day on music, but let’s move on to my next favorite…Christmas movies! I love the black-and-white classics of White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life and Scrooge (although the newer Bill Murray version of this is my favorite). I also love, love, love Love Actually (which I watched last night) and The Holiday, which I watch each and every year. Oh, and The Preacher’s Wife…Whitney Houston and Denzel…so great. I also enjoy the comedy antics of Elf, Why Him, Four Christmases, A Christmas Story, and Christmas Vacation. Laughing is more important than ever this year!

The movies and music put me in such a good mood with their messages of hope and love prevailing. Of people coming together, finding their best selves, seeing the joy and connection available all around them, if only they open their eyes to see it. Which is hard to do during COVID…but also hard to do with Mr. Potter plotting against you.

So to wrap up with a few other favorites…

Christmas baking…my mom’s recipes for thumbprint cookies and Mexican wedding cakes and fudge.

Decorations…wondering this year if my tree will withstand our playful and mischievous kittens.

Christmas cards…sending and receiving them.

Hanging out with my family…always, always, always. I will very much miss my far-away family, but am grateful and blessed to have my boys home with me for the holidays. The plan is to start the day with presents and Ken’s homemade cinnamon rolls, to stay in pajamas all day, probably watch some basketball, play board games, zoom with those not with us. Not so bad.

When the COVID strikes, when I’m stuck at home, when I’m feeling sad…I simply remember my favorite things…and then I don’t feel so bad.

I think I heard that somewhere, although not in a Christmas song, since I have argued more than once that Favorite Things is not a Christmas song. It does work for the blog, though. Darn! Maybe it is a holiday song!