How we built new traditions during the pandemic

Almost two years later, we’re still adjusting to how the COVID-19 pandemic has blurred our celebrations, our happy times, our time markers.

Dislodged from our basic routines, we sought solace in strings of text and video chats when we couldn’t kiss. Watching the family evolve into a spider’s web of calculated risk and careful planning – if at all possible. The feeling of isolation has increased.

Thus, new traditions were born – not only out of necessity, but also out of creativity and resilience. Despite our separations, we have found ways to forge new connections.

READ MORE: How we took care of ourselves in 2021

We asked our viewers and readers what new traditions, for holidays or not, they started during the pandemic. Below, read what brought them comfort, in their own words.

These responses have been edited slightly for length and clarity.

A wearable work of art

Visual artist John Gutoskey sewn the first patch on this pair of jeans in early March 2020. There are now 94 patches representing 94 weeks since the start of the pandemic. “As it stands, I might have to start a denim jacket next,” Gutoskey wrote. Photos courtesy of John Gutoskey

I started sewing an embroidered patch on jeans to mark each pandemic week. The front is now fully covered in patches, and I am working on the back.

The jeans are work pants from my studio that I had already started repairing with pieces of denim from old jeans. The reason I started this tradition was to mark the pandemic time permanently. The patches also become a meditation on time, with the practice of sewing another patch at the end of each week. When I was a teenager in the 1970s, my mom taught me how to patch my jeans to make them last longer. So, in a way, they’re a continuation of a tradition that my mother taught me.

– John Gutoskey from Ann Arbor, Michigan

A recipe for creating family bonds

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An overview of the “Best of Food Network” cookbook. Erika Christ said she and her kids would rate the dishes on a scale of 1 to 10, calculate the average score, and save it next to the recipe, with some additional comments. Photo courtesy of Erika Christ

My teenage children and I enjoyed new activities together. After pulling out some interesting recipes from my daughter’s Food Network magazine backlog, she organized them and pasted them into a cookbook. Then we started planning the meals each week, choosing recipes from the book and recording our notes for them. My 15 year old daughter Julia was almost always the chef as she loves to cook. She and her 18 year old brother (now in college) were much tougher than me in evaluating food. It has been a great family bonding activity and provided the kids with fun and fun during the virtual school last year.

– Erika Christ from Alexandria, Virginia

Care during the pandemic

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Two coolers full of eggs. After her mother’s death, Teresa Takahashi devoted her time to helping others, including making groceries and supplies deliveries. Photo courtesy of Teresa Takahashi

I was a caregiver to my parents until my mother died of COVID. Failure to care for them has left a huge hole in my heart. To help, I posted on a social media page asking if anyone needed anything or help. From the responses, I began to deliver free medical supplies, groceries, and food to those who choose to stay home or care for them, and continue to do so. This has been my cardiac and mental therapy.

–Teresa Takahashi from Torrance, California

A reading connection

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Alice Daer’s daughter Aniya reads “Pahua and the Sword Stealer” by Lori M. Lee on the porch of the family home in Phoenix. Photo courtesy of Alice Daer

When the pandemic began, my special needs daughter, who had just turned 7, was extremely deregulated by the lockdown and online schooling. She was feeling lonely, so I promised her that I would get her as many books as she wanted to keep her company. I’m a former English teacher and a lot of my friends are English teachers, and one day one of them suggested that she and my daughter could read the same book together through FaceTime. She’s in Morris, Minnesota, and we’re in Phoenix, Arizona. They started doing it every few days, and now it has continued – once a week, every Saturday morning. They take turns reading one paragraph at a time and enjoy being together and reading. It’s really lovely.

– Alice Daer from Phoenix

In this house, we zoom in

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Barbara Baring and her family show off their gingerbread house decorations on Zoom. Photo courtesy of Barbara Baring

My three siblings and our three-generation families, spread across Colorado, Nevada, California, and Alaska, have started hosting Zoom Meetings every two weeks. At Christmas, each household bought or made gingerbread houses, which we decorated together on Zoom. We have our second Zoom Gingerbread House coming up and agreed that the regular Zoom meetings have been a wonderful way to stay connected and close.

– Barbara Baring from Denver

Something a little sweeter

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Cookies and pies are among the desserts Angela Nickerson’s family made during the pandemic. Photos courtesy of Angela Nickerson

When the pandemic started, we promised our 8 year old that we could have dessert every night during the pandemic. It was a simple thing meant to make a scary moment a little sweeter. Here we are almost two years later: We still have dessert every night. My husband bakes cookies, a new skill for him. We have a little ice cream. It makes life a little sweeter!

– Angela Nickerson from Broomfield, Colorado

Be useful

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A photo of a crochet blanket. Photo via Getty Images

Since I must have been isolated longer than most, I took the opportunity to crochet blankets for each member of my extended family. I hadn’t crocheted for a few years, but it filled my days of isolation and gave me something not just to fill my time, but to create something useful.

– Laura Crouch from Ozark, Alabama

The “Stanley Cup”, enriched

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Cranberries were the main ingredient in the holiday mix-off last year. Jody Gaffney’s youngest daughter was the winner, with a cranberry margarita. Jody came in last with a vodka and cranberry sparkle. Photo courtesy of Jody Gaffney

We have a family vacation mix where my daughters and I make cocktails on Christmas Eve and then judge them to see which cocktail is better. And then we have a travel shaker with last year’s winner’s name on it. It’s a bit like a Stanley Cup.

– Jody Gaffney from Venice, Florida

A laudatory review of movie nights

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This photo of Lauren Bingham’s son and friends was taken at her 8th birthday party in the backyard this year. Photo courtesy of Lauren Bingham

We’ve always loved going to the movies, so all the movie theater closures forced us to get creative. We bought a cheap projector and a stovetop popcorn maker and started making backyard movies. Depending on the restrictions, we would invite a few families to join in, put the kids in camping chairs or laundry baskets or picnic blankets with a bunch of glow sticks, and parents could relax and chat in the ‘back. During those isolated and stressful days of home schooling, it was a godsend!

– Lauren Bingham from Rowlett, Texas

“Mario Kart” and trash talk

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A family that plays together stays together. Photo courtesy of Kate Lockhart

We meet on Zoom every Friday night with my siblings, parents and nephews to play “Mario Kart”. We started a few months after the start of the pandemic, and it is still going on. It has been a great way for us to stay involved in everyone’s life. We don’t live near family – we’re close to Buffalo, New York, and my family is around Chicago – so this has been a fun way to keep in touch, chat, and have a lot of laughs. It’s a great way for multiple generations to connect, and we plan to keep going for as long as possible!

– Kate Lockhart from North Tonawanda, New York


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