Ideas for Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas to Combat the Holiday Blues

The time has come for planning family gatherings for the holidays. Tis the season (except when you are going through a divorce)!

As difficult as it is to remember traditions of years past, it is a good time to consider creating new traditions. Think about the aspects of the holiday that bring you joy and weave them into a new landscape of holiday happiness. Changing décor, location, and the menu can help keep old memories at bay. Changing the actual day might help as well (and may have to happen with certain custodial arrangements). Being flexible and making it fun are the two Golden Rules.


  • Invite your non-Jewish friends for a traditional meal of latkes, kugel, and brisket.
  • Try new recipes that are traditional but haven’t been part of your family’s menu in the past.
  • Drop off eight days of gifts to a Jewish assisted living or residential facility.
  • Gather with distant family members or Jewish friends on days when you don’t have your children.
  • Give yourself eight little gifts to cheer yourself!


  • Invite some new friends and neighbors to join in and learn the meaning of this lesser known secular holiday. Explain about the black, red, and green candles and what they represent.
  • Gather somewhere different than you typically did to mix it up.
  • Ask everyone to bring a handmade gift and to wear bright colors.


  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen
  • Gather with friends or acquaintances who are alone or who have small families.
  • Visit an extended family member who you don’t get to see often.
  • Look for a local event to attend (If you live in Bucks County, go see the re-enactment of Washington’s Crossing in Washington Crossing, PA).
  • Have some Chinese food take out and go to the movies.
  • Listen to new and different Christmas music rather than traditional tunes that may be too painful to hear.
  • Travel for the holiday.

The freedom of being divorced is that you have full design over how your holiday will be in your own home. Be creative and authentic in determining what traditions you’d like to carry into the future. Look for joy with your five senses by listening to music, savoring holiday foods, looking at the decorations and twinkling lights and candles, smelling the scent of pine and peppermint, and hugging the ones you are with. Happy Holidays!


Deirdre Shaffer, MSW, LCSW


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