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How to Make Holidays as Meaningful as Possible Amidst Coronavirus

With Passover and Easter coming up, it’s important to find ways to stay connected, instead of focusing on our inability to be together during this challenging time.

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We are facing an unprecedented challenge. Our professional and personal lives have been upended—whether because we and our loved ones have been personally affected by the virus or because social distancing is keeping us apart from colleagues and friends. The way we work, study, socialize, worship and more will be different for some time yet.

The Great Depression taught us the difference between wants and needs. From the attack on Pearl Harbor we learned to prepare for any possibility. September 11th made us newly aware of America’s vulnerability but also its resilience. Like these momentous episodes, the coronavirus will prove to be a “forcing function.” Though coined by the Irish mathematician William Hamilton in 1835, the term came to prominence as a reference to a feature in user experience design that prevents someone from taking action without consciously considering information about that task.

In other words, a forcing function prevents us from doing things automatically. The events I’m referring to bring us to a greater consciousness, disrupt the normal flow of thought and living, and require us to look at things differently. Challenging as it may seem, I would ask us all to use disruption of our normal routines to identify those things that don’t serve us and slow down to reflect on what, and who, matters to us most.

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We are coming up on two important holidays, Passover and Easter, which surely will be celebrated much differently this year. But it is our responsibility—for our families, the memories of our children and our communities—to make them as meaningful as possible. As we look around our smaller tables this year, let’s reflect on those who can’t be there and our feelings of gratitude toward those who are. I would encourage us to go chair-by-chair and think about who is unable to be there but are still attending in spirit. Instead of focusing on our inability to be together, let’s find a way to keep connected. That could be a simple phone call or acknowledgement to someone you miss. Or it could be something more creative—say, a Seder conducted over Zoom between your house and those of your relatives. If your older relatives, who may be in isolation, don’t yet know how to use FaceTime, now is the time to teach them.

Easter celebrates new beginnings. Passover recalls the suffering of our ancestors and the great fortune of those who survived to keep the faith alive. Let’s think of these times as a forcing function that ask us to renew our faith, our relationships and our commitment to the values we hold dear. Mine has always been, first and foremost, to my family and business community, my extended family. Our business is a family one.

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