By Kristine Petterson

“I wonder how they get the light in here?” My 4 year old marveled, holding up a stray bulb as we unpacked our holiday boxes the day after Thanksgiving.

She was closing one eye and looking deeply with the other into the bulb, rotating it in her tiny fingers. Then she would look at the same bulbs twinkling on the tree and back at me for an answer. I stopped bustling around and prepared to tell the story of Thomas Edison. Instead, I took a deep breath, paused to kneel down, and gazed into this absolutely magical glass bulb and replied, “It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?”

The girls had endless curiosity about every fragile, new, mysterious surprise that we unpacked throughout the day. I let go of my list of things to do and embraced the mess surrounding us, so that I could slow down to really see the magic of the holidays from their perspective. While my business gets stuff done, keeps bedtimes on track, and makes sure there is food on the table, there is a lot I miss out on when I’m hurriedly multitasking. I decided to let my kids be my teachers for the day and I gave up the itch to do more things so that I could simply be more fully present. I loved to see their eyes widen as they listened to stories told to me by my parents and grandparents. We bowed our heads together as I reminded them of holiday craft projects they had no recollection of making in years past.

Regardless of what religion or tradition your celebration is rooted in, there is likely a focus on light in the darkness, kindness, feasting and faith. Before my lightbulb moment, the holidays felt heavy, with a focus on what we are not able to do and how much we have had to give up this year. My daughter’s sweet question illustrated that we can still hold the magic of this holiday season if we keep wonder alive, allow space for new experiences and pay close attention in the special moments.

This year will be different for many of us. You may be far away and only able to connect with loved ones over the phone, through the mail or video chat, but the intention and meaning is still there. For me, it was easier to feel when I set aside parts of my busy life and paused to ask the question: What connections will you create with others to light up the dark this holiday season?

Is there someone you can call to share your knitting project or discuss a book you just finished? Who could you invite to witness the angle of winter light with you just before sundown? What special person would love to witness (via video chat) you plugging in your tree and lighting your candles? Is there someone who loves your children that would be willing to record themselves reading a favorite holiday story from their childhood; a friend you can call to sing familiar holiday songs together?

We may feel limited in many ways, which makes this year a great time to wonder: What sweet new offerings can we give to our families, our friends, our community this winter? Donations of food and clothes are common. So is shopping for gifts to share through a local Giving Tree, Humane Society or Christmas for Kids. You may feel inspired to get crafty; you can make ornaments or write cards to send to senior centers where folks are unable to receive visitors. If you need more inspiration, you can look around your neighborhood at some of the creative ways individuals and organizations are working to safely support and uplift each other.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that our gifts must cost money in order to be valuable or that we have to be in the same room to experience the magic of connection. However, that’s not true. Your ability to create new ways to share your humor, your hope, your inspiration this season can be a bright light for others. And who knows, the new ways you discover in this uncertain year may become a meaningful tradition that you will continue in the future. And that’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Petterson lives in Moscow with her husband and their two children. She left public education to become a yoga instructor, sleep specialist and mindful parenting educator. She can be contacted via her website at