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Is it fall if there’s no football?

The holidays are right around the corner, and if you’re like me, the season doesn’t start with Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping. I consider Football season and prepping for Halloween the true kickoff to the holiday season. By late September I’ve planned our costumes, picked up new decor to add to my 6 or 7 giant plastic bins of decorations, and have started decorating the house. This year, I don’t even know where to start. The spirit is willing. I’m just out of emotional bandwidth and energy after the last six months of Covid-19 quarantine and the never-ending news cycle of politics and civil injustice. However, I am determined to press on.

There are two things we can count on every fall in the south – football and autumn festivals. Not so much this year. Football is just weird. No fans in the Dome, no Saturday night in Death Valley, no tailgating in The Grove, Toomer’s Corner is sparse. Voodoo Fest is cancelled, and most of the usual round of fall craft fairs, music fests, and pre-holiday shopping events are either postponed or will look much different than years before. Halloween as we know it will probably not happen this year. The revelry of Bourbon Street will be quelled. I can’t even imagine neighborhood streets teeming with children dressed as Marvel superheroes and princesses as many cities may limit or even cancel Trick-or-treating this year.

After spending the spring and summer in some sort of holding pattern, without our regular fall programming, we simply aren’t sure how to act. Let’s be honest. We are all “over this” virus and the idea of heading into the holidays without our normal celebrations is depressing. The American Psychological Association says that continuing to celebrate the seasons is essential to our mental and physical health. Our celebrations may just have to look different this year, but that can be a good thing. Remember all the stress we usually put on ourselves each holiday season? Let that crap go. This is a time to decide what traditions you really enjoy and which ones you do because that is the way you’ve always done it.

Go ahead and decorate your home for fall. it doesn’t matter if nobody else will see it. You and your family will, and that’s what truly matters. Decorate your mantle and front door. Add some cozy throw pillows and snuggly throws in preparation for cooler mornings and evenings. Crank the air conditioning and make some hot chocolate – whatever gets you in the mood. Mark the changing of the season. At the very least, you’ll feel like this year is drawing to a close, and I think we will all be glad to see the calendar change.

photo by D’Atagnan Winford

So you can’t go to games and tailgating is cancelled? Almost every game is televised or can be found on some streaming channel. We can’t throw SuperBowl-sized parties right now, but we can still have a few family members and friends over to watch the games. Fall is the very best time for outdoor events in the south, and there is nothing better than setting up a few tables, piling them with fun football-themed food and decor and hanging out with your nearest and dearest for a few hours. Even those “throw-away” games can be fun if you have the right mix of people.

photo by Jodye Sabatini
photo by Jodye Sabatini

Decorate for your favorite team, add some corn-hole or divide your group into teams for first down or touchdown drinking games, and enjoy the sport! Is there someone in your home you are trying limit from exposure? Skip the crowd and make game day special for your own family. Whip up a pot of chili or gumbo, cook some sliders, drop some rotel dip into a crockpot and dine “party-style” during the game. Put chips in plastic football bowls from the Dollar Tree and use football shaped paper plates. Invest in some really nice serving pieces that you’ll be proud to show off when you can get back to regular tailgating. Just embrace the fun of the competition.

photo by Jodye Sabatini
photo by Jodye Sabatini

As we head into October, why not rethink how you celebrate Halloween as well? You might be down about missing out on huge costume parties, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up the holiday entirely. Go ahead and decorate. Look for school, church and community events for your kids to attend that are embracing social distancing guidelines. Create spooky treats together and head to a pumpkin farm to pick the best gourds for Jack-o-lanterns. It’s the perfect time to enjoy fresh air and outdoor spaces as a family.

photo by D’Atagnan Winford

Start planning for more low-key grow-up events too. Instead of a big boozy blowout, re-imagine this year’s event by hosting an All Hallow’s Eve dinner party. Honor those CDC guidelines on social gatherings and make it exclusive. String twinkle lights and set up tables on your deck and decorate around a theme. A ouija board for charcuterie? Yes, please. Ask your guests to come as vampires, witches, or in any style you like. If you have a budget available, contact an event planner. Lots of wedding planners have expanded their services during this crisis to include small events like dinner parties. They can help you with tables, chairs, linens, and even a small tent if you need one. Plus, they have super creative ideas, and they know the best caterers who can create dishes to wow your guests. There is nothing like an elegant event to make us feel like we’ve done something special, and you can bet your friends will be talking about your party for years to come.

photo by D’Atagnan Winford
photo by D’Atagnan Winford
photo by D’Atagnan Winford

At the end of the day, celebrating the seasons is not about what you do, but how you enjoy it. Get creative and make some memories. You may find that the things you choose to do under these trying circumstances will become a part of your holiday rituals for years to come.

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