By Michelle Ruth, Account Supervisor

I know people like to boast about being “so close with their family,” but when I say it, I truly mean it. I come from a very tight-knit family — the type where you tell one person what you had for breakfast and, by 10:15 am, they’re all texting you asking you how your bagel was. Even having grown up with two brothers that were much older than me (I’m talking three of us spanning 11 years), I always felt close to them in a way that I thought seemed different from my friends’ families. So while we didn’t have this large, extended family full of multiple aunts, uncles and cousins, our little family — my mom, my dad, my two (much) older brothers and me, was perfect in my eyes.

Gift giving for the holidays was always a big thing for my family. Before I even knew what “holiday gift guides” were and how much work goes into curating these ever-growing lists of present possibilities, my brothers and I were all about creating the *perfect* Hanukkah wish list. We (mostly me) would spend weeks writing (and re-writing) our lists until we got them just right, which to others seemed superficial for a time of year centered around joy, happiness and loved ones. But, once people understood the real reason behind the weeks of gift list curating, superficiality was the furthest thing from their minds. Clearly, I started working on my professional skills from a young age.

Let me give you a little background — while the age difference between myself and my brothers seems inconsequential now, when I was growing up, I was often the only one living at home, with both brothers off at college by the time I was 12. But even though I missed my family time, I knew that come the holidays, we’d all be together again, forgetting we were ever apart. So, while the outside world thought that my holiday season fascination was because I might get one of the coveted items on my carefully perfected Hanukkah list, what no one actually realized was that creating that list was just a way to count down until I would be surrounded by my favorite people again for a few uninterrupted weeks.

Fast forward about two decades, and that little family of mine that I love to spend the majority of my time with (more than most 28 year-olds would care to admit), has grown into a messy, beautiful and large crew, having been expanded by two sisters-in-law, a niece and a nephew. And while our traditions have changed slightly, we still have “Family Hanukkah’’ — a day for us to all get together and exchange our gifts that we’ve spent weeks picking out (we’re a hard crew to shop for), always ending with a very typical brunch of latkes, matzo ball soup and lots of pickles at 2nd Avenue Deli. Original, I know.

As I look forward to this holiday season, which everyone in the PR and editorial worlds has been planning for months now, I’m noticing the highly anticipated gift guides that I’ve spent my career working to get my clients included in, appearing with new types of gifting ideas featured than in the past. And I’ve come to understand that my family’s finely honed skills of list building and gift giving are truly coming in handy this year, in a holiday season where nothing is as we remember it. For example, while my family is usually big on “experiential gifts” that we can do together, I already know that will shift this year to be gifts that will make our home lives more comfortable, bringing our favorite comforts of the outside world into a safe space, especially in a world that seems so unreliable. And I can imagine we’re not the only ones shifting our mindsets like this heading into Holiday Season 2020.

With this very evident switch in holiday stories and gift guides for “everyone on your list,” I’m reminded of why we spend months curating our holiday lists for not only ourselves, but also for our loved ones. It’s not because we actually can’t live without that new pair of boots we’ve been eyeing or that your daughter just has to have the new Frozen 2 toy (like my 3-year-old niece), it’s because it means that the almost magical time of the year is back.

That unique moment of the year that’s carved out just to be with the people we love the most in the world — our families. It’s a time where we get to bring them just a little more joy and happiness than they had before. And this year more than ever, while we’re in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic and likely feeling more physically separated from our family than we ever imagined, it’s those well-curated gift lists and piles of presents that are going to help us feel close to our loved ones when we can’t actually be there with them. And, while the items on those lists might not be the same as past years, we’re creating new types of lists that will bring comfort, love, warmth and thoughtfulness to our families to help lighten the heavy load we’re all carrying and bring a little more lightness to the time of year that should be sprinkled with happiness and just a touch of magic.

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