The holidays can be a particularly difficult time for those of us who have a loved one who is incarcerated. We miss our loved ones and might find ourselves wondering what the holidays will be like for them, or if it’s even possible to have a merry Christmas while in jail or prison.
Pelipost’s Co-Founder and COO, Becky shared her experience along with valuable perspective on how families can provide support by sharing their holiday celebrations with their loved ones on the inside.
What are the holidays really like on the inside?
It was definitely not ignored, like just another day. Christmas was big- as big as it can be in there. We would get toilet paper or stuff like that and we would try and make snowflakes out of it and decorate our windows and stuff like that. It’s simply amazing what just using your imagination you can do to get into the Christmas spirit and to feel like you’re bringing it in to yourself so that you can celebrate it, because it’s still a celebration. You still want to celebrate the holidays.
You prepare for your Christmas meal. You start when you have canteen, and you buy your products. And who is going to do what- “I’m in charge of the cheesecake,” “Who’s in charge of this?” It’s like a little potluck that you create, trying very hard to maintain the spirit. And for an evening, for Christmas Eve, for Christmas Day, you try really hard to just separate yourself from where you’re at.
One thing that we did when we wanted to do something special was sharing of the mail we had received that previous year, anything special that we wanted to share. And we had a bunch of letters and that kept us all busy. So sharing our pictures, sharing just where we were, where our families were. “What news did you have of your family?” “What has changed?” Christmas was really a time to sit, eat, and reflect. Everyone knew it was Christmas. We celebrated it, and just made it joyful, as joyful as you can while you’re in there.
How can photos help bring the outside in?
A few weeks before Christmas and the holidays, holiday parties start happening, family gatherings start happening. Scenery, Christmas lights on the house, things that you take for granted. You’re driving by and you see- “Oh wow, that house is really decorated.” The street that you used to cruise by that’s filled with Christmas lights, all those things are things that you can still share. Things like that- those photos can be used to decorate the room because they’re lights.
They bring new life, they bring Christmas in to us. When you see a decoration or anything like that that you think, “oh, this would bring a smile to so-and-so’s face,” take a picture of these moments and send them in. Because if they’re lucky enough to put them up and share them, they bring so much joy and they almost take us out of the cell we’re in and remind us of wherever it was that these events were taking place.
In the back of your mind- yes, of course you wish you were there. But to see the joy being shared, and to see pictures of grandma holding a baby, or granddad with all the kids trying to play football, or any kind of moments that are happening out there, you’re happy for your family. You’re happy for the people that are out there. And to me, it brought me joy to see the people out there and how they were sharing within family and friends and how beautiful it is- beautiful memories.
Watch our full interview with Becky on our YouTube channel here.
To read more about the experiences Becky has been through, check out Becky’s Story Inside Incarceration on the Pelipost blog. To download the Pelipost app go to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.