Many of us are facing cancelled holiday plans this year. Some of us might have the city or country they live in on lockdown, others might live far away from family and won’t be able to travel due to restrictions. This doesn’t mean you have to cancel the holiday season and can’t have fun with friends and family, even if you’re celebrating away from each other. Not sure how to do it? My husband and I have been celebrating the holidays on our own ever since moving overseas and we’ve come up with a few of our own traditions over the years to make the season feel more magical. Most of these tips are based on celebrating Yule / Christmas, but you can easily adjust them to fit Hanukkah or any other festive celebration. Here are some ideas on celebrating away from friends and family:
Decorate your space:
You might not have anyone come over this year or only have people in your bubble pop by, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still decorate. Getting cosy each night (even here in Australia when we usually have to have the aircon on) with the tree lights and candles really help shift my mood. Get all your favourite decorations out. The added bonus is you can decorate however you want without judgement from others. If you’re sharing a space with family, house or flat mates, make a fun evening out of it. If you’re living on your own, see who else is keen to decorate their spaces and do it together online, or take each other on a little decor tour afterwards.
Share your favourite Christmas cookie or hot recipes and make them:
Whether it’s with family or friends, or both, share your favourite holiday cookie or hot chocolate recipes and choose a date when you all will make the same one. Hop online either during the baking / making process or afterwards to rate each recipe. Once you’ve made them all, crown an overall winner at the end.
Watch your favourite holiday movie and share it:
It’s not Christmas unless I’ve watched Die Hard and Love Actually. Put on the Christmas lights, grab some festive snacks and pop on your favourite festive movie. Even better, get your family and friends to contribute to a list of their favourite Christmas movies so you can all watch each other’s suggestions. You might even find a new Christmas favourite.
Create a festive playlist:
If you can, share a playlist with your friends or family and get everyone to add their favourite holiday songs. It’s a great way to set the mood while also connecting with family and friends who may be far away. You can listen to it while wrapping gifts or cooking dinner in the weeks leading up to Christmas to help create a festive atmosphere, especially if you’re limited to going out.
Share holiday traditions:
There might be some traditions you’ll have to miss out on this year, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t do some of the others. One of my holiday traditions my husband was happy for us to incorporate was celebrating on Christmas eve. It’s just so much more magical at night with the candle and Christmas lights, not to mention it’s usually a little bit cooler at night in the Southern Hemisphere which makes it much easier to eat anything warm. Get your friends and family to share their favourite holiday traditions and see if there are any new ones you might want to incorporate. This year you might decide to go for an early morning walk come Christmas day when it’s relatively quiet outside or make a new dish for dinner (maybe one you’ve secretly been hoping to have for years on Christmas). If you’re living with others, it might be fun to dress up, either in silly Santa hats or what you were hoping to wear to the Christmas party this year.
Use this time for some introspection:
Take this time to sit down and reflect on the unusual year that was, and make a list of all the things you’re also grateful for. We often focus much more on the things that go wrong than the good things in our life. If you like you can ask friends and family to share what they’re grateful for this year as well and create a little list to keep and look back on next year.
Support small, local businesses for holiday gifts:
In areas that have had (and that are currently having) strict lockdowns, many small, local businesses have suffered. So instead of hopping onto Amazon or one of the big retailer’s websites, why not get friends and family something local? Maybe a voucher form their favourite restaurant for a pick up dinner, festive candles from a local maker or a hamper filled with delicious local treats. If they’re living close to you and you’re allowed to see each other, you can always drop off the gifts in person and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate together outside (or maybe a cold chocolate milk if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere).
Do a fun holiday activity with the kids each weekend in December leading up to Christmas:
If you have children, use this time together to start some fun holiday traditions leading up to Christmas. Pick one night or day each weekend to do something together as a family, whether it’s decorating Christmas cookies together, watching a favourite Christmas movie, making Christmas decorations for the tree or hand making cards for grandparents or their friends. It can be challenging when you’re spending all this time together indoors day after day, but creating a special day each weekend gives them something to during this time of year.
Make your Zoom calls festive:
I know, Zoom fatigue is real but put a festive spin on your next quiz night. You can theme the quiz along holiday traditions around the world or Christmas facts not everyone might know. End the evening with a festive drink and chat. The same goes for on the day itself. You can do a Christmas meal together via Zoom, where everyone sits down and eat together or organise a virtual festive happy hour with friends. Dress up for the occasion, whether it’s all glitz and glam or wearing your best ugly Christmas sweater. Make them fun.
Head outside if you can and watch the Christmas lights:
Heading outside is so good for our mental health. Check with the local safety guidelines first before venturing out as there might be rules with regards to how far you can travel and for how long. If it’s quiet outside and the weather isn’t too bad, grab a hot chocolate and go for a walk through your neighbourhood to see if any of your neighbours put up Christmas lights. Alternatively, if you have a car you can go for a ride to look at the lights. Even if it’s chilly outside, going out and getting some fresh air always helps to improve my mood. If you can’t head outside, open a window for a short while or find a spot near the window to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate (or your favourite festive beverage) and just enjoy some time looking outside.
Make time for some festive self care:
Even though there might be less travel stress and family gathering anxiety this holidays, there might be some completely different stressors for you. Make sure you set time aside to practice self care as well. Treat yourself to spending some time being cosy reading, or a relaxing bubble bath or by making your favourite meal. Perhaps you’d like to dance to a playlist that reminds you of happier times, or you want to light some candles and watch a movie that always leaves you feeling happy. Do something for you that lift your spirits.
While this year has no doubt been incredibly challenging for most of us, and it will probably make the holidays a little bit more challenging, know that this is hopefully only temporary. If we all do our part, we can hopefully celebrate together again next year.