For me, the ho-hum feeling that the end of summer brings always quickly disappears as the winter holidays approach.
Holidays become an opportunity to add a little more meaning to the daily grind. I use them to reconnect with the people who are most important to me.
But a lot of things we’ve come to cherish about the holidays may need to be modified this year. Being together isn’t as straightforward as it used to be.
Traveling across the country for the holidays may no longer be a safe or feasible option. An elaborate indoor dinner with your elderly parents may be more worrisome than enjoyable, given the increased risks.
For some, the only option may be to spend the holidays alone and celebrate at a distance.
While the majority of my holidays have been spent together as a family in my parents’ living room, there have been a couple years where I wasn’t able to make the trek back to my hometown.
My first holiday season away from my family was difficult. I remember sitting alone in my apartment on a cold winter day, feeling aimless and isolated.
However, these feelings quickly vanished when my phone started vibrating with my sister on the other end. She was determined to include me in the family festivities even though I couldn’t physically be there.
There are still ways to capture your favorite holiday traditions and the feeling of togetherness, even from a distance. Here’s how.
There’s nothing better than wearing my comfiest flannel pajamas, cozying up with my family on the couch, and watching some feel-good holiday movies.
Even if you’re physically distanced from your family, it doesn’t mean you can’t do this activity together.
You can Skype or Zoom with your family, pick the movies you want to watch, and hit “play” at the same time!
If you use an online streaming service like Netflix, Disney, Hulu, or HBO, Chrome has an extension called Telepathy that syncs up the video. It even has a group chat function.
You can virtually gather for other important holiday rituals, too, like viewing sporting events or the Thanksgiving Day parade.
Just because it’s not the holidays with your whole family doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy a festive dinner.
The best part about not cooking for a crowd is getting to prepare your favorite foods. No more feeling obligated to try a little bit of everything to please your family members.
If you enjoy a traditional holiday turkey, consider preparing a smaller portion, like a half turkey if you want plenty of leftovers. If you want to keep it conservative, grab a turkey breast, thighs, or drumsticks.
If you’re not the biggest fan of turkey but love the stuffing, consider cooking a personal Cornish game hen. They’re individually portioned, perfect for a small dinner, and go well with stuffing.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, just grab yourself a delicious single-portion Field Roast. No more explaining to your confused family members what the heck you’re eating. You just get to enjoy it!
When it comes to dessert, you can still go for the pie.
Just freeze the extras for another day. Not only will it bring back the holiday excitement to an ordinary day, but you’ll also have a quick snack ready to satisfy your sweet tooth.
If you want to limit your overall food intake, most grocery stores offer single-slice options.
One part of the holidays I’ve loved since I was a child is being in the kitchen with my mother as we put together our celebratory meal.
As I got older, I began to contribute more to the preparation. I also loved being able to soak up my mother’s cooking expertise.
Even at a distance, you can still share these special rituals with your family.
Choose a recipe to cook together in advance. If a longer preparation time is required, you can choose to complete some of the groundwork the night before.
Then, connect via video call and cook together in your separate kitchens. At the end, you can compare your finished products.
Spoiler alert: My mom’s cooking always turns out better, even though we follow the exact same recipe.
Another one of my favorite holiday rituals is festive cookie decorating with my sister and our friends.
Nothing makes me feel the holiday cheer like baking reindeer-shaped shortbread cookies and decorating with a child-like whimsy.
In the past, the biggest struggle about these nights was forcing myself to leave my warm home to brave the slippery roads.
This year, it’s finally acceptable to do it virtually.
You can prep the dough beforehand, schedule a group call with your friends, and decorate the treats together.
If you aren’t a fan of baking, you can buy premade cookies with decorating supplies or a gingerbread house kit from your local grocery store — you can even order one online.
You can share the laughs and fun, but you don’t have to share the treats.
Get that warm festive feeling into your home by putting up holiday decorations, stringing your lights, and hanging up ornaments.
Decorations can bring back echoes of the excitement you felt as a child during the holidays. Add to the atmosphere by playing your favorite holiday playlist.
Maybe, you won’t be able to justify a full Christmas tree or daily lighting of a menorah, but you don’t have to forego them altogether.
Consider getting a mini tree or lighting your candles only at a time when you’re present in the room to enjoy them.
You can also choose to enjoy this rare moment of holiday quiet to give yourself some much-needed pampering.
I’m a huge fan of self-care. During the holiday season, I just never seem to get the time to fully enjoy it. This year will be a little different.
Break out your wellness products and take care of yourself this season. Treat yourself to a quiet home spa, put on a facial mask, have a relaxing bath, and care for yourself.
Those big family get-togethers during the holidays can be stressful. Start this new year off feeling completely refreshed by taking time to unwind.
Let’s be honest. Most holidays are traditionally centered around eating with friends and family.
If you aren’t geographically separate from your loved ones, it might be difficult to celebrate solely through virtual means.
For me, holiday dinners and family time are extremely important to my elderly grandma. Even though it’s a pandemic, life is short and we don’t know how many holidays we’ll have left together.
For instance, preparing traditional food with contactless delivery to friends and family is a low-risk holiday activity.
Try other risk-lowering modifications to your holiday dinner plans, like limiting the duration of the gathering, hosting outdoors, or having guests bring their own food and drinks.
We may have to rethink how we celebrate the holidays this year. With a little creativity, we can capture our holiday traditions and the feeling of the togetherness.
It’ll be different, but we can still relax, recharge, and spend time connecting with our loved ones.
Azra Chatur, BScPharm, is a freelance writer based in Edmonton, Canada. Passionate about writing, she strives to use her evidence-based pharmacy knowledge to promote health and wellness. Connect with her on LinkedIn.