Different doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. After all, it’ll be easier to avoid that family party you usually dread!

mother and child celebrate Diwali at homeShare on Pinterest
Saptak Ganguly/Stocksy United

Yes, the holidays are going to be a little (a lot) different this year.

The pandemic is now part of our everyday life, meaning that normal things like knocking on a bunch of strangers’ doors to get candy or simply gathering in a big group may not be possible. (At best, these traditions aren’t encouraged.)

But the holidays don’t need to be canceled or minimized — unless you want to use the virus as an excuse to do less and by all means do you if that’s the case.

If you’re still feeling the holiday spirit, you can make this time of year just as special even while safely distanced. Here’s how.

It’s so easy to focus on what we can’t do right now. But many aspects of the holidays can still happen just as they always have.

You can still deck out your house for Halloween and carve pumpkins. You can make your great-grandmother’s corn casserole for Thanksgiving or build gingerbread houses. (Great way to use up all that leftover Halloween candy, right?)

You can send cards and sweets to family to celebrate Diwali. You can dust off the menorah and unwrap all your beloved Christmas ornaments. And, you can definitely drive around town and look at everyone else’s holiday decorations. (Don’t forget the hot cocoa!)

Stay positive by getting really excited about all the things you can still do and put your energy into them.

While I’m looking forward to the day when this whole social distancing thing is over, I have to admit I’m impressed by the creativity so many people have shown to make the pandemic as fun as possible.

The holidays are no exception: Some cities are putting together drive-through haunted houses and reopening drive-in movie theaters to screen holiday movies, among other COVID-friendly events.

For those with kids who will miss getting to see Santa, check out JingleRing which allows you to schedule a live or prerecorded virtual call with Ol’ St. Nick.

Honestly, it’s kind of better than waiting in line to sit on a random guy’s lap anyway.

Clearly, going door-to-door for Halloween is pretty much a no-go for most of us. Of all the holiday-related disappointments for 2020, this one is probably the toughest for kids and parents alike.

One of the prevailing ideas right now is to have your kids look for Halloween treats at home, à la an Easter egg hunt, instead of trick-or-treating.

Taking a fun, familiar activity and turning it into something new(ish) will ease the disappointment — especially because there’s candy involved.

If you feel like going all out, you might try a scavenger hunt — this free printable may come in handy — or by offering some extra special candy this year.

You could also borrow from Valentine’s Day and send out little sweet treats in the mail to friends and family members and ask them to do the same for your brood.

One thing I really appreciate about these times is how normal it’s becoming to virtually gather with far-away family members and friends.

Before the pandemic, if someone couldn’t make a holiday gathering, we just missed them. Now, my family members all hop onto Zoom just to sing someone happy birthday.

For the holidays, you can use Zoom to host a Halloween costume contest, sing Christmas carols together, share what you’re grateful for while everyone eats their own Thanksgiving dinners, or light the candles on your own menorahs.

Getting to “see” everyone when you can’t be together in person is one aspect of the pandemic I hope we keep for years to come.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been doing a lot of cooking, baking, and eating with my family over these long months.

Thank goodness the holidays are here because now I have a legit excuse to bake cupcakes, pies, and all the sweet stuff without having to make up a reason.

You don’t have to be a home chef to create awesomeness in the kitchen. For those with small kids and little time, check out these very kid-friendly cooking kits by Baketivity that come with all the ingredients premeasured.

And you can take your sweet creations up a notch with these fun sprinkles by Sprinkle Pop. (Bonus — they hide all of my inevitable baking imperfections.)

Having something to look forward to can keep you going when you’re feeling worn out from #covidlife.

When I need ideas for occupying my kids — and raising all our spirits — I check out this handy list of quirky holidays to inspire me.

Commemorate International Sloth Day on October 20 by lounging on the couch while your kids do this cute craft and watch sloth videos.

Bake up some sweet treats to celebrate Vanilla Cupcake Day on November 10. Or spend some time penning letters to family and friends to celebrate Letter Writing Day on December 7.

Even these micro-celebrations can create fun memories and make this pandemic feel a little less draining.

However you decide to celebrate, remember that it’s OK to feel bummed about the holidays not being the same as years past. Life is full of disappointment right now and it’s hard.

But if you can look at the holiday-related changes that the pandemic is imposing on us as an opportunity to get creative — or a perfectly good reason to scale back this year — you and your family will enjoy more time making memories and less time feeling like this year is lacking.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a new way of celebrating that will become a family tradition post-virus.

Natasha Burton is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Livestrong, Woman’s Day, and many other lifestyle publications. She’s the author of What’s My Type?: 100+ Quizzes to Help You Find Yourself―and Your Match!, 101 Quizzes for Couples, 101 Quizzes for BFFs, 101 Quizzes for Brides and Grooms, and the co-author of The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags. When she’s not writing, she’s fully immersed in #momlife with her toddler and preschooler.