We're experiencing a holiday season like no other this year. Because of COVID-19 guidelines, there will be much smaller gatherings. Your social calendar is probably 100% lighter this season with canceled holiday parties and activities. Most of the time spent with loved ones will be over Zoom or FaceTime. And some people might not be spending their holidays with their family this year to limit travel.
The change in holiday norms might bring up feelings of depression, loneliness, or anxiety. What is usually a festive and cheerful season may seem not so merry and bright this year. It's hard not to feel down while seeing the news of COVID cases rising or when you're worrying about finances.
You might even have some conflicting feelings about it all, too. Some people might feel relieved about a more pared-down season. They might find some solace in not having to deal with the usual holiday pressures.
It's okay to feel whatever you're feeling about this season. For me, my emotions change often. Sometimes, I feel sad and wistful about a packed holiday season of parties and gatherings with friends and family. Other times, I get excited about a quieter Christmas with just my mom and my sister. And I try to count my blessings along the way—that I'm thankful to be employed, that my loved ones are healthy, and that I've (almost) made it through this year.
While our present situation might not be what we dream of when we think about celebrating the holidays, there are still ways to make this time special, no matter your beliefs or how you normally mark the occasion. You can embrace new memories and new ways of doing things and adapting. Get a little creative this year if you want to. You can also use this time to celebrate the way you want to and not worry too much about having the "perfect" setup. Give yourself permission to enjoy the season in a way that is most helpful and fulfilling to you.
To get in the spirit, I asked my colleagues what they were doing to make the holidays a little bit brighter for them and their loved ones. Maybe you can get some inspiration here. And we'd love to know how you're celebrating this season—send us a DM or comment @thethirty.
1. Making Traditional Holiday Meals
"I live a few hundred miles away from my family, so spending the holidays with them is something I really look forward to every year. It makes me sad that I won't be doing that this year, but I also love the idea of creating new memories with my little nucleus consisting of me, my fiancé, and our dog. It makes me feel really good to put together delicious meals like my family normally would, so that's the tradition I'm most excited about bringing into this new normal. I'll be tacking some more recipes from the NYT Cooking app. (I made Erin McDowell's apple pie for Thanksgiving, and I think my fiancé will throw a fit if it doesn't make another appearance at Christmas!) — Courtney Higgs, Associate Beauty Editor, Who What Wear
"In years past, my friend group had a tradition of celebrating the holidays together right before we went home to our families. We'd drink wine, watch holiday rom-coms, and give each other gifts, but sadly, I won't be seeing them in person this year, so to keep the tradition alive, I'm putting together little care packages. They'll include things like these pretty organza scrunchies I found on Etsy and some of the beaded jewelry I've been experimenting with making in quarantine. It's a win-win. I get to support some small business, practice my latest hobby, and send my friends a thoughtful gift." — Anna LaPlaca, Associate Editor, Who What Wear
"While I'm going to miss celebrating the holidays with my family in England this year, I'm actually looking forward to embracing and creating some new traditions here at home in Santa Monica with my 2-year-old son and husband. We've been opening the Advent calendar every day so far in December—an exercise of restraint for my little toddler, who wants to open all the doors at once! On Christmas Day, I plan to put my new Staub Dutch Oven to good use and make slow-cooked braised short ribs, one of my favorite recipes that I never usually have time to cook. I'm going to make a traditional British Christmas pudding this year, too (so I can feel like I have a little piece of home with me!). After dinner on Christmas Day, we'll probably go for a long walk on the beach to invigorate our minds and keep us moving after a large meal! And of course, we'll FaceTime with our families, who are dotted all around the world. This holiday season, we also plan to make Christmas donation boxes for St. Vincent de Paul of Los Angeles, a locally based organization that provides assistance to low-income individuals and families in need." — Judith Jones, Market Editor, Who What Wear
"Even though I don't celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, I still love the time of the holidays, especially New Year's. Things are definitely different this year, but me and my cousins plan on doing a Zoom call since I have a huge family and we all can’t be together this year. Also, I’m definitely going to get my baking game on and try out some recipes different from my usual brownies and banana bread! I’m thinking an olive oil and lemon cake will be first on my list." — Yusra Siddiqui, Assistant Market Editor, Who What Wear
5. Hosting a Virtual Group Workout
"My favorite day over the holidays is always Boxing Day on the 26. It's a Commonwealth tradition, and it's as good as the day after Thanksgiving, where you eat leftovers and just spend a very relaxed day the way you probably wish you'd spent Christmas! The moral of the story is that Christmas this year is going to be super low-key and feel like Boxing Day, and I'm more than okay with that. The one thing I'm organizing for my friends who are spread around the world and are far from our families is a little Christmas/Boxing Day yoga class that we can do online together. (Anyone in New Zealand or Australia will be strongly encouraged to turn their cameras off so those of us in the northern hemisphere don't have to see their tans or their beautiful summer weather.)" — Natalie Cantell, Senior Director, Branded Content
"This is the first year that my husband and I will be at home alone celebrating the holidays. Part of his family lives in Europe, so we typically are there or are off on some other trip, but not this year. And you know what? I'm actually really looking forward to it. It'll be quiet, but I can't wait to just be lazy with my person! Aside from having a Christmas dinner with our friend 'pod,' we have a Zoom scheduled for a Secret Santa gift exchange with my in-laws, and that's about it. It's also our wedding anniversary on New Year's Eve, and I have no idea what we will do to celebrate… We'll have to get extra creative!" — Caitie Schlisserman, Managing Editor, Branded Content
"My family usually has a big Christmas morning celebration where we cook a huge brunch spread and open all of our presents. After our morning festivities and the post-brunch food coma, we always go out to the movies. Since we can't go to the movies this year, we are planning on bringing the movie experience to us! We ordered a bunch of the candy and popcorn bundles from Bed, Bath and Beyond, and I've already printed out and created 'movie tickets.' My family will be able to choose between two movies (Wonder Woman being one of them, obviously), and then, they can move over to the makeshift concession stand (our dining room table), where they can pick their candy, popcorn, and drink." — Samantha Pouls, Audience Development Coordinator
"I have a big group of childhood friends that always gets together when we're back in our hometown over the holidays. Of course this year, we all won't be traveling, so we decided to do a virtual gift exchange using Elfster. The site makes it super easy to keep everything a secret until our big reveal on Zoom next week. It won't be the same as seeing everyone's faces in person, but I'm still so excited to virtually celebrate the holidays with them." — Michaela Bushkin, Senior Fashion Editor, Branded Content
"This year has reminded me that it's not about spending a lot of money or stressing out trying to find the perfect present. Small gestures that are from the heart often end up meaning more! This season, since I have a bit more downtime, I've decided to try my hand at felting ornaments. I find a lot of my girlfriends haven't amassed the ornament collection that our parents have, so an addition might be welcome for those bare trees! And they can be super cute to personalize with the year and the name for any wee ones in your life." — Kat Collings, Editor in Chief, Who What Wear
10. Getting Dressed Up for a Zoom Holiday Party
"As an introvert, I know it may come as a shock to say that I'll miss attending IRL holiday parties the most. After nine-plus months of living exclusively in sweats, I'm really craving the process of getting dressed up and toasting to the year's end with family, friends, and colleagues. Even though I won't be celebrating with people in person, I'm still hoping to feel the holiday cheer virtually. This year, my close friends and I are throwing on our most festive outfits and glitziest makeup looks just for ourselves over Zoom. Yes, we all wish this year panned out differently, but carving out time to catch up with the people you love is truly what the holiday season is all about." — Candice Aman, Social Media Editor
"I'm really looking forward to smaller, quieter holiday time with just my mom and my sister. We're planning on experimenting with new dishes this year instead of the traditional foods (turkey, ham, etc.) we normally eat with our extended family. We haven't planned the menu yet, but the possibilities are endless. We can do a taco night, sushi, Indian, or maybe even Chinese hot pot! And since it's going to be not as crazy socially this holiday season, I'm going to take advantage of my free calendar and use this time to really let myself relax and do nothing. I'm definitely going to miss all the fun and festive parties, but it helps to remind myself that, hopefully, next year will be better!" — Sarah Yang, Managing Editor, THE/THIRTY
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.