It’s been a long, loooong year. And most of us are really looking forward to a break come holiday season.
In true 2020 fashion, though, holidays this year won’t look like they usually do.
Celebrating isn’t impossible this year, but it’ll probably look different than it normally does. If you’re planning on traveling for the holidays or hosting a gathering this year, follow these tips to make sure your gathering is festive, safe, and memorable in all the right ways.
Do: Keep it Small – Or Gather Virtually
This is not the year to host a holiday gathering for 25 with all your friends and extended family, even if it’s tradition.
Keep your gathering small and try to limit how many people from different households are there.
Or better yet, meet over Zoom.
Separating into breakout rooms for part of the time is also a good way to recreate the side conversations that naturally happen at the table.
Don’t: Serve Communal Dishes
Extended holiday gatherings present ample opportunity for grazing over snacks, which can often mean people standing around dipping chips in salsa, picking up vegetables from a shared platter, you name it.
While no one loves a grazing board more than us, finger foods and dips make it far too easy for food to get handled by multiple people or cross-contaminated.
And people are far too likely to stand at close quarters munching if there’s a table piled high with all the snacks.
This year, try forgoing communal dips for personal dipping sauces, and serve foods like empanadas and finger sandwiches that are easy to distribute safely.
Do: Consider Pushing Your Gathering Forward…Or Back
If you’re traveling (or have guests coming in from out of town), it might be a good idea to move your trip away from peak travel times.
When there are fewer people traveling, there are fewer chances of getting stuck – and possibly exposed to infection – in crowded airports or rest stops.
Don’t: Feel Pressure to Stick to Your Plans
If COVID-19 cases are spiking around the holidays or you are a loved one is feeling under the weather, don’t feel bad about cancelling or rescheduling your plans.
Holiday gatherings are fun and important, but they’re not as important as the health of you and your nearest and dearest.
And besides, canceling plans in 2020 is pretty much just par for the course at this point.
Do: Eat Outside
There’s beginning to be a nip in the air, but the fact is that when you’re eating with your mask off indoors, you’re increasing your risk of getting – or spreading – COVID-19.
You can make outdoor dining more comfortable by investing in a patio heater or having your meal earlier in the day when it’s warmer outside.
You should also tell your guests to dress for the weather.
Make Holiday Magic At Home
As winter ensues and more states impose travel restrictions, it’s looking more and more likely that the winter holidays are going to look a lot different than they usually do this year.
Whether you’re solo traveling to a remote cabin or campground or bunkering up with your immediate family or roommates, let this guide help you make this holiday season one for the books in all the right ways.
Create That Festive Feeling
String up some lights and decorations and play festive music to get yourself in the celebratory spirit.
Want to ratchet things up a notch? Set some cinnamon, cranberries, lemon, and rosemary to simmer on the stove to fill your whole house with a festive aroma.
Destress Your Food Prep
Just because you’re not having a big gathering doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a holiday meal. And the upside of a smaller celebration means that there’s no pressure on you to cook 14 dishes from scratch and cater to everyone’s preferences and needs.
This year, focus on the foods you love. So if you really love sides, just make sides. And if you don’t feel like spending a ton of time in the kitchen, get prepared foods. Just maybe steer clear of a whole Christmas dinner in a can.
Live in the Moment
It’s easy to get caught up reminiscing about holidays past – or to scroll Instagram feeling jealous of other people’s seemingly perfect lives. While all of your feelings, including sadness, are perfectly valid in this strangest of holiday seasons, you can often get rid of FOMO just by logging off social media for the day and committing yourself fully to the present and embracing it, even if it looks a little different from holidays past.
You can even take time to do a gratitude practice and really take stock of all the wonderful things in your life. Maybe that means making a list of what you’re thankful for, going around your holiday table (or Zoom room) and sharing thanks, or doing a short gratitude meditation.
Spread Cheer in a Universal Language: Food
One of the best things about gathering for the holidays is sharing a meal. While many of us can’t share a table with our loved ones this year, we can still express love by cooking for others.
Whip up a batch of pumpkin cheesecake bites, pecan pie tarts, or your signature dish and drop some goodies off with friends and family. That way, you can still share some of the same foods over Zoom. And if you don’t gather virtually, they’ll still feel a little more like they’re sharing a meal with you.
If cooking’s not your thing, you can batch up some festive cocktails or mocktails and drop them off in mason jars with a sweet bow.
Create New Traditions
We’re all missing out on some of the things we think of as essential to the holidays this year. But we can take that opening as an opportunity to create new traditions.
Maybe that means turning Christmas into a cooking competition with your significant other or roommate, or instituting a new Hanukkah tradition of celebrating with a different person over Zoom each night.
Or maybe it means scrapping the playbook altogether and going to a cabin in the woods where you can hike, dream, and reflect on what a year it’s been.
Whatever you do this holiday season will be perfect – even if you do nothing at all.
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