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10 things to do if you're celebrating the holidays alone

By Kylie Ruffino
September 29, 2021
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©Connie Coleman/Getty Images
Here’s what you can do to feel a little closer to family and friends while staying #togetherapart.

**If you or anyone you know is planning on traveling to meet with family this season, be sure to check out the CDC guidelines for holiday gatherings.**

This year, there are two sides of the holiday spirit: getting creative and doing more and people who aren't doing much at all. Some families can get together. Maybe they have to go without their elderly relatives. Maybe they can't meet at all. Some people will be entirely alone, and others will find themselves experiencing the season with people they usually wouldn't -- like their roommates. Regardless of who you might be spending the holidays with, we are all feeling a little bit alone. Here’s what you can do to feel a little closer to family and friends while staying #togetherapart.

©Ray Laskowitz/Lonely Planet

Make homemade holiday cards: While the holiday card industry has stabilized over the last couple of years, sending the family photo for Christmas isn't as popular among younger families. But this year, it could make you feel more connected. For those of you with a big contact list, printing traditional cards is a great idea. Get creative with the photo section (since you won't necessarily get the family photo op). Maybe you ask everyone to send a goofy selfie card via snail mail that can be put in the tree or decorate the mantle. 


Start a new project: It's probably true that the majority of us experienced some sort of shift in perspective. Now is an important time to invest in yourself and what you want. This doesn't have to be big. You can start an indoor herb garden, pick up knitting, design your dream island in Animal Crossing. Or you can do something you've always wanted to do, like write that book or build that new shed. The point is to spend more time on you without a lot of pressure. There was this huge wave of "look at all this time I have. How much can I do with it?" mentality at the beginning of quarantine that falls back into the fast capitalist crux. Take it slow to give yourself distractions and time to process what is actually happening.


Set the mood with your zoom background: Friends and family are opting for virtual holidays this year if they can’t make the journey or don't want to risk their elderly loved ones' health. Just because you might be miles apart doesn't mean it can't be festive. If you're decorating your physical space to make you feel in the mood offline, make sure that you decorate behind your designated zoom space. Put up the tree or string some lights. Get creative at placement and assortment of items. If you want to take this one step further or sillier, find online zoom backgrounds that reflect some crazy ski destination or look like you are in Santa's workshop. 


Dress up like you haven't gone out in 6 months: Regardless of whether or not you are getting together with many people or if it's just your roommates and the dog, make it a worthy occasion. You will have at least one memory that looked different than the rest. Online shopping soared since stay-at-home orders started. There's bound to be a new outfit in that closet of yours you bought for the next time you go out. Well, why not now? Coordinate with anyone in your house or plan to send the pictures to. 


Secret Santa: Send small gifts to your friends and family who live farther away via snail mail; make surprise drop-offs for anyone who lives close. Maybe it's not so secret, but receiving the gifts will still put smiles on everyone's faces. Good, mailable ideas include books, jewelry, paint by numbers, or care packages. This is also a good idea if money is a little tighter this year. If you have a secret Santa group, you only need to buy for one person, but everyone gets treated. Make sure to set a mail-by deadline, so everyone is receiving them at relatively the same time. Then be sure to do a zoom gift unwrapping to revel in the spirit a little longer.


Watch Grey's Anatomy: A lot of people are still loyal fans and watch every season. Others have come in and out, but right now the doctors we trust are handling life in real-time. They thought long and hard about whether they wanted to touch COVID this season, but they realized they were always meant to show us real people and real truths. This pandemic has changed the way doctors live, think, breathe, and be a doctor. They decided to pay them tribute with a real but still approachable look at what today means. This season is supposed to have lots of twists and turns to keep on a little light of escapism while still offering some truth.


Online volunteering with the UN: Nope! This didn't start with COVID-19. The UN employs 12,000 online volunteers a year to tackle some of their most pressing issues (gender equality, poverty, climate change, etc.) across 187 countries. On the volunteering homepage, you can navigate opportunities by skill set. They look for artists, writers, educators, and so much more. Becoming a registered volunteer only takes a couple of minutes and is a great way to make some good happen out of our not so typical holiday. Remember, the season has always been about giving back. Now you can do it from the comfort of your own home. 


©New Africa/Shutterstock

Get creative with the cocktails: Going out for drinks with your friends and family kind of feels like a thing of the past right now. If you're like us, and you're missing the delicious bartender (we mean drink) and want to spice up your kitchen bar, get creative with cocktails. There's a website that will tell you what kind of cocktails you can make based on the ingredients in your kitchen. Check it out. Since it's the holidays, why don't you try a spiked apple cider with a cinnamon stick inside? Or maybe a plum sangria for your roommates. The possibilities are endless. 


Drive-thru lights show: This one seems like an easy given. Light shows are always a staple for the holiday season. Bonus -- they're usually outside. This year, the only thing you have to worry about is how crowded it is, but many activities regulate the amount of people let in at a time. If you still don't want to take the risk, grab some hot chocolate, hop in the car, listen to holiday music and drive around the neighborhood. See who is doing lights. You can see who is doing more than usual or less. The ones who aren't doing a lot this year might go on your secret Santa hit list! 


Ignore it all together: Honestly, it's 2020. You can do whatever you friggin' please. This will (hopefully) be the only year you can call "pandemic" as an excuse to get out of Thanksgiving dinner with relatives you don't ever get along with. Order take out instead. Grab a glass of wine. And go watch a movie. 

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