How to (Safely) Celebrate the Holidays in the Middle of a Pandemic

posted on October 26, 2020 | by Sanhita Mukherjee

How to (Safely) Celebrate the Holidays in the Middle of a Pandemic

Any other year, this is around the time we’d start buying presents, planning outfits, and lamenting the shocking hike in airline prices. But this is not just any year, is it?

2020 has already changed the way we workout, make weekend plans, and celebrate birthdays or major milestones. And now, we must learn how to navigate the holiday season in the middle of a pandemic.

Understandably, the holidays are going to look quite different this year. You may have logistical restrictions to think about, financial worries to consider — or simply not be in a mind space to be overly festive. But you don’t have to ‘cancel’ the holidays just yet! If you still want to celebrate at least some of your holiday traditions, here are a few ways to do so in a fun, safe, and low-key manner.

Set the right holiday mood

Spending time with friends and family is definitely what most holidays are all about — and that’s one thing many of us may not be able to do this year. My boyfriend’s family celebrates Christmas, and this is the first time in years we won’t be able to go visit. If you too are not going to be with your family or hosting a big gathering at your home, going all out with the décor and other holiday rituals may seem pretty pointless.

But if you are already feeling sad about missing out on the festivities, an unadorned home devoid of all holiday spirit may actually make you feel worse. So get out your decorations, light up your entire apartment, and blast some holiday tunes. Get out of your pajamas and into something a bit more festive. Call your mom for that one traditional recipe she always makes, and cook up a storm. As for me, I am already creating a Christmas playlist and bookmarking cookie and mulled wine recipes for us to try out.

Create new traditions by giving your holiday a new twist

My family, on the other hand, celebrates a 5-day festival called Durga Puja, which has a major social and cultural aspect to it. A lot of the celebrations involve being outdoors all day in large groups — catching up with friends and family or enjoying the hundreds of music and dance programs all across the city.

While these things will not be possible this year, I look forward to celebrating some parts of the festival with a new twist. One of my favorite things about Durga Puja is enjoying all the delicious street food as you go about the city — and this is something I hope to recreate at home with my family. It’s going to be difficult to achieve those same flavors at home, but I hope to have fun trying!

Likewise, if there are certain aspects of your holiday that you can give a fun new twist to, do give it a go. Think Halloween candy hunts, Christmas carols over Zoom, or virtual Diwali parties. This might also be a great time to try something new altogether. For instance, did you know about the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books on Christmas Eve, and then spending the rest of the evening reading with a cup of hot chocolate? As a bookworm, that sounds perfect to me! 

Spread holiday cheer by buying from local small businesses

Small businesses have been particularly hard hit this year — so if you are making any purchases to celebrate the holidays, consider taking your business to your favorite mom ‘n pops rather than large conglomerates.

Think of your friendly neighborhood florist if you’re getting flowers and wreaths for your home. Buy cards and unique handmade gifts from the friend who runs her own Instagram store. Order your cakes and sweets from the little mom-and-pop bakery. Many local restaurants and cafes usually have special menus during the holidays that are perfect for one or two people. So if you think cooking an entire spread at home might be too much effort, ordering in from them can be a great way to support a small business while still getting to enjoy your traditional treats. 

Check-in with friends and family who are alone

When you think of an intimate, low-key holiday, you’re probably just thinking of your immediate family or your closest group of friends. But don’t forget to consider those who might find themselves alone this holiday season — the co-worker who is unable to travel, the young cousin studying abroad who won’t be able to fly back home, or the great-aunt in a vulnerable age category who won’t be able to have any visitors. 

Don’t forget to reach out to them over the holidays. Send your greetings over a video call or plan a festive virtual game session. Make use of the delivery services in your city to send them a handwritten card, a small gift, or some baked goods. But make sure to ask about their plans first, and respect their wishes. After all, they might be looking forward to enjoying some solitude, so simply assuming that they are lonely can send the wrong message across!

Hope these tips helped! I’d love to know how you are celebrating the holidays this year.