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With a strange holiday season about to arrive, consider making lemonade out of lemons this year and get creative with how you celebrate with your family. We’re sharing 9 ways to think outside the box to make the most of of this holiday season.

I don’t think any of us are going to forget 2020 any time soon. It’s been a year unlike any other! No matter the circumstances, though, the holiday season is right around the corner. If you’re like me, you’re not quite sure what to expect! 

Here are some things to consider when gathering with friends and family…

You know what’s best for you and your loved ones, but if you were looking for guidance on how to navigate gatherings this season, here are some helpful rules of thumb from the pros at the CDC

  • Wear a mask any time you are in close contact with other people, especially indoors.
  • Stay at least six feet away from anyone who doesn’t live with you.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water as much as possible. 
  • Bring your own utensils and cups to group meals or use single-use, disposable alternatives. 
  • Unless you’re hosting, avoid going in and out of areas where food is being prepared or handled. 
  • Keep gatherings outside as much as you can. If you have to be inside, keep the windows open.
  • If you live in a colder climate and still want to host people outside, get creative! Offer a basket of blankets to your guests. And now is definitely the time to make use of your fire pits and chimineas! 
  • Chat with loved ones ahead of time to set expectations for behavior and to make sure you understand what safety measures everyone involved has been taking.  
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between uses. 
  • If you’re hosting, make sure hand sanitizer is easily available to your guests.
  • Take extra precautions with masks, hand washing, and social distancing if you’re traveling.

Do these extra precautions sound stressful?

When in doubt, Zoom it out. 

I know it’s not the same as being together in person, but don’t underestimate the value of Zoom if you’re feeling bummed about missing your loved ones this holiday season. We did a Zoom for Skylar’s baby naming, and it was actually wonderful! More family and friends attended than they would have in normal circumstances, and everyone was happy to have something to do! I have some creative suggestions below that will help you take your celebrations off of video chat, but there’s no shame in the Zoom game. With a little extra planning, you might even be able to mimic certain holiday traditions — family dinners, opening gifts, games, caroling, making cookies — via Zoom with the people you love, no matter where they are. 

Or… get creative with new ways to celebrate!

Look for opportunities to give back. 

We’ve all spent a lot of time in 2020 thinking about how tough this year has been on us. Believe me — I get it. It’s okay to feel your feelings!

Here’s the thing, though — you’re not alone. 2020 has been a rough year for pretty much everyone for one reason or another. 

I’m not here to tell you that you should put your problems in perspective by realizing that others may have it worse than you because, well, I don’t know what you’ve been going through. What I can tell you is that finding ways to safely give back to people in your community this holiday season might just make you feel better — regardless of your specific 2020 circumstances. The experts back me up! According to Talkspace, many studies have proven that selfless acts can have positive effects on your mental health. 

If you’re unable to travel and safely see family members this holiday season, take the opportunity to give back. While you’re staying close to home, see if any local organizations are looking for volunteers to serve in a way that feels safe for you and your loved ones. Maybe you can mask up and serve at a socially distant food kitchen or help run a coat drive for kids in your neighborhood!

Celebrate essential workers.

I know I just covered giving back more generally, but I’d like to take a moment to give a special holiday shoutout to the essential workers in all of our communities — and to help inspire you to do the same! While so many of us have faced the challenge of moving the majority of our routines into our houses and apartments over the last few months, essential workers have continued to show up in their usual workplaces day in and day out to make sure that we can stay safe, healthy, and well-stocked at home.  

Show those essential workers a little extra love this holiday season. Call your local hospital or grocery store and find out if there’s a way for you to drop off cards, coffee, or homemade treats for their employees. Get your family involved with putting these goodies together, then let everyone come along for the ride when you drop them off. You could even go a step further and support local business by picking up lunch from a nearby restaurant and dropping it off for your essential worker friends to enjoy. We also always leave a box of individually packaged snacks, waters, and things as a thank you to delivery workers that come to the house!

Make it drive-through!

While most indoor activities are essentially off the table this holiday season, there are plenty of ways to get creative with your seasonal traditions by taking them on the road. I’ve heard of a lot of “drive-through”-style events — holiday light displays, holiday markets, and more — and I bet you can find some in your area, too. 

If you’re not having any luck finding these sorts of organized activities where you live, you can try putting them together yourself! Pack your family in the car in their pajamas with mugs of dairy-free hot chocolate, crank up for your favorite festive music, then go in search of the best lights in the area. In previous years, you may have been so busy running around and traveling that you missed the chance to do this kind of local exploring! 

And since other people in your area might be looking to indulge in some drive-through fun, you have the perfect excuse to go all out with decorating your own house — and doing it early! Others will be grateful for the holiday cheer your decor can add to the mix. 

Start some new food traditions.

Is there a dish that you’ve always wanted to try to make for the holidays, but just never had enough time to experiment with? Have your kids been requesting a recipe that never quite fit into your extended family’s preferences? Maybe this is the year that you finally get in the kitchen and try something new!

With a little extra time to spend at home, you might even find that this new dish becomes a non-negotiable family holiday tradition! 

Create a local holiday season bucket list. 

If you typically spend a lot of time traveling around this time of year, I’m willing to bet that there are at least a handful of festive things that you’ve always wished you could try closer to home. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try a pie from a local bakery. Maybe there’s a neighborhood that’s famous for it’s grandiose lights that you’ve never gotten to see. Maybe you just want to spend a little extra time relaxing on your couch with a good book

There’s truly never been a better time to make those close-to-home holiday wishes a reality. And why not make a list? Invite everyone who lives in your home to work together on a holiday season bucket list of activities you can enjoy nearby. No item is too small or too silly! 

Plan a long-distance family photo or video contest. 

If there’s one thing that this crazy year has taught us, it’s that technology really does have the power to bring us together. Even if you’re all Zoom-ed out, you can get creative with technology this holiday season so that your loved ones don’t feel quite so far away. Work with your extended family to come up with a theme that you can all use to inspire photos or videos from your various locations. The theme could be “Naughty or Nice?,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Holiday Treats,” or anything that would fit your family’s personality!

Challenge each part of the extended family to take a photo or video that fits the theme and ask them to submit it to one person. Then, you can put them all together as a slideshow or longer video and distribute it for everyone to enjoy on the day you would otherwise have been spending time together IRL. It will make you feel a little less far apart… and you’ll get to laugh in the process, too. 

If you have a lot of kids in the family, you could also turn this into an art project! Have all of the littles put together a masterpiece based on your theme and add all of their pieces to the slideshow. How cute is that?

Gift your loved ones with virtual experiences

Stumped on what to give your loved ones this year, especially when you don’t have the opportunity to see them in-person? I understand. 

I love the idea of gifting friends and family members with gift certificates for virtual hang-outs — wine tastings, meals, etc. You could even make arrangements to have food or other treats delivered to your loved one (ideally, from a local business) on the day of your long-distance quality time so they’ll really feel special. It will almost feel like you’re enjoying those treats together! 

No matter what, it will mean a lot to them to see that you’re committed to taking that time for each other, no matter how chaotic the world is these days. 

Let your kiddos take the lead. 

When logistics and travel are involved, it’s hard for your littles to have much of a say in the holiday plans. With celebrations on the more mellow side this year, all of that can change! Ask your kids how they would choose to celebrate the season and follow their lead (within reason). If the holiday season is going to look different, we might as well lean in, right?

Plan a long-distance cooking contest or event.

Work with your loved ones to choose a recipe that everyone can try to make from their various locations. Circulate the recipe ahead of time to make sure everyone has time to get the ingredients, then invite everyone to be on Zoom while the cooking is going on. Then, you can taste everything “together,” as well!

Choosing a challenging recipe that you might not otherwise have made for a holiday will add an extra fun twist (and lots of laughs). Here are some suggestions:

Lock in the gratitude. 

No matter what creative ideas you decide to use to celebrate this holiday season, I have a feeling that you might be surprised by the memorable moments that come your way. While things might feel unfamiliar, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be bad. In fact, you might make some unexpected happy memories! 

This year, encourage your family to take note of how the circumstances have made space for those surprisingly special moments. And, yes — I mean actually take notes! Have each family member write down their most memorable moment from the season. I have a feeling we’re going to want to have a record of this one! 

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  1. Since this is a tiring time, I would prefer a virtual meeting with friends and relatives. That’s the best way to stay safe and maintain social distance.