holidays
The holidays aren't quite the same this year. (Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash)
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holidays

Despite the lonely nature of pandemic protocols, there are still plenty of ways to be ‘together’ while staying safe during the holidays.

December usually signifies a season of togetherness, joy and tradition. Countless people spend days and months waiting for the last month of the year and eagerly anticipating seeing loved ones to celebrate the holidays. But this year, as the holidays grow near, COVID-19 is still in full force. The loneliness of quarantine has many people anxiously yearning for a sense of festivity and normalcy this holiday season. With lockdowns reinstated in several states and a growing number of cases, it is evident that this year will be a Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and Winter Solstice like no other. Though it may seem bleak, there are actually a variety of ways you and your loved ones can enjoy the holiday season while staying safe.

1. Virtual Secret Santa

Thanks to the internet, hosting a virtual Secret Santa party has never been easier! A simple Google search will lead you to a variety of Secret Santa generators you can share with friends and family. Similarly, you can also host a virtual white elephant gift party if you are looking for a more humorous option.

Simply set a date for the party, order a gift for the friend you drew via an online generator, and hop onto Zoom once the party date arrives! Whether the gift is a white elephant or for Secret Santa, I personally recommend mailing your friends their gift — it really heightens the Christmas mood and makes a virtual event feel personal. Last week my friends and I held our own virtual Secret Santa party and it felt very special to still open our gifts together despite being apart. However, if you cannot have a gift mailed, there are plenty of online gift options such as gift cards, subscriptions or memberships.

2. Zoom Baking Party

If you and your loved ones are missing the fun of festive baking, don’t let the pandemic get in the way — just move it to Zoom or any other video call service. There are millions of free online recipes and tools to help make a virtual event still feel personal.

When it comes to picking a recipe, you should aim to select something accessible to everyone taking part. Furthermore, pick a recipe that is mindful of everyone’s baking skill level. If you and your loved ones are new to baking, I suggest a simple sugar cookie recipe and going all out with decorating. If you and your loved ones are more experienced, pick something new for all of you and make it a fun challenge! It is all up to you. Also, if you really want to amp up the festive energy, make a collaborative Spotify playlist of all of your favorite holiday songs to listen to while baking. Just be sure that you can share your computer audio or that you have another music streaming device ready to go. Regardless of what you do, you’ll be sure to enjoy the time spent together while making delicious treats.

3. Mailing Holiday Cards

Since not everyone may be on the Zoom/remote wave, a great way to keep in touch while staying apart is to mail a holiday card. It may seem minimal, but it could be a very meaningful gesture for loved ones who enjoy receiving sentimental gifts during the holidays.

There is a multitude of options for holiday cards. You could take a traditional route and mail a store-bought card with a nice message or mail a personally-designed holiday card. You could also look into virtual holiday cards you can email. No matter the option you choose, make it heartfelt and personal for the recipient.

4. Remote Holiday Games

If you’re looking to please a more competitive bunch, look no further. There are plenty of modifications available for games you’d normally play in person at a holiday party.

Holiday “Name that Tune”: For this game, you will need to prepare a playlist of various festive songs in advance for your friends to guess. Designate a DJ to play the first two to three seconds of the songs and keep track of who guessed correctly throughout the playlist. At the end of the game, tally up the scores and decide on a festive prize for the winner.

Holiday Movie Charades: Charades is always a winner when it comes to family gatherings, and it is also video call friendly. All you have to do is create a list of holiday movies, decide teams and go for it.

Gag “Presentations”: I know most students may be sick of presentations and projects, but this is a fun spin on an otherwise boring activity. Since most video call platforms have screen sharing options, this is very remote-party friendly. For this, you and your friends will get creative and come up with silly topics to make short “presentations” on. It may sound boring, but trust me, it is hilarious to see what witty ideas your friends come up with. Make it a competition if you want to. Here are some examples of topics:

“Why is Santa Getting Away with Breaking and Entering?”

“Why _______ is the Worst Holiday Food”

“Is Santa Abiding by Animal Protection Laws?”

Make Accommodations 

Even though I’ve provided a variety of options, what’ll ultimately work best is making plans and changes that best suit you and your loved ones. A huge part of Christmas and the December holidays is carrying out traditions, so try and find an innovative way to modify your customs to accommodate social distancing guidelines.

Though it may be difficult, it might be one of the nicest things you can do for your loved ones during such an uncertain time. There has been little to no normalcy in 2020, but maybe December can still maintain some of its charm by keeping up with traditions close to your heart. If you can find a way to make this holiday season feel just the tiniest bit normal, go for it. Now that we aren’t taking things for granted, it will mean so much more at the end of such a tumultuous year.           

The holidays are shaping up to be drastically different this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still feel close to your loved ones. Being in a pandemic doesn’t mean you can’t still have safe fun with friends and family — it just means making modifications that abide by safety protocols.

No matter what you and your loved ones choose to tackle during the holidays, the most important thing to keep in mind is fostering a sense of togetherness. Whether it be virtual Secret Santa parties, game nights or Zoom-ifying classic family traditions, find a way to be together while still being apart. Despite it feeling like an isolated and dreary holiday season, there are still plenty of ways to virtually spread warmth and joy.

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