The holidays are almost here, so we’re ready to deck the halls, jingle those bells, and get our falalalas in gear––regardless of what’s going on this year. Even if you can’t hop on a plane or gather the whole gang together this Christmas, you can still get into the yuletide spirit while celebrating solo or in a smaller group. It’s totally doable with a little ingenuity...and our list of fun, festive things to do. Hint: it’s all of the best stuff the season has to offer!
- Make A Holiday Movie Night
You know you’ve been waiting all year, and now the moment’s finally here to peep some classic Christmas movies...and maybe some newer ones, too. There’s nothing that gets us feeling that holiday cheer faster, either! Make a whole night of it with a holiday-themed double-feature of your choice. We suggest screening one timeless black-and-white film and following it up with a modern quote-fest (“Santa’s Coming? I KNOW HIM!”) that will leave you giggling. This one-two cinematic Christmas punch will leave you feeling the warm-fuzzies for days.
- Swap Some Cookies At A Distance
Cookie Swaps have a built-in socially distant component anyway, since everyone’s whipping up treats in their own kitchen already. Pick a few of your favorite (i.e.: competent) bakers and get ready to impress each other with your favorite decorated sugar, peppermint sandwich, pecan snowball or some other cookies. Drop ‘em and swap ‘em outside by the front of the door for added safety. After that’s done, you can schedule a tasting time hangout via video chat. The best part? No one will know if you cave and sample the wares beforehand!
- Create a Carols Playlist
Fact: there’s at least one Christmas tune you’re craving to hear on repeat, but can never seem to find when you search through your files or your preferred music app. Instead, you go down the rabbit hole, listening to the first 45 seconds of every iteration of Silent Night ever recorded to figure out if it’s the one you remembered loving as a kid. Avoid the headache and heartache with a pre-prepped playlist of holiday songs that kindles memories, inspires joy, and well...saves some time. We’ll give you back a few more valuable minutes with this tip: you’re missing nothing by skipping that Brett Michaels version of Jingle Bells. Head straight to your favorite stuff and you’ll have no regrets.
- Take Your Secret Santa Online
Before you write this idea off as a poor substitute for the real-deal, in-person exchange of gifts, consider the popularity of unboxing videos and haul posts. Turns out these second cousins of the Secret Santa video call might be onto something after all. It’s fun to watch people open stuff, especially when it’s a surprise who’s bought it and you can see everyone’s reactions at once. You also get the benefit of being slightly distanced (the screen creates more of a remove than IRL, in part because everyone’s low-key checking themselves out) if you accidentally make a face or gasp in horror when your present is revealed to be an all-out nightmare like the pooping dogs 2021 calendar. And yes, that is a real thing.
- Live Stream Some Polar Bears
Looking for a 100% chance of a white Christmas, complete with some of nature’s most majestic creations? Check out the live stream at the France Polar Bear Habitat, a non-profit that provides a home for fur-covered giants who would not have otherwise survived on their own in the wild. Live streams of calming jellyfish or playful elephants have proved a salvo for this deeply fraught moment in time, so why not extend your zoological expedition towards the North Pole? Believe us when we tell you that there’s something about seeing polar bears frolic in the snowy subarctic surroundings that will make you crave the winter’s chill, even if you live in sunny Southern Florida.
- Bloom A Bulb
Talk about a miracle! It seems downright incredible that there are flowers that bloom during the darkest, coldest days of winter. We’re partial to the stark elegance of “paperwhite” daffodils, but crimson-hued amaryllis is another great choice and hits the Christmas theme right on the (red) nose. Using these seasonal bulbs to brighten up your space is a traditional way to decorate for the holidays. They will definitely grow if you plant them in an indoor pot filled with soil. But if you instead stick them in a clear vase of water, you can watch while nature’s enchantment happens in real time––their roots extending downwards as their shoots pop up and begin to bud. Think of them as the showier yuletide relatives of those scallions you regrew last April.
- Get Your Nutcracker Fix
Live dance and theater have mostly been a no-go since spring, but it’s possible to support incredible, hyper-physical artists and enjoy your holiday tradition online. Though the storyline of the Nutcracker is actually bonkers when you break it down, (the plethora of life-size rats involved is disconcerting, plus what kid is psyched to receive a “toy” that’s only trick is breaking walnuts?) there’s enough magic and hummable music that even the most ballet-averse boyfriend can get into it. Check out a comprehensive listing, like this one from Playbill, to see if your city’s ballet company is streaming their production. Or go straight to the source and watch the definitive rendition: New York City Ballet dancing George Balanchine’s choreography.
- Attempt A Feat of Gingerbread Engineering
Though some might wonder what point there is in baking if you’re not going to eat the results, gingerbread houses aren’t really about deliciousness, per se. They’re more like a craft that also smells great. We think these spicy little edifices present a solid argument for keeping your sweet tooth at bay––digging into a creation of cookies and gumdrops would only feel like snarfing the Mona Lisa here. Novices can try their hands at simple structures like the one from Trader Joe’s, but pro-level gingerbread architects (gingarchitects?) are well-advised to make this very-indoorsy year the one they attempt the Design Within Reach modernist dream house for bragging rights today and 20 Christmases from now.
- Do A Holiday Decor Drive-Through
Strolling through holiday light displays seems like a pursuit best left to Hallmark Christmas movies and Santa, no? We all know that momentary rush from feeling the bracing cold seep through your jacket is matched only by the feeling of relief when the car’s heating system finally kicks in. Do yourself a solid this year, and every year from now on, by fine-tuning your holiday lights-peeping tradition. Now is the time to cruise by (rather than walk through) the famous neighborhood that has all of the over-the-top displays, or the dazzling downtown all decked out in tinsel and twinkle. At least now you have an actual, legitimate excuse to stay cozy inside those two-to-four doors!
- Cut Yourself Some Holiday Slack
Enjoy the lazy gal’s Christmas––and do it guilt-free. These have been seriously trying times, so please don’t put more pressure on yourself to make it a “perfect” holiday, whatever that even means. So skip building a roaring fire; put on the fireplace video on your screen and call it a day. Forget trying to plug cloves into pomanders; light a scented candle and revel in the juice-free ease of striking a match rather than wrestling with an orange peel. Don’t bother with decorating a whole tree if you can’t manage it all yourself; it’s ok to hang favorite ornaments in the front where you can see them but leave the back branches kinda bare. We should all learn to be cool with dialing things down a few notches right now, so allow yourself some downtime instead of trying to meet unrealistic expectations. It’s not like you’ll land on the naughty list––you’re just making things manageable for yourself, and that’s okay!