Posted by: devonellington | November 16, 2020

The Year of Creative Holidays

image courtesy of AnneliseArt via

With the pandemic this year, the case numbers rising, we need to be creative about how we celebrate the holidays. Many people will be alone – and lonely. We need to be creative in designing this year’s holiday season to nurture us, to stay connected in community, and to find ways to enjoy ourselves, even if we can’t do the normal rounds of holiday madness.

Thanksgiving is a the big gathering holiday for our extended family. We usually gather in Maine, where we’ve rented the VFW Hall for decades. There will be anywhere from 30-60+ at the dinner. We cook together, we eat together, and, importantly, we clean up together.

Even when I worked on Broadway, I negotiated getting Thanksgiving off as often as possible, and then worked Christmas so someone else could have that holiday off.

However, this year, we can’t come in from all corners of the country.

We need to stay the F home.

I love cooking the entire meal, so it won’t be terrible for me to cook. If you’ve never cooked a turkey on your own before, on the Nov. 20th post of the Comfort and Contradictions blog, I will have some suggestions.

But what the extended family IS doing is having our smaller family meals separately and safely, and then doing a dessert party via Zoom so we don’t miss all the catching up we always do. Often, Thanksgiving is the only time I actually see most of them.

That is how we are re-calibrating Thanksgiving this year.

Here are some other ideas, looking ahead to the entire holiday season:

Decorate. If you’re on your own, it might seem silly to decorate “just for yourself.” It’s not. Trust me on this. When I was out on my own around the country and couldn’t come home for the holidays, decorating whatever space in which I lived – even if it was a hotel room – made all the difference in the world. It doesn’t have to be expensive.

If you don’t have any decorations, and you can’t go out to pick things up in person, consider ordering just one or two pieces online, either from your favorite store and have them delivered. If you have a good computer/printer set up, you can print out pictures either on cardstock or paper you can use spray adhesive to mount onto cardstock and build all kinds of fun vistas for yourself. It could be as simple as a few seasonal pictures mounted to add atmosphere, or maybe a few cutout trees to build your own evergreen forest, or maybe you’re feeling ambitious and want to build your own Christmas (or Holiday) village. There are LOTS of options online with ideas how to do it.

I love using fabric to change mood. I pick up seasonal fabric remnants whenever they’re on sale or I find them at thrift shops, and I change out tablecloths, curtains, cloths on end tables every 4-6 weeks to keep up with various holidays and change the look and the feel of rooms.

Write Holiday Cards. This year, make the time to sit down and write holiday cards. It’s worth it. It’s a way to let people know you are thinking of them, and helps keep the post office in business. There are tons of holiday cards you can order online. I love those from the National Wildlife Federation, although I can’t always afford them.

You can order stamps from the post office online and have them delivered. They have delightful holiday stamps. You can make the writing of the cards into a ritual, with candlelight and holiday music.  But it’s always worth it to make the time to sit down and write cards. Because of post office delays this year, I’m going to write the overseas cards the weekend before American Thanksgiving and send them out, and then start the domestic cards the week after Thanksgiving, hoping to get them out by Dec. 10.

We hang red velvet ribbons along our door frames and window frames, and tape the holiday cards to the ribbons for display. I’ve also taped them to the back of my front door (or a hotel room door, when I did long-stay hotels on the road).

Remember there are lots of lonely people every year, but especially this year. If you know of someone who’s alone, get that individual’s address and send a card. You can also send cards to the troops, to nursing home patients, and to others who are alone and sign up to ask for cards.

Participate in the Icelandic Tradition of “Yule Book Flood.” I’m having trouble getting the accents in to type in the correct Icelandic name, so here’s a link. We joined this Christmas Eve tradition a few years ago. We open our gifts on the Eve anyway, and just have stockings for the day. Books are a part of it, but now we mindfully pick a book and start reading that night!

Drop Traditions You Don’t Like. We’ve all done it; kept up traditions we don’t like because someone else wants us to. If the someone else lives with you and it matters to them, yes, keep it up for them. But also ask to add something to the traditions for YOU, so it stays balanced. You don’t want to destroy something meaningful to someone else. However, if you’re on your own, who will know? See how it feels. It might turn out you replace it with something you’ve grown into and enjoy more; it might turn out you miss it. But try the holiday without that which gave you stress.

Limit the Holiday Zoom Parties. Or, at least, your time in them. It’s already happening – an flood of invitations for online holiday parties to replace the in-person ones. I’m so grateful to be included. But I’m an introvert. That means I limited how many invitations I accepted pre-pandemic, and limited the amount of time I spent at parties. I will need to do the same this year.

It Doesn’t Have to be All Alcohol All the Time. I like a good cocktail hour as much as anyone, but I’m getting older. When I hit the bottle, it hits back. I’ve always been a fan of the drink Shirley Temple. I first had it at the Peacock Alley Bar in the Waldorf Astoria hotel, way back in the late 1960’s. We waited for my dad, who worked in the building next door. The bartender would make me a Shirley Temple as I sat in the bar (I was about 7 at the time, and kids were allowed to sit in bars with their parents). I loved it. It looks a bit like a whisky sour.

The recipe I learned to make it is equal parts ginger ale and lemon lime soda, with a dash of Rose Grenadine and a maraschino cherry.

I always serve it as a non-alcoholic options when I give parties.

When I prepped for my surgery last June and was allowed only clear liquids, I discovered the White Cranberry-Peach concoction from Ocean Spray.  I now buy 4-6 bottles of it whenever I go to the grocery store. It’s as festive as a cocktail, and goes well with most non-tomato-based dishes and fish dishes. Quite often this year, I’ve drunk that instead of wine with dinner.

Try One New Recipe. So often, there’s so much pressure to make everything from scratch for the holidays while working full time (often remotely) while so many have to also monitor their children’s online learning. Take the pressure off yourself. Try ONE new recipe. Maybe it’s a cookie. Maybe it’s a side dish. Maybe it’s a fruity or spicy holiday bread. Put aside a block of time where you don’t feel pressured and just enjoy every step of the process.

Create New Rituals/Traditions That Speak to Where You Are Now. Maintaining past rituals and traditions is important to our sense of connection with previous generations and our personal histories. But take this year as an opportunity to create a new, different tradition that fits the current circumstances, and, most importantly, will make you happy. Let your repertoire of holiday traditions grow with you. It can be as simple as going outside on Christmas Eve to wish upon a star, or to use pine cones from the yard for decorations. It could be dressing up when you usually wouldn’t, or dressing down when you’d usually dress up. It could be playing a board game or a card game you haven’t played in years.

Rest. Holidays are stressful at the best of times. Pandemic holidays have the potential to be even more so, because we have to let go of so many expectations. However, this year is also a chance to say, “You know what? We need to stay home to be safe. I think I’ll take a nap.”

Be kind to yourself, be kind to your tribe. Reach out to someone who’s hurting. Enjoy the good things, and build new traditions that fit where you area now.


  1. […] are some ideas for being creative with this year’s holidays over on Goals, Dreams, and […]

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