In this holiday edition of Student Diary, Helena Perray gives some tips on making this COVID-19 limited holiday season a fun and successful one. - Managing Editor / Tara Lonsdorf

With the holidays approaching, most of us are thinking of celebrations from years past—ones that may have consisted of large gatherings with friends and family, and themed social events. Although the holidays are not going anywhere during COVID-19, the traditional means of celebration seem to be temporarily suspended.

I’ve noticed a collective feeling of worry toward this time of year, one that can already bring about a great deal of stress and loneliness for some, before the addition of a global pandemic. Regardless of your personal feelings toward the holiday season, this year is going to look a bit different for everyone.

As you navigate the holidays during such an unprecedented time, here are a few ways you can make the most of the upcoming season: 

Spend Time With People Closest to You

Holidays look different for everyone; we don’t all have the same relationships, family or traditions. With how isolating the holidays can become, especially with newfound social restrictions, I’ve realized how important it is to find someone you can talk to and celebrate with, whether it’s a family member, roommate, friend or co-worker.

Host Zoom gatherings (yes, this is what it has come to), and FaceTime with others, because having a sense of connection during this season can bring so much light in the darkest of times. Talking through how you feel and what you hope for can generate a sense of togetherness, carved from shared experiences.

During this time, reach out over the phone to people you’ve wanted to reconnect with, old friends or current friends, and start the conversation. Ask how others are doing, how traditions will change this year and share your hopes for future holidays. Catch up and share your life as it is right now, whether that involves new hobbies, dreams, fears or worries. Everyone could use someone to be there, listen and celebrate with during this holiday season. 

Create Your Own Celebration at Home

With large holiday parties off the table this time around, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to stay busy and festive this year. Make the best of what you can do from home, whether that be decorating, trying new recipes or watching your favorite holiday movies.

Now is the time to put your master chef skills to the test, or become your town’s next great baker. Try to make the famous holiday drink or sweet treat that you always go out and purchase because, at the very least, every burnt cookie and poorly frosted cake will leave behind a memory of the creativity of holidays past — pandemic edition.

Decorating, depending on your level of dedication and detail, is time consuming, to say the least. Nonetheless, it can be one of the best pastimes during this time of year. Whether you’re decorating your home or a dorm room, have fun with it. Get creative, messy and make it personal to you, gifting yourself full creative freedom and a sense of accomplishment toward the finished product.

If you’re not the decorating or baking type, there’s still more to be done. Turn on the fireplace or grab your favorite warm drink and have a movie marathon. We may not be quite as social this year as in the past, but the celebration can carry on, in whatever new forms it may take. 

Find Socially-Distant Ways to Keep Traditions Alive

Because most of us are probably accustomed to leaving the house for the social festivities of the holiday season, it can be a bit daunting to think we won’t have that luxury this year. However, there are still ways to carry on with your favorite holiday traditions while keeping a safe distance and limiting social interaction. 

Gift giving, perhaps the largest of holiday traditions, may not look quite the same this year without holiday parties and friends shuffling in around your tree, but it doesn’t have to stop.

Have a no-contact gift exchange. You can still incorporate all of the best details like themes, categories and budgets, but instead of gathering to share gifts, drop them off on each other’s doorsteps and open gifts over the phone or on FaceTime. 

Take yourself and a friend on a light tour. Make your favorite warm drink, grab a few good snacks, turn on your favorite holiday songs and drive around looking at the holiday decorations throughout your town. It’s an easy way to get into the holiday spirit without getting out of your car. 

Create a collection of memories throughout the season. Document moments with loved ones and things that you try and see. Make it an interactive plan, where loved ones and friends of all ages can join in on the fun. Have themed photo contests, cooking or decorating video contests or create a holiday album, where every page or section has a different theme for this unprecedented season, and each participant can send in photos to fill their designated pages.

If you’re feeling brave enough, meet outdoors with fire pits and heating lamps to keep you and a few guests company. While this won’t be a convenient option for too long into the season, it is one solution to limited social gatherings, so long as the weather permits it. 

Whatever you do this holiday season, be safe and know that you are not alone. Take every day as it comes, because in a time like this, everyone is simply trying their best.  

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