(CNN)Even as we count down the final days of December, many of us are still coming to terms with the fact that holiday events and gatherings are looking very different than Christmases past.
Celebrate small rituals for Christmas and make it special without the big gathering
Christmas 2020, however, isn't canceled unless you decide it is. This season, don't say "bah, humbug!" Say "why not?" and start new traditions by celebrating small rituals for your family, however you define it.
"People like to use the expression 'it's not normal,'" said Jonathan Caspi, a family therapist and professor in the department of family science and human development at Montclair State University in New Jersey. "This year is different, but different isn't always bad."
By taking some typical holiday rituals off the table, the pandemic has created space for families to experiment with new ways to honor the holiday. The current situation can also help reset priorities about what you feel is most meaningful during the holiday season. "Coming up with rituals together can be extremely bonding," Caspi said.
So scale back this Christmas, take a deep breath and find joy in the small things.
On Christmas morning, get the magic started right away. Light a big pine-scented candle — just make sure not to leave it unattended — and turn on some holiday tunes to set the mood. Whether you go with vintage albums or a streaming playlist is up to you.
Acknowledge that the day is a special one by sparkling up your regular coffee with whipped cream and sprinkles, adding chocolate syrup or going all out with a homemade caramel macchiato. All the better to go with Christmas cookies for breakfast.
Once you're caffeinated and fortified, pick out something in your closet that makes you feel happy. Maybe that's your ugly Christmas sweater, maybe that's the dress or heels you've been wanting to wear all year, or maybe that's your wearable sleeping bag.
You won't have to go over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house — or suffer through interstate traffic — this year. Do a video check-in with any loved ones you want to see and open presents together, if that's a tradition that makes you feel good.
Not into physical gifts? One of this year's silver linings is that relatives might be more amenable to putting their dollars toward a charitable donation, such as a food bank, instead of another pair of socks or a bath gift set.
As another easy way to connect with friends and extended family, you can host a group viewing of a classic holiday movie. The Teleparty app works with multiple streaming services, like Netflix and HBO Max (which is owned by AT&T's WarnerMedia, parent company of CNN), while Amazon, Disney+ and Hulu all have their own group-watching features for subscribers.
For other virtual games, try the Houseparty app, where you can sing karaoke, play trivia and enjoy other party games as a group.
On a regular Christmas, you might be happy staying cooped up inside the house all day in your jammies. But those familiar four walls might be a little too close for comfort at this point, so take an hour to get outside and stretch your legs (and arms).
As long as the weather cooperates, play a game of socially distanced Wiffle ball or try a few relay races for a little friendly competition.
As dusk falls, take a walk around the neighborhood to see all the Christmas lights and peek at decorated trees through the windows along the way.
For some, food carries the most sense of ritual and tradition, but don't feel compelled to do the usual Christmas dinner unless it's the thing that lights a fire in your belly.
Are you the one who always cooks in your home? Support a local restaurant and give yourself the night off by preordering and picking up dinner. It's a small splurge that will feel like millions — or an idea for your gift list if you prefer experiences over things.
Or make a different home-cooked meal part of your new holiday tradition. Go the comfort food route with a one-pot meal that's simpler to prepare but still indulgent, like authentic spaghetti carbonara or creamy baked risotto.
Don't want to cook at all? Keep the festive vibe but ditch the dishes without guilt. Fancy up a bowl of popcorn with freshly grated Parmesan and pop a bottle of Prosecco in lieu of a full meal.
And if you're still feeling bummed about a low-key Christmas? Or if your extended family is laying on the guilt trip because you're listening to Dr. Tony Fauci and stayed home? Remember that in the end, it's just one day on the calendar.
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