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COVID Holidays: How to Survive the Holidays Away from Family

Hot Chocolate in Front of Fire

The holidays are coming and no matter what religion or philosophy you embrace, you probably have traditions you look forward to year after year. Large family gatherings aren’t safe right now and travel is highly discouraged, so you may wonder how you’ll make it through what could seem like a bleak holiday season.

Before you despair, check out these five ideas that can help you generate holiday cheer, while continuing beloved traditions and deepening them with a little extra creativity.



I remember the year I knew it was going to be just me and my daughter at the table for Christmas. I planned on no tree (what a pain) and a low-key meal (I’m not much of a cook anyway). My daughter agreed that there was no reason for all the fuss, so why bother? But as the day approached, both of us found our spirits sagging. How depressing. A house with no decorations and no big meal to look forward to. It was going to be like any other day. What were we thinking?!?On Christmas Eve, we jumped to, searching out what seemed to be the last Christmas tree on the planet and quickly buying a roaster chicken (close enough), yams, and some butternut squash for dinner.

With nobody or fewer people coming this year, you may be tempted to forego some of your beloved holiday traditions. Don’t do it. If you love to put on holiday music, decorate the house, and make gingerbread cookies, do it. Even if you’re doing it by yourself, you’re filling your senses with the sounds and smells and sights of the season, which will lift your spirits and may make you feel like things are closer to normal.


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For a variety of reasons, I decided to completely rethink my holiday traditions. The goal was to eliminate some difficult aspects of the seasons and draw out some more positive energy. I thought the change may be stressful, but it was a blast. I was able to reimagine what Thanksgiving would look like and how Christmas could be better than ever. As an example, my daughter and I decided that we would buy Christmas bling and force anyone who would join our Christmas celebrations to wear it (including ourselves). It was a simple change that has been a source of much laughter over the years and we have collected quite an array of ridiculous holiday necklaces, reindeer antlers, and elf hats.

Use this holiday season to create new traditions that deepen your love of the holiday. For me and my daughter, it was a way to have more fun together by being sillier. If you need to feel more loved, you may opt to write yourself a holiday love note and leave it on the table for yourself…or write one for the others in your household. Maybe you can hide chocolate dreidels or turkeys (depending on the holiday) around the house and have a candy hunt. Or draw pictures of the people you wish were there and place them at the appropriate seats.

Get creative and think about how new traditions could deepen your joy and potentially become lasting traditions that allow you to remember the positive times you had during a rough year.



Whether you use Zoom, Teams, GoToMeeting, Join.Me, Google Hangouts Meet, or some other video conferencing software, you can have a virtual visit with your loved ones. These virtual options are free and accessible to anyone with a computer and an internet connection, making it very easy for most people to enjoy the company of family and friends at any time.

Think of all the ways you could visit with your family using this software. Was your mother always the cook on Thanksgiving? Maybe this is the year where she teaches you how to make that amazing pecan pie you always loved. Set up your laptop or your smart phone in the kitchen and catch up while you cook. Is your family completely scattered with one brother in Idaho, a sister in Connecticut, and your parents in Florida? Eat dinner with your laptop or phone perched so that you can toast to them and chit chat while you eat the amazing meal you made.

Because of COVID, most of the vendors that make video conferencing software have upped their game so it’s easier and more fun than ever to communicate this way.



Okay, let’s admit it. You’re probably going to have to spend a little more time alone this holiday season. Bracing for impact will just make you more fearful, so just lean into it and set yourself up for success. How can you do this? Here are a few ideas:

  • Look on the positive side. If holidays can be stressful in your family, enjoy the relief that comes with not having to deal with Uncle Roy’s bad jokes and your dad passing out in front of the television. And remember that you are not the only one. It’s not as if nobody wants to see you this year. They simply can’t. If you are feeling down about the holiday, find a positive way to reframe your situation. A little positivity goes a long way.
  • Plan a special day or evening…or both…for yourself. What is going to put a smile on your face? A walk down a beautiful dirt road? That book you’ve been dying to read? A run with a nearby running buddy? Back-to-back holiday movies? Chocolate? Make a list of all the things that make you deliriously happy and create a plan for your holiday(s) that accounts for all your time. If you know you’ll want free time, plan that in as well, but look at this like a vacation, where you don’t want to miss out on one moment of fun. You can always decide not to do something, but having your time planned will ensure that you can be occupied doing things you love for as long as you want to be.
  • Tell a friend that you may need to reach out. Yes, this section is about planning for quality ALONE time, but make sure you have a friend on call if you know this could be a stressor for you. Your friend may need the same and it will allow you to relax into your aloneness with the awareness that you have a friend, one phone call away, who is willing and ready to take a call if you’re in need of companionship.



This is not a new idea. Giving is a great way to feel good during the holidays. You’re likely saving money because you’re seeing less of your family, so you may have more to give this year. If you have a favorite charity that supports homeless, hungry, or otherwise vulnerable community members, send some money their way. If you have an older neighbor who is struggling to move snow during the holiday, lend a hand. It’s a tricky year for helping in person, but there are still ways to give. Seek out opportunities in your neighborhood and community and give what you can. It may actually make you feel warmer this holiday season.


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About Heidi White

Heidi White is a content writer with eight years of experience in the credit union industry. She is passionate about creating timely and useful content that inspires people to take daily, conscious steps toward more joyful lives. Heidi lives in Barre, Vermont.

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