8 Tips for Celebrating the Holidays Without Extended Family This Year

When you picture celebrating the holidays, what do you envision? Maybe it’s a magical scene with your entire family gathered around the table, or perhaps you see everyone lounging by the perfectly decorated Christmas tree, opening gifts, and cheerfully singing carols.  

Sometimes, it’s not possible to celebrate with your family, and 2020 is a year where this is certainly the case for a lot of people.

It’s definitely a bummer to not be with family, but for many, this is the safe and smart choice this year. If you live far from family and are staying put, don’t feel guilty about skipping out on the big celebrations. You need to do what feels right for your family.

And even if you are staying home, you can still celebrate and make the most of the festive season, no matter where you are or who you’re with. 

Here are some helpful tips to keep the holiday cheer in full force, whether you’re with your family or thousands of miles away.


1. Enjoy who you are with

First, don’t focus on who you are not with during the holidays, instead be thankful for those you do get to celebrate with. Perhaps it’s just your partner and your baby. You can still celebrate and make special memories even if it’s simply the three of you. Instead of having to spread yourself thin trying to catch up with tons of relatives, take advantage of uninterrupted bonding time with those around you, making this year extra special.


Source: @danafaylee


2. Create your own traditions

And as you spend this time with your family, it’s the perfect opportunity to spark new traditions in your home. Take inspiration from family traditions and put your own spin on it. Take a family walk or drive to admire the lights, host a hot chocolate movie night in your matching holiday pajamas, have a gingerbread house building competition, or spend time volunteering and giving to those in need.


3. Schedule a FaceTime or Zoom date

Thanks to technology, we can feel like we’re celebrating with a crowd, even if they are thousands of miles away. Schedule a specific time for a FaceTime or Zoom celebration. Maybe just as you sit down to dinner to share what you’re all thankful for, for singing songs, or opening presents. Feel connected and close, no matter where you are.


4. Set up a virtual Secret Santa

Who doesn’t love getting a little something in the mail? You don’t need to physically be together to draw names out of a hat for a Secret Santa. Free online services like Elfster can help you set up a gift exchange from afar. These services are even better than the old school way to do things. You are guaranteed not to pick yourself, no one can secretly peek at your selection, and you can even add gift wish lists. 


5. Do a drive by to see friends

There’s a good chance you’re not the only one unable to make it home for the holidays. Ask around and see who else is staying in town. Set up a casual drive-by or socially-distanced outdoor get-together to say a quick happy holidays to neighbors and nearby friends.  This is a great opportunity to meet people in your neighborhood. The holidays tend to bring people together, even if you start out as strangers.


Source: @jlgarvin


6. Turn your home into a staycation wonderland

If flights are out of the question but you’re tired of staying home (you’re not alone!), take some of the money you would have spent on traveling and reallocate it to turn your home into a staycation paradise. What do you love best about staying at a hotel? Maybe it’s the cozy robes (go ahead and splurge on a new one), a decadent breakfast (order in!), or a visit to the spa (upgrade your bath products). Bring these elements into your home so your holidays at home feel extra special and relaxing. Holidays usually include a bit of stress, but this year you can let some of that go and really rest up and enjoy the time spent not going anywhere. 


7. Save it for next year

Every holiday season is special, but this one is going to feel different. And that’s OK. As you have your small celebration at home, remember there is always next year. We’re all hoping for better things in 2021 and the holidays next year can be an even bigger and better celebration than you’ve ever had before.


8. Enjoy it!

And finally, just enjoy a quiet holiday season! We’re not saying that we don’t want to celebrate with our families (love you Mom and Dad!), but let’s be real, there are some positives to staying put this holiday season. We tend to sugarcoat things and see the grass is always greener. Of course, celebrating with family is wonderful, but don’t forget about the true nightmare of traveling during the holidays, having to sleep in your old twin bed, or any family drama that might be brewing. If you have some time off from work and get to hang at home and relax, simply enjoy it! 


This article was originally published on December 24, 2019 and has been updated for timeliness.