After a year full of changes and uncertainty, I am more excited about the upcoming holiday season than ever before. Of course, the pandemic is far from over—and it’s been a trying year for many—so our classic holiday celebrations might look a little different this year, and that’s OK. Rather than carrying on as normal, this Christmas is a great time to mix things up and try new holiday traditions.
If your Christmas dinner has fewer guests this year, skip the whole ham and try a delicious new menu. And if your holiday budget is tight, don’t stress the gifts! Turn gifts and stockings into a fun game by drawing names so that each person only has to buy one gift. This year, try to focus less on buying the latest and greatest decor and gifts, and turn your focus to spending more quality time with your family. You might just find that these new celebrations become yearly traditions you can’t live without!
Serve a Non-Traditional Dinner
It’s OK to skip the traditional Christmas ham this year, especially if you’re expecting fewer guests than normal. Instead, opt for something totally different, like a delicious holiday-inspired seafood menu or try a tasty Cajun Christmas menu. No matter what you serve at Christmas dinner, what matters most is who is around the table.
Start a New Family Tradition
After a crazy and unexpected year, we could all use some extra quality time with the family. This season, start a new Christmas tradition and get the whole family involved. Order matching pajamas, start an Advent calendar, or fill a gratitude jar. The traditions don’t have to be expensive or elaborate; all you have to do is carve out a few hours and spend the time doing something fun together.
Host a Virtual Gathering
The best part of the holidays is being with family, but as the pandemic continues on, it’s likely that not all of your family members will be able to meet up in one place. If you’re missing the hustle and bustle of a houseful of guests, consider planning a virtual celebration this season. Gather the family on Zoom and have everyone decorate cookies “together” in their own homes, or use the Netflix Party app to watch a classic holiday movie together.
Giving back to the community is one of my favorite ways to celebrate the season. Since we can’t go to a food bank or other charitable events in person this year, we can still make a difference. Donate $5 to a good cause like St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital or the American Red Cross. Every little bit helps and you will feel a sense of joy in knowing you have helped others.
Adopt a New Cultural Celebration
Everyone celebrates the holiday season differently, and there are so many meaningful traditions celebrated by different cultures and in different parts of the world. This season, learn about your family’s heritage and adopt a few of their traditions into your own celebration. Of course, you never want to appropriate another culture, but adding a respectful celebration to your holiday plans can be both fun and meaningful. Perhaps take the time to learn the story of Hanukkah and make latkes together as a family, or celebrate your Italian heritage by hosting your first-ever Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.
Draw Names for Gifts
This year has been hard for many, and the added financial stress of the holidays is something you can totally skip this year. To cut down on costs while keeping things fun, draw names for stockings and gifts, and set a price limit for each person. If you want, you can keep the names a secret until the gifts are opened and have each person guess who their gift-giver was in a secret Santa style.
Give Practical Gifts
It’s never fun to open a gift you know you won’t use, especially when you can’t or don’t want to return it. In past years, I’ve tried to buy people fun or “splurge” gifts that I know they won’t buy for themselves. And while it’s fun to pick these out, after a financially stressful year, you don’t want to spend money on something you know won’t be used—and your recipient would much rather receive a gift that’s helpful to them. So this year, consider switching things up. Rather than guess what people want or will use, ask your family members to make a Christmas list of practical gifts instead—think a meal kit subscription service to cut down on grocery bills, household tools or kitchen appliances that need to be replaced, or gift cards to save money at most-frequented stores.