I’m one of many people who will be spending the holidays alone this year due to COVID-19, and while I’m not dreading it as much as I thought I would, I know it’s going to be a rough couple of weeks. While some people are opting to protect their mental health by ignoring the holidays completely, I can’t resist treating the holiday season as special—even if I have to spend it alone.
So, in search of ideas for myself and to help others in my same boat, I asked people to share the creative ways they’re celebrating the holidays. Then I tossed in some of my own plans that I’m rocking this year. Here are some ideas to get you started, whether you’re trying to make the whole season feel special or celebrate a specific day.
1. Watch all the holiday movies and TV.
I know that watching a bunch of bad Christmas movies is hardly a unique suggestion, but I’m making an event out of it. All December long, it’s all Christmas entertainment, all the time. Cheesy Hallmark movies? Check. Christmas episodes of my favorite TV shows? Check. Awful classic Christmas movies my dad used to make me watch as a kid? Check! I know that I’ll likely be sad on Christmas Day itself, so I’m trying to spread the cheer out so the inevitable letdown and loneliness won’t be so hard.
2. Gift wrap presents to yourself.
“I'm a big, big fan of buying presents for myself, getting them gift wrapped, and putting them under the tree. It feels silly when I order them, but it does save a little bit of the ‘new toys for Christmas!’ feeling.” —Sarah G., 34
3. Make the day purposefully, hilariously awful.
“I actually always spend the holidays alone. One thing I do is to make it exceptionally pathetic by throwing myself a funny, so-bad-it’s-good holiday party for one. Like, getting the smallest Dollar Store tree and decorating it with lights with bulbs burnt out. You definitely have to have the right sense of humor for that not to just be depressing but if you do, it’s kind of hilarious. And makes a good one-off celebration.” —Arlo C., 28
4. Find a way to give back.
“This year, I want to celebrate by giving back. Since in-person options are limited, I’m going through my entire closet to find items to donate, especially items for the cold weather like hoodies, mittens, and blankets.” —Julie P., 31
5. Make the day super special...for your pets.
Despite what I said in the introduction, I won’t technically be spending the holidays alone. I’ll have my cats, Francis and Regulus. And even if they have no idea what Christmas is, they’re about to have the best Christmas of their lives. Since I won’t have gifts of my own to open up this year, I’m going all out for them. Will they shove the little Santa hats I force onto their heads off immediately? Obviously. Do they care that they have their own personalized Christmas stockings? Absolutely not. Will they ignore any presents I buy them in favor of the boxes they came in? You know it. It’s going to be awesome.
6. Have a quiet, cozy day full of self-care.
“On Christmas, I sleep in a bit, then take a hot shower and get into even cozier ‘daytime pajamas.’ I spend most of the reading, drinking hot tea, and watching my favorite Christmastime movies. It's a quiet little event that allows me a break from the world and usual routine, without the stress of fitting in family or friends.”—Arielle W., 34
7. Or make it the ultimate over-the-top pampering day.
“Get yourself more indulgent versions of literally everything you can afford and enjoy them—fancy hot chocolate, good coffee, that bath oil you've been meaning to try, new pajamas, whatever. Turn it into the ultimate pampering day. Just because the holiday is different doesn't mean it can't be great.” —Sarah G., 34
8. Send out holiday cards (or emails).
“I missed the boat on the whole holiday card thing this year, despite my best efforts, so I’m doing e-cards instead! Somehow e-cards feel even more old fashioned? But I digress. I did a funny Christmas card photo shoot, complete with ugly Christmas sweaters and my cats, and am using Paperless Post to design the cards.” —Chris F., 33
9. Try a bunch of new recipes.
“Since I’m spending the holidays alone, I’m trying a bunch of new recipes at once since I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. For Thanksgiving I cooked way too much food and didn’t have to deal with the stress of anyone else hating it.” —Olivia D., 26
10. Do some old-school holiday crafts.
“This started because I wanted to decorate this year since usually I go home to my parents’ house where it’s super decorated. But I don’t have a lot of storage space here for real decorations and didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So I made some cheesy paper garlands to hang up. From there, I’ve gotten into any festive craft you can think of. I’ve strung popcorn and cranberries. I’ve made paper snowflakes. My apartment looks like a few small children live here, but it’s cheering me up.” —Mary C., 21
11. Plan for the year ahead.
“I'm celebrating the solstice. Phone turned off all day. I’ll be prepping my 2021 planner, working out my 2021 Word of the Year, doing a Year Ahead tarot spread, and journaling. Only nourishing, celebratory things.” —Alex F., 36
12. Cook a special holiday breakfast to kick off the day.
“There’s no way to really recreate the magic of Christmas morning with my family, so I decided to explore other ways I could make it feel special by myself. I decided that’s going to be a big fancy breakfast. And mimosas. Lots of mimosas.” —Amanda B., 23
13. Look at nearby lights.
“Luckily for me, one of my favorite holiday traditions is still pretty safe to do in my area: driving around and looking at Christmas light displays. I’m going to try to go more than once and maybe add in a few longer walks to nearby neighborhoods. All while blasting Christmas music and enjoying a thermos of hot chocolate.” —Chloe F., 27
14. Don’t be afraid to ask people for a quick call or Zoom chat.
Okay, this doesn’t count as something to do alone, so consider it a postscript, but it’s worth mentioning: If you are lucky enough to have friends and family you might want to chat with during this tough season and on the holidays themselves, take advantage of it. I know when you’re feeling lonely, anxiety can make you feel like a bother and a burden, but don’t let that stop you from reaching out. Believe me, if I was spending the holidays at home this year, I would be happy for the excuse to step away from family drama to chat with friends who were feeling alone. Give people the opportunity to support you.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.