What to Do When Your Holidays Look Different

Gratitude, Kindness, Presence
12/23/20 - Foram Sheth

2020. This year has been full of adjustments and changes. Most of the changes have been difficult to deal with and now that the holidays are upon us and look different, these changes feel even more drastic. It is an understatement to say that the holidays are different this year. I found myself getting upset because I did not keep traditions with my daughter. This is her third Christmas and I wanted to do Santa photos, buy a custom ornament from the Christkindlmarket, take her to see lights and so on. I’m still functioning in the sense of what I should be doing. 

I have not re-aligned with my current reality. It is hard to do that. This holiday season is a slap in your face reminder that we cannot be with our loved ones. We cannot do what we traditionally do. But we can still re-magine it. To do that, we need to adjust to our reality. Here are a couple of things that might help when enduring all of this years’ changes.

Embrace your pod

With all the travel restrictions, seeing family might not be in the cards and you have to spend your holidays with your ‘pod’ instead of your family. If you can’t travel, spend time with those who you are already quarantined with. Also, remember to get some virtual facetime with your family if possible!

Three women laughing

Pick and choose your old traditions

Uphold the traditions that are important to you, even if the holidays look different. If that’s watching Jingle All The Way (yes, it’s a Soni family tradition), do a virtual movie night at a set time. If it’s decorating your tree, grab your pod and decorate the crap out of your tree. Figure out what tradition has been important to you, and make sure that tradition is here to stay.

Make some new traditions

This year is different, so it could be a good time to embrace a new holiday tradition. Perhaps this year it might mean not having to be in the kitchen for hours. Instead, you order in, relax and read a book. Maybe it might mean that you do an art project together or play a new game. Find something that brings you joy and make it happen!

Lean into your emotions

Don’t force yourself to be happy. Be sad if you need to. It’s important to acknowledge our feelings and feel what we need. Not everyone is going to be celebrating this year. In addition to everything being different, maybe you had a loss in the family. Shut off social media, disconnect and do what you need to process and grieve. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to lean into those emotions and not put a fake smile on.

Let it go

Remember to let go of what you may not be able to control this year. We cannot change the external forces around us (as much as we would like to). This means constantly reminding ourselves that “I’m doing the best I can”. I am focused on what I can control and I am reminding myself to let go of everything I can’t. 


Be kind to yourself. When you find the negative self-talk creeping in, shut it down. Reframe the narrative in your head and cut yourself some slack. It’s okay if you didn’t wake up at 5:00am to work out. It’s even okay if you didn’t do all the things you did last year, the holidays look different this year. Today is your day off.


Take a nap, take a bath, read a book, go for a walk. Do something to relax and rest because your body needs it. Your brain needs it. Your sanity needs it. Figure out what will give you the R&R you need, and prioritize it!

A woman relaxing in a bathtub

Do something for you

What is one thing that you have been putting off this year? What is something you’ve had your eye on, but didn’t feel justified in getting it? Do something for yourself this holiday season. It doesn’t have to be expensive or big. Just a small gesture that reminds you that you matter, that you are worthy of good things, and that you have to care for yourself.

Give back

If you can, find ways to give back to someone. Maybe it’s sending a handwritten note to someone saying you’re thinking of them, or making some hot chocolate for your neighbor who has had a tough year. By giving back, we feel euphoric and feel a sense of accomplishment and spread joy to those around us who might not have gotten it otherwise.


This year is all sorts of crazy and the holidays look different. It has been really hard for most of us, and we’ve spent so much time in angst and worry. It is okay to take a step back, breathe, reflect inward and veer from tradition because that may be required this year. Remember, the holidays are meant to be a celebration of something. It’s easy to get so caught up in the traditions and logistics of it that we forget about what they’re all about in the first place.

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