A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

10 Ways We Already Know the Holidays Will Look Different

Although coronavirus may cancel some holiday festivities, it will never cancel holiday cheer!

1 / 11
Top view medical protective masks with red ribbon on a blue background with copy space
Yelena Khayrullina/Getty Images

Home Alone just got real

This holiday season we’ll most likely be home alone…literally. With a vaccine for the COVID-19 pandemic not set to even be a possibility until early next year and a possible rise in cases during flu season, the holidays will look a little different than we’re used to. But while some traditions may need to fall by the wayside for the safety of yourself and others, that doesn’t mean that other ones won’t take their place. So although the holidays may not be the same this year, that doesn’t mean it should stop you from getting into the holiday cheer!

2 / 11
Three men with American football equipment. Debica, Poland
Anna Bizon/Getty Images

Thanksgiving football tailgates will earn a fumble

There are three essential Fs when it comes to Thanksgiving: Family, food, and football. As of now, it seems like the NFL will still have three games on the festive day. However, the fun tailgates and huge football viewing parties that often come with the territory? Those will take the L. It also hasn’t been determined whether these games will allow for a live audience. Instead, enjoy the games from the comfort of your own home without having to worry about crowd control. Here are 9 meaningful Thanksgiving traditions you’ll want to steal for your family’s table.

3 / 11
Top view of woman at wooden desk with credit card and laptop
Westend61/Getty Images

Black Friday will go digital

Remember those videos of people fighting over TVs during Black Friday 2018? Yeah, don’t expect that kind of crazy footage anymore. After Walmart released a statement saying that their stores will be closed on Thanksgiving in order to give their employees some much-needed time at home with their loved ones, it seems like the beginning of the end for Black Friday as we know it. Although other retailers haven’t yet released public statements on their Black Friday plans, it seems highly doubtful that it will be business as usual this holiday season. According to Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette, the influential brand is planning to ramp up online offers, utilize curbside pickup, and have deals running for a longer period of time. So this year, skip the 4 a.m. wakeup time to line up outside the entrance of your favorite store and instead drop that hot item into your virtual shopping cart.

4 / 11
Village square Christmas
PapaBear/Getty Images

Saying “so long” to your favorite local holiday attractions

Every town and city has its own special way of spreading holiday cheer (and, some towns take it to the next level—here are the best Christmas towns in every state). Whether they be train rides emulating the Polar Express, villages set up to look like the North Pole, or masterfully crafted gingerbread exhibitions, I’m sure you can think of something your town does to bolster the spirit of the season. But like the Whos’ Christmas presents in How The Grinch Stole Christmas, these good-spirited celebrations will most likely be gone this year. Events like the Country Christmas Tour in Indian Head, New York, and the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco, California have already been canceled, so it’s most likely only a matter of time before other local events get the boot, too.

5 / 11
Family pasting gingerbread house in kitchen for Christmas with sweets
Westend61/Getty Images

More time for family traditions

Between shopping for presents, attending countless holiday parties, sending out cards, and everything in between, being merry can be hard and busy work. The one upside to celebrating the holidays during a pandemic? With so many typical events canceled, you’ll have time to really slow down and partake in nearly forgotten family traditions. Think like your grandma, or your great-grandma for that matter: How would she have celebrated the holidays? Making a secret family recipe with your kids is just one example of how you can use the lack of holiday stress to your advantage. Ho, ho, ho-oray! Here are 15 of the best Christmas Eve traditions you should start this year.

6 / 11

Lighting the menorah…but from the comfort of your home

Another holiday even that most likely won’t see the light of day (or dusk)? Town-wide and organization-sponsored menorah lightings. Although it’s still a ways away (Hanukkah takes place this year from December 10 to 18), it’s unlikely that these big, typically crowded events to celebrate the Jewish holiday will occur like normal. Instead, make the tradition more intimate by lighting the candles and playing dreidel with your family at home. The same bodes true for any Kwanzaa candle lighting ceremonies, which this year will take place from December 26 to January 1. These are 18 things you never knew about Hanukkah.

7 / 11
Young woman listening to music
electravk/Getty Images

Listening to holiday music on your phone, not in person

All concerts have taken a hit from COVID-19, with thousands of touring artists and festivals having to cancel and/or postpone their events. Unfortunately, holiday concerts featuring some of these 20 best Christmas songs are no different. From more localized groups like the Oregon Symphony to the world-renowned New York Philharmonic, orchestras are already canceling their December concerts. Even non-classical concerts, like the “All I Want For Christmas is You” event Mariah Carey was supposed to play at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii, have been canceled. On the flip side, many organizations including the Philharmonic have been providing free virtual recordings of performances. So even if it’s via your computer or phone, perhaps you’ll still be able to listen to your favorite symphony or artist play “Deck The Halls” after all.

8 / 11
Close-up of unrecognizable craftspeople adjusting paper gift box in workshop: woman giving yellow box with red ribbon to black man
mediaphotos/Getty Images

An increase in handmade gifts

Yet another bummer about the typical holiday season: The time it takes buying presents can sometimes be seen as a holiday drag, not a holiday celebration. With all of the extra time on your hands due to COVID-19, it’s time to get crafty! Setting up a “Santa’s workshop” in your own home to make handcrafted presents will not only be a superb way to create some much-needed Winter Wonderland festivity, but you won’t have to worry about running out to the store to pick up gifts. Just call yourself the new Mr. or Mrs. Claus.

9 / 11
Middle aged couple at an airport during coronavirus pandemic.
gilaxia/Getty Images

Deciding if traveling for a tropical holiday is worth it

According to Guesty, a global short-term rental property management platform, there’s already been an increase in winter holiday reservations by 40 percent. With many people desperate to get out of their house, this uptick makes sense. But the possibility that we may see another virus spike in the winter season, coupled with the fact that many countries won’t allow Americans in for leisure vacations, makes it seem like the risk of holiday travel may outweigh the reward. The question “to travel or not to travel” is not usually one we’re faced with during the holiday season, but will have to be debated head-on.

10 / 11
Wrapping Christmas presents
StockRocket/Getty Images

Giving back will get big

There’s no doubt that giving back has always been the best way to spread holiday cheer. But this year, with even more free time it’s likely that individuals and families alike will be even more charitable than usual. Think about cooking a special holiday meal with your family to then donate to a local food bank, or wrapping up extra gifts and taking them to an orphanage or hospital. Everyone needs love during the holidays, but especially amidst this pandemic. Remember, a little action can go a long way. These stories about people giving back are sure to warm your heart.

11 / 11
Couple toasting in wine
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

No huge New Year’s Eve parties

New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest party holidays in the USA. But this year, we’ll have to ring in the new in smaller, more intimate gatherings. While nothing is set in stone yet, it seems unlikely that huge events like the ball drop in Times Square and high capacity celebrations at restaurants and clubs will occur. Instead, opt to spend New Year’s Eve at home and make it festive with paper decorations and noisemakers. And hey—never say never, but remembering that it’s pretty impossible for 2021 to get any worse than 2020 is sure to lift your holiday spirits! Next, read up on what travel could look like after coronavirus.

For more on this developing situation, including how life might be different post-lockdown, see our comprehensive Coronavirus Guide.

Lucie Turkel
Lucie Turkel is a cultural journalist, researcher, and digital producer specializing in social justice, history, and lifestyle pieces. Her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society's Key Reporter journal, the University of Connecticut Daily Campus, and UConn Communications.