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6 Ways to Spark Joy This Holiday Season

This may not be the holiday season any of us had planned for. The pandemic has canceled our parties, our group baking extravaganzas and our annual trips to feast with our families. If you haven’t visited your loved ones in a year or have only hung out socially distanced, forgoing a large family gathering can feel like another entry on the list of “Things I missed out on in 2020.” 

But there is joy to be found in a scaled-down celebration, and you still can make your holiday season festive whether you’re spending it with your immediate household or flying solo. 

Compliments of Zillow, Life at Home

Here are six ways to make the most of the holidays this year — and ring in a very eager toast to 2021. 

Deck the heck out of the halls

Just because you’re not having a large holiday gathering doesn’t mean that you should skimp on the decorations. If anything, this is the year to go big. Ever fantasized about being that yard or balcony — you know, the Clark Griswold-level one that everyone stops and admires? Now is your chance to be the star of the neighborhood. 

And don’t let the cheery decorations stop on the outside. Adorn your space with twinkle lights, pompom garlands, illuminated elves or items that remind you of holidays at your parents’ house, or wherever you feel most at home. You’ll be feeling like you’re in the middle of a Hallmark movie before you know it. 

Create new traditions

You might be missing the usual fare — your mom’s homemade candy, your grandma’s elaborate roast, even that work holiday party that you used to loathe. But this year, instead of thinking about how much you wish things were different (and, oh, how we do), try to focus on creating your own traditions that can live on post-pandemic. 

Usually a couch potato on Christmas morning? Implement a brisk holiday walk before you open your presents. Has your family always celebrated holidays in a fairly traditional American way? Research how other countries spend the holiday season. For example, Icelanders gift each other books on Christmas Eve and spend the evening reading alone in bed (not a bad setup for a pandemic holiday). 

Embrace hygge

The Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) or a feeling of coziness and warmth — marries well with being stuck inside for the entirety of the holiday season. Although it’s easy to miss the “going out” opportunities of the season like holiday concerts, movies, cocktail parties, ice skating or neighborhood gatherings, try to embrace the feeling of comfort and security of your warm home. 

How exactly do you achieve hygge in your home? Although there’s no wrong way to accomplish feeling cozy, your best bet is candles (and lots of them), a fireplace, your favorite blanket and a freshly baked batch of cookies. 

Pamper yourself

Spending the holiday solo this year? Having an entire day of self-care planned for when you would normally get together with family or friends will make it something you look forward to (and maybe even make a new holiday tradition). 

Take a long, hot bath or shower, exfoliate, do a deep conditioning treatment, paint your toenails, try out a new aftershave or manscaping regimen, or whatever other form of pampering you like to engage in. Create a pampering schedule on your phone or write it down in a notebook so it feels like an official day at the spa. Or, if your idea of self-care looks more like a good book, a group Zoom with friends, a refreshing solo hike or a day of classic movies and popcorn, make a schedule that’s right for you.

Organize a cookie exchange

Sure, you can’t bake together, but that doesn’t mean you can’t organize a flow of sweet treats to your door (and everyone else’s in the neighborhood). Have a select few neighbors or local friends sign up to bake a batch of cookies and do a drop-off on the front porch. You can even take pictures of all the finished products and have an online vote to see which cookie had the best design or flavor. 

Donate to a cause

One thing 2020 has made clear: There’s more need than ever before. With millions of lost jobs and an economy in trouble, people are struggling to make ends meet — and nonprofits and trying to help fill in the gaps. If you are financially able, one of the best ways to cap off the year is to research a charity and donate what you can. 

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