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Just like everything else in 2020, this holiday season looks and feels a little different for all of us. But what has remained consistent is the need to take part in some healing time – whatever that looks like.

Our team of editors got together to share what this holiday season will look like for us – what’s new, what’s not-so-new, and what we’re absolutely still looking forward to!

Go-to Christmas movies: “Scrooged” and “Rare Exports”

How I’m spending the holidays:

The holidays are usually a more stressful time for my husband and me with 5-hour drives to my in-laws’ and dividing time between the families. But like a lot of us, this year’s theme is a very merry low-key Christmas.

We’re going to connect with my husband’s large family virtually and hopefully play some games or have a good chat.

This is also the first holiday season in our new house, so we’ve been putting up lights and doing some holiday nesting to break through any lingering 2020 gloom.

My husband and I don’t normally exchange big presents. This time, we’ve decided to buy each other a tree ornament that represents something good about the year. Don’t tell my husband, but his ornament is a “Rose Apothecary” logo since we binged all of “Schitt’s Creek” for the first time.

Go-to Christmas movie: “The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring”

(It’s a Christmas movie and I won’t hear arguments against it!)

How I’m spending the holidays:

Truthfully, it’s been years since I had the Christmas spirit. But this is the first year I really feel like I get it. Maybe it’s because I’m home-locked with roommates who a-d-o-r-e Christmas. In November, we “adopted” a Christmas tree off the street and dressed it up with free ornaments from our local Buy Nothing.

On weeknights (and some weekdays), we choose a festive movie to watch together. Oh, and if it’s Hallmark, we also play a drinking game. I can’t remember anything about the last movie we saw, but I do remember lots of shouting every time a Christmas tree, a Santa hat, and the “dirt-bag” ex popped up on screen.

This is also the first year I won’t be spending Christmas with my bio family because of COVID-19. But I foresee it being the first of many Christmases away from them because I’ll be spending more time with my “chosen family.” My chosen family has taken a more prominent role in my life, not only because they’re physically closer to me, but they’re super exciting grounds to start new, healthy, and healing connections.

I know I’m probably in the minority, feeling like I’m actually gaining a better experience this year. But to me, that’s the definition of holiday spirit: to be rejuvenated by what’s serving you. Whether people can be with their families or not, I hope they find comfort in their blessings this season.

Go-to Christmas movie: “Die Hard”

How I’m spending the holidays:

My wife and I spent the last 10 years (7 of them as parents) taking alternating road trips to Virginia and Indiana for the holidays. That meant packing for a week (primarily a rotation of PJs), taking a million family pics, and not feeling bad at all about putting on some holiday pounds.

Sometime shortly before Thanksgiving this year, we decided to celebrate the holidays at home as a family of four. It didn’t feel good, but it felt right. Obviously, with safety being at the forefront of most of our decisions, it’s forced us to approach things differently.

That said, I’m looking forward to starting a new tradition or two this year as a family. This whole quarantine period has actually opened my eyes to what we haven’t yet done together as an immediate family.

We’ve already decorated more around the house than we had in previous years. We don’t get much snow where we live, but the lights, hot chocolate, ugly sweaters (okay, maybe not the sweaters), and Christmas songs are gonna be in full effect. And — just like over Thanksgiving — I’m sure Zoom will come through in the clutch for some fun virtual extended fam interactions.

So, as we prep for a new-look holiday this year, there’s still plenty to be thankful for. Who knows — some of these restrictions may provide even more room for flexibility and creativity.

How I’m spending the holidays:

I’ll be surfing, mostly. For me, the holidays mark the time of year when the surf is the best. And since my whole family surfs, the holidays are like 50 percent about surfing and 50 percent about food. Since I’m not going to see them this year because of COVID-19, it’ll probably be 100 percent about surfing.

It’s always been hard for me to feel connected to the tradition of Christmas since there’s often so much pressure to buy gifts and go above and beyond every year. So, it’s kind of nice that I’ll be slowing down this year and doing very little.

Go-to Christmas movie: A toss-up between “Elf”, “The Night Before”, and the “A Christmas Prince” trilogy

How I’m spending the holidays:

As a British Jewish guy with an American Catholic wife, our Christmases have always been a little… cobbled together. Neither of us has been able to see everyone we’d like to every year, so it’s been great training for 2020.

On Christmas Day, we’d usually go dine with my aunt and uncle, who live pretty locally. But the UK’s COVID-19 restrictions “rule of six,” limiting gatherings to six people, has shot that in the foot this year.

We have no kids, so it really will be just the two of us. But it’s a good time to put into practice our newly learned 2020 skills — my cooking has leveled up (debatably), so I’ll be able to practice the traditional roast dinner in preparation for when we’re allowed to be together again.

We’ve got a smaller home that’s cozier and easier to decorate, and we’ve saved enough money to allow for a more generous gift budget. So, even if we don’t have the most recognizable Christmas, we can make it fun for the people in our lives.

Go-to Christmas movie: “Love, Actually”

How I’m spending the holidays:

For me, the holidays are all about family, and this year it feels more important than ever. My husband and I are traveling with our three teens to visit my parents. That means a flight from California to North Carolina — and with COVID-19 rates spiking everywhere, I’m definitely anxious about the travel, but excited that we’ll be together.

Actually, I should say: The holidays are all about family… and food. We pretty much eat our way through the yuletide season. Christmas Eve includes a Feast of Seven Fishes — my husband is Italian — along with lamb and risotto. Christmas morning kicks off with my mom’s legendary cookies. She still whips up an array of treats that takes her weeks to make — pecan butterballs, thumbprints, peanut butter blossoms, iced brownies, apple kuchen, sugar cookies, and more. We nosh on cookies and sip mimosas as we open gifts. (PS: A few cookies still get left out for Santa on Xmas Eve, of course.)

We take our sweet time opening gifts and usually don’t finish until midday — at which time we turn to lounging, a game of pool, and gathering around the fireplace to watch a marathon of holiday movies.

Family. Food. And feel-good flicks. What could be better?

Go-to Christmas movie: “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”

How I’m spending the holidays:

My husband and I normally split Christmas Eve and Christmas Day spending time between our families. Christmas Eve is a big deal for my smaller family, though it’s always been a really relaxed evening. My husband, on the other hand, has a pretty big extended family. So, keeping things small on that end this year will definitely be a change.

We’ve made it a priority to be as safe as possible throughout the pandemic. This has led us to create sort of a family “holiday pod” that started before Thanksgiving and one we’ll be sticking to for the foreseeable future.

Traditionally, my parents host a gathering with a handful of relatives where we eat lasagna and drink wine. It’s one of the few times a year we get everyone together. This year, it’ll just be my parents and my sister who’ve been quarantining together. Oh, and our 4 dogs, who also receive (and open) presents. We’ll have a Zoom call with the rest of the fam, so while I won’t be able to sit at the forever kids table this year, we can at least catch up.

It will definitely be a quieter holiday, but we’re grateful that we can still enjoy time with loved ones.

Go-to Christmas movie: “A Christmas Carol”

(Any version I’m there!)

How I’m spending the holidays:

Since I can’t gather and make merry with loved ones this year, I’ll be cozying up with a simple ghost story — one of the best ghost stories: A Christmas Carol.

From the moment I first saw Jacob Marley rattle his chains in despair and howl “Oh woe is me!”, I was hooked! Over the years I’ve watched almost every movie and TV special, acted in six stage productions, and reread my hard copy until the binding cracked. It’s the Christmas tradition that gives me the most joy because it never stops being relevant — especially now.

As the weight of 2020 starts to feel more and more like a ponderous chain, I’m refreshing my spirit with Fred’s resilience and compassion, Tiny Tim’s borderline-cloying purity, the not-so-subtle metaphor of accepting the ghosts of our past, present, and future, and the pervasive reminder that we really are all in this together—as “fellow passengers to the grave and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

And so, even though Scrooge might say I should be boiled in my eggnog and buried in footsie pajamas with a stake of holly through my heart, I say, God bless us! Every one!

Go-to Christmas movies: “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, “Home Alone”, and “The Holiday”

How I’m spending the holidays:

The last few holiday seasons have been different for me since my marriage ended, and I moved back in with my parents. I initially expected to only be back with them for a few months, but I decided to stay, so I could pay off some debt and save up for a house. When the pandemic hit, I’d been living with them for 2 years.

Though I’ve certainly had my moments of frustration, being in my mid-30s and wishing I had my own place by now, this holiday season feels extra meaningful. My mom was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago and is in the middle of her treatment. The fact that I’m able to be here for her is a blessing.

On a day she was feeling up to it, my dad and I drove my mom to pick out a Christmas tree, and we decorated it together the next day. It brought a big smile to all of us.

I’m just so thankful that I can help my parents out during this time and actually get to hug my mom when many other family members (including my brother) can’t right now. I’m trying to be present as much as possible and appreciate this season of my life, even though it’s not what I ever expected.

It’ll just be us three (and lots of pets) for Christmas, but we’ll be Zooming with other family members that day, I’m sure. One tradition that I’ve always kept throughout life’s many changes is that I buy little presents for my cat and wrap them for her to tear open on Christmas day (there’s usually catnip involved and lots of laughs).

Go-to Christmas poem: “Christmas Dog” by Shel Silverstein

(My dad reads it to the family every year!)

How I’m spending the holidays:

For the past 8 years, I’ve had to hop on a plane and fly across the country to see family during the holidays (don’t ask me why I chose to live so far away when I’m afraid of flying.) Because of the distance, I’ve missed every holiday with family at least once, except for Christmas. I was proud of my I’ll be home for Christmas streak, but last March, I thought there was a chance it might end.

Like basically everyone else, COVID-19 changed a lot of my plans. In early November, I packed everything that “sparked joy” (and could fit into my little car) and made the (careful) move from San Diego back home to the east coast. That means I get to spend the holidays not traveling, but grateful to already be at my parent’s house.

A normal Christmas visit would consist of a week jam-packed with driving to visit other family and friends who I only get the chance to see once a year. This year, I have over a month to just hang at home with my parents, my sister, and our dog because there’s nowhere else I need to be. I feel incredibly lucky!

Go-to Christmas movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life” 😭

How I’m spending the holidays:

Ever since I can remember, my dad has booby-trapped my room overnight on Christmas Eve to make sure I don’t spy on Santa or clean out my stocking before Christmas morning. Every year, without exception. And I’m 33.

I’ve had my glasses stolen and the floor next to my bed covered in marbles. I’ve crept toward the tree to be confronted by a creepy mannequin ominously staged to look like a stranger sitting on the couch, sending me shrieking back to bed. But mostly, I’ve had my bedroom door tampered with – rigged to sound an air horn when opened one year, the knob simply removed another. And for his pièce de résistance, my dad once sealed my doorframe with a clear plastic window insulator. l guilelessly sprinted full speed out of the room toward my presents, and the sound of my face smacking plastic was met with chuckles from across the hall. These cunning feats could only work on someone who can sleep through anything.

Though frivolous, this tradition with my dad is a yearly highlight –– one I’ve looked forward to even more this year. COVID-19 forced both of my high-risk parents into an early retirement and into the throes of navigating Medicare. As a result, I’ve spent much of the year drowning in guilt for failing to help them navigate necessities like Instacart, Zoom, and a family funeral. Longing to atone for my shortcoming as the first born child, I hoped at least to present myself as a victim to the usual Christmas shenanigans.

Because I care about my family’s health more than anything, the reunion will have to wait. Instead, I’ll toast with my husband to 2021 reunions and healing. No new traditions for me. At least not yet. I’m considering this an outlier. After all, this too shall pass. 🥂