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With the New Year on the horizon, we’re ready to say, “Buh-bye, 2020 — oh, and definitely let the door hit you on your way out.”
2020 has been called everything from “a dumpster fire” to “apocalyptic” to “a sh*tshow.” When Twitter recently put out a challenge asking people to define the year in one word, responses ranged from “unsubscribe” to the utterly cathartic “whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?”
We’ve found ways to connect — albeit from afar — over the things that kindle delight. We’ve relished in the silly, the warm and fuzzy, the nostalgic, and the just plain ol’ fun stuff to get us through.
And while we don’t want to pour sugar on the year, we do want to shoo it out on a hopeful note. Hence the Greatist Happiness Hall of Fame. Let this be a celebration and reminder of the things (100 things!) that made us happy and hopeful on a collective human level in 2020.
Lockdowns kept us at home and often heading to the kitchen. So it’s no surprise that food became a big focus. If you grew bored with your usual breakfast, maybe you tried the genius combo of cereal that’s actually just mini pancakes (#SlurpSlurp).
Takeout heroes. First, we owe a big we-heart-you to our favorite restaurants that either upped their takeout game or pivoted quickly to add one. And we send out a virtual fist bump to all the incredible delivery drivers who brought crave-worthy items to our doorsteps. We will never forget how epic and soul-saving it felt to get our precious pad Thai, pizza Bianco, or chicken shawarma delivered to our door in the early days of lockdown.
Pasta. Pasta is always en vogue, but noodles sure had their moment in 2020 — from this hilarious Twitter thread about the most hated pasta shapes to Gigi Hadid’s bizarre cabinet façade décor made with dyed pasta. For those who still had an appetite, toasty pasta was on trend (Catherine, our Greatist updates editor and food blogger extraordinaire, testifies: “It’s a game-changer!”).
Cheers to the quarantini. It wasn’t so much about what was in the drink as it was about what you had left in your liquor cabinet. The quarantini brought levity-with-a-splash-of-booze to our early weeks of shelter-in-place.
DIY sourdough. I need yeast! I need yeast! Actually, no you doughn’t. At the start of the pandemic, yeast went the way of toilet paper: out of stock. That’s why many folks adopted a new pet they had to feed, the sourdough starter. The process of sourdough offered therapy and community — not to mention the delicious payoff: fresh-out-of-the-oven loaves of heaven.
Egg sammy. If you’ve ever thought making an egg sandwich required too many steps or kitchen accoutrements, this TikTok demo sure schooled you. We sampled it and dub it 100 percent Greatist-approved.
“Stump Sohla.” Beloved chef and restaurateur Sohla El-Waylly now has her own TV show! El-Waylly (along with fellow employees) resigned from Bon Appétit after calling out the publication for racism and pay inequity. In the new show “Stump Sohla” on the Babish Culinary Universe YouTube channel, El-Waylly spins a giant wheel to learn what complicated cooking challenge she’ll have to tackle — or be stumped.
The Icing Artist. There’s just something mesmerizing about watching Laurie (aka The Icing Artist) tackle seemingly impossible bakery hacks. More than 1.3 million viewers have watched her turn crappy grocery store cupcakes into a bougie dessert or slice and dice plain store-bought cakes into a tiered wedding masterpiece. Check out The Icing Artist for more baking and decorating hacks done TO. THE. MAX.
Music has something for every mood. Whether you’re bored from sheltering in place, feeling anxious after a day of doomscrolling, or having a feeling-fancy solo dinner, there’s a playlist to get you through it. This year, music also aptly reminded us to wash our hands.
The Backstreet Boys. “Now I can see that we’ve fallen apart, from the way that it used to be…” But don’t worry, the Backstreet Boys came to us from their living rooms for a remote performance to remind us everything’s gonna be OK.
NPR’s Tiny Desk. As many of us worked from home at our own tiny desks, NPR kept up its beloved concert series of the same name. The series brought us remote performances ranging from Dua Lipa to Billie Eilish to Black Thought of the Roots coming to us from a recliner to Phoebe Bridgers coming to us from the Oval Office (OK, a green screen). All pretty much brilliant.
Save Our Stages. Because we all want live performances to be there for celebration when we’re on the other side of the pandemic, The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) banded together to create the Save Our Stages Act, which passed in the House this fall. The act provides funding assistance and tax relief for shuttered venues and support for live music artists and workers.
“Mad World.” Curt Smith of Tears for Fears and his daughter Diva brought us to our knees — and back to 1983 — with their acoustic version of “Mad World.” The lyrics “going nowhere, going nowhere” were all too appropriate for sheltering in place.
Infinity Song. This sibling group’s viral cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” got us through our frantic feed-refreshing during the yearlong week of the presidential election.
“Hamilton” on Disney+. Broadway lovers everywhere broke into song when Disney+ released “Hamilton” a year early this summer, making the musical accessible and affordable.
Resistance Revival Chorus. A collective of more than 60 women and nonbinary singers and activists gave us this uplifting remote performance of “This Joy.” And we’re feeling it.
The very nature of physical distancing has meant we’ve had to be separate from some of our family members, friends, and other loved ones this year — and, in some cases, we’ve had to say goodbye. But thankfully, many people stepped up to make us feel less alone, including an American superhero.
Klinton Cooper. When nonpartisan collective Joy to the Polls showed up to energize, inspire, and bring relief to voters in Philadelphia’s long polling lines this November, Klinton Cooper stepped up with some serious cha-cha slide steps. His fancy footwork, good voting vibes, and “F*** 2020” T-shirt went viral.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg. We sadly said goodbye to the honorable Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. But what a beautiful legacy she has left behind. RBG was a true champion for gender equality and human rights and a role model for all. She became the first woman to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. And we will never forget all she has done or how hard she has fought for us.
Maya Gabeira. Brazilian Maya Gabeira wowed us by breaking her own world record for the largest wave surfed by a woman. She bested the previous record by 5.5 feet after riding a 73.5-foot wave in Praia do Norte, Portugal in February. The video is beyond — and it’s something you have to watch to believe. Surf’s up, girl!
Jordan Firstman. Have you seen Jordan Firstman’s impression of “the woman who wrote the Dr. Bronner’s bottle”? You’re welcome.
Tyler the Creator. We’re fools for Tyler the Creator bringing his mom on stage during his acceptance speech after winning a Grammy Award for best rap album. Just try to get through it without tears.
Chrissy Teigen. This woman always, always keeps it real, whether she’s making us laugh on the socials, dealing with internet trolls, or facing a devastating loss. Teigen penned this very raw Medium post, opening the door for others to talk about their grief.
Dolly Parton. The Queen of Country always wows us, and 2020 was no different. At the start of the pandemic, she posted a video to help calm our fears. Recently she donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for COVID-19 research. Her new song “I Still Believe” gives us hope for the future. And her Christmas special reminds us that even if we can’t be with loved ones for the holidays, we can still make the most of the season.
Dr. Bertice Berry. If you haven’t heard Dr. Bertice Berry’s “take care of the lights” message, stop everything and listen to it now. That’s especially important if you’re an essential worker taking care of everyone else.
Who’s a good boi? Sorry, we were talking to all the puppers. If ever there was a year we needed cute fuzzies on the internets and companionship without limits, it’s been this one.
Baby panda. Giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to her baby boy cub Xiao Qi Ji at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo this summer. And thanks to the panda cams, we’ve been able to check on their unbearable cuteness.
Field trips for zoo animals. With humans no longer gawking at them, some zoo animals have had the opportunity to explore their homes and gawk at the other animals. Even puppies and kittens got in on the action when the Atlanta Humane Society took them on a field trip to the Georgia Aquarium.
Jun’s Kitchen. If you’ve ever wanted to see a sushi dinner prepped and served to cats, head on over to Jun’s Kitchen. Incredibly calming and captivating all at once, Jun and his feline friends have a unique relationship that makes us smile every time.
Shedd Aquarium. Speaking of aquariums… if you’re missing your own field trips to visit creatures from below the surface, may we suggest the Shedd Aquarium’s Instagram account for some fabulous critter company?
Adopting a cat. As lockdowns went into place, many people didn’t want to go it alone. Shelters across the U.S. had record numbers of adoptions. And some hoomans found that feline companionship really is the cat’s pajamas.
Boobie Billie. With 260K+ followers, @boobie-billie is quite the fashionable doggy influencer. Boobie is also quite the astrologer. Go ahead and check out your BBscope if you haven’t already.
Bathing mouse. If you’ve let your hygiene get a little lax during quarantine — and who could blame you? — this oldie-but-goodie clip of a mouse taking a shower will help you get back on track. #SelfCareSunday
Animal playground. Who needs a zoo? This dad built a playground for his kids, but the wildlife liked it just as much, with rival animals even calling a temporary truce to share their newfound turf. Let’s face it: Animals know how to let loose way better than we do.
TikTok can be a mixed bag, for sure, but isn’t that what we love about it? And with all audiences going virtual in 2020, the platform became an essential springboard for entertainers of all sorts to find their way into our homes and hearts. From dancers to a guy who is everyone’s dad to dino jokes, TikTok gives us exactly what we need right now.
Tabitha Brown. America has found its vegan mom in Tabitha Brown’s Southern drawl-y TikTok food demos. Carrot bacon, anyone? Yes, thank you. And if you want an extra slice of vegan cheese, “that’s your business.”
YourKoreanDad. Did you ever go through the car wash with your dad as a kid, and did he treat it like the most exciting adventure in the world? Wouldn’t it feel nice to be back in that time and place? Well, Nick Cho will take you there as YourKoreanDad. Just sit back and get your soothe on. Enjoy your first haircut or just relish all the finger hearts.
Christian Hull. “Oooh, This will be a nice flamingo pink, I reckon.” For a hit of exuberance, we turn to Aussie comedian Christian Hull guessing paint colors as if he were on a game show with a million dollars on the line.
Meatier-Meteor. A decades-old dad joke about a misunderstanding between an angel and God over what to do with the dinosaurs was the catalyst for Eliza Petersen’s viral Meatier-Meteor TikTok. Inspired by a viral tweet that reminded her of the old joke, Petersen performed it, playing both characters and producing real tears. Within a day, the volunteer paleontologist’s video had already amassed more than 1 million views.
Dogs of TikTok. Yeah, 2020 came in like a wrecking ball, but so did this pit bull to cheer us up. Other faves on our list: Mad Max the corgi, who loves Cheerios and napping on the subway, and the Mercedes-driving, Starbucks-sipping, pool-lounging canine celebs Balou Blue and the Baloubies.
The Renegade. Jalaiah Harmon, a 14-year-old dancer in Fayetteville, Georgia, finally received credit for creating the Renegade, one of the most popular dance sequences to storm TikTok. An influencer co-opted the moves after seeing them elsewhere, but the truth has come out and Harmon has reclaimed the dance all over the interwebs.
Erica Lall. A dancer in the American Ballet Theater, Erica Lall found some extra time on her toes during lockdowns, so she took to TikTok to showcase a different side — less classical ballet and a whole lotta hip-hop — to inspire us to get on our feet.
In the face of the pandemic, many people rediscovered the great outdoors (in a physically distanced way, of course). There’s nothing quite like a dose of fresh air, sun, and unplugged peace and quiet to reset you.
Camping, COVID-style. Forget Bora Bora or Belize. This year, camping (while practicing physical distancing) became the hottest getaway around. And it didn’t matter if you pitched a tent in your own backyard or headed to a remote location to watch the good ol’ cowboy TV.
Skywatching. In 2020, we watched the sun go down and maybe even come back up. This year had us looking at the stars and the big white fluffies too. Need inspo? Check out this cloudgram shared by Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond.
The Beach! In times of uncertainty, the lakes, the rivers, the seas, or even just the local park’s pond have brought us back to a sense of serenity. Consider this a shout-out to H2O everywhere, even if it’s just our bathwater.
Plants. We’ve made no secret of our love of plants this year. We tended (and talked) to our houseplants and our victory gardens. We found delight and comfort in the lush, colorful world of Plant Kween — a virtual ray of sunshine who offers a smile on the dimmest days.
And we tuned in to Garden Marcus for his life advice on patience, perseverance, and personal growth. Because when it comes to gardening and life, “every mistake is an opportunity to learn.” Oh, Marcus, we all just want to be one of your plants.
Fantastic fungi. Mushrooms are having a moment in 2020. From Oregon’s legalization of psilocybin to the trippy film “Fantastic Fungi,” all eyes are on ’shrooms. It’s enough to remind us that nature is transformative in more ways than one.
Hiking. Hiking is like a meditative walk — taken to new heights. It’s the perfect exercise-plus-therapy. Listen to a podcast if you want… roam with your pup… strap your baby into a sling and go… or just explore. Hiking saved us this year, offering a much-needed getaway when there was no getaway. The trails got a workout in 2020, with more and more people heading to the woods or to urban paths to get outside their quarantine bubbles. Plus, who doesn’t like to let #LeafPeeping roll off their tongue?
Clanlands. Sometime around July, did you find yourself craving a romantic Scottish getaway (rolling green hills, the scent of mist…) but were held back by the year-that-was? Yeah, us too. Fortunately, “Outlander” stars Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish gifted us their very own tour of Scotland with their book Clanlands: Whiskey, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other. Kinda the next best thing to the real thing.
Free-wheelin’. This was the year sedans and SUVs suddenly got replaced by bicycles. Fewer cars on the road during lockdowns and more people working from home meant a little more room for cyclists to breathe — and cleaner air, to boot. Spinning around the neighborhood for leisure, for fun, made us feel like kids again. Pop a wheelie!
With everything canceled, 2020 could’ve been a huge snorefest. And our entertainment options looked pretty shaky right about the time we were all forcing ourselves to get through “Tiger King” (sorry to remind you). But from video games to live virtual table reads, the entertainment gods did not disappoint.
“Animal Crossing.” Many of us found the escape we needed in “New Horizons,” the newest edition of “Animal Crossing.” Tom Nook whisked our anthropomorphic characters to a faraway island where we could catch fish and sell turnips in an attempt to improve our lifestyle. Did “Animal Crossing” improve quarantine? It is decidedly so.
Virtual everything. The pandemic cleared our calendars of events, but that didn’t mean we had to miss out. Our favorite entertainers, from authors to comedians to musicians to drag performers, pivoted to online shows while we sat around in our sweatpants.
“The Baby-Sitters Club.” The series by Ann M. Martin came to life in a Netflix adaptation, letting us all relive our teenage angst with a modern twist.
“The Princess Bride.” We were all sitting around thinking, for the umpteenth time, that life isn’t fair. But then cast members, along with actors filling in for the dearly departed, performed a virtual live reading of this famed 1987 film. #Inconceivable
“The Queen’s Gambit.” Whether you were checkmated by the wide-set eyes and vintage ensembles of Beth Harmon (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) or the glimpse at life as a chess prodigy, you likely watched “The Queen’s Gambit” on Netflix in one sitting.
“Schitt’s Creek.” This one is hard for us to talk about. Yes, “Schitt’s Creek” ended in 2020. If you haven’t watched this show yet, we’re jealous because you have it to look forward to. And if you cried like a baby when it ended, we were right there with you. But all the “Ew, David”s will live on in our hearts. And we’re OK now with folding in the cheese.
“Wonder Woman 1984.” We’ve all been missing movie theaters — unless you’ve taken the opportunity to rent one (yeah, that’s a thing!). But we haven’t had to miss out on the blockbusters. Behold “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBOMax.
“Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” No, it’s not 1982, but we wish it were. And celebs granted our wish and brought us a live virtual table read of Cameron Crowe’s teen flick. Perhaps most bizarre was seeing Jennifer Aniston (as Linda Barrett) and Brad Pitt (as Brad Hamilton) getting their flirt on.
“Ted Lasso.” “If you would have told me that I’d be drinking tea at 3 o’clock every day… about a year ago… I would have punched you in the mouth.” At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a show about a sports team coach is going to be all that good. But “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+ made our hearts nice and toasty this fall — tea not included.
It’s the little things… and indeed, 2020 had us scrambling to find those. And no, we’re not talking about loose change in the couch.
New skills. It’s likely 2020 forced you to learn something new — like when your garbage disposal broke and you didn’t want to let anyone into your place to fix it. Or maybe you chopped your locks with clippers and found that you’d done a damn good job! Thanks, YouTube, for all the DIY magic and tutorials on everything under the sun — we credit you for turning us into novice mechanics, plumbers, manicurists, and even pet groomers.
Puzzles. Maybe you brushed up on some old skills like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, solving a crossword, or playing a game on Zoom with friends.
The 12-foot Home Depot skeleton. For Halloween, much to our pleasure, Home Depot released a ridiculously tall (12-foot) skeleton to spook the masses. It sold out in no time — apparently just what we needed to lift us out of the late-summer doldrums. But fear not: He hasn’t been relegated to closets and storage spaces to collect cobwebs until next pumpkin season. Nope. Mr. Bones has become the holiday season mascot we all need right now. Go, Skellie!
Getting dressed up. We’re like soap opera stars, glamorously dressed in lipstick and earrings around the house. But if your work-from-home ensemble also involves yoga pants and fuzzy slippers, that’s nobody’s business but your own.
Buying nothing. In uncertain times, it’s nice to know you can count on your neighbors to get the things you need while sharing with them things you don’t. Although circular economies like those in the Buy Nothing Project and elsewhere were in place well before this year, the pandemic has highlighted their usefulness as a way to create community and abundance.
Books. And when we finally gave up doomscrolling, we cracked the books. So many books. Find yourself a new page-turner!
A lot was canceled in 2020, from big weddings to birthday events to trick-or-treating, but all was not lost, and a lot of joy was found.
Elaine Welteroth’s wedding. Sometimes the best-laid plans get foiled by a pandemic. And in many cases this year, those plans were weddings. But that didn’t stop couples from tying the knot in creative ways. NYC-based Elaine Welteroth — an author, journalist, and judge on Project Runway — got hitched to musician Jonathan Singletary outside their front door in Brooklyn and threw a virtual party in the street to celebrate. A true case of love conquers lockdown.
Drive-by birthdays. At first it may have seemed that only a few people would celebrate birthdays in quarantine, but as the year progressed, we all found ourselves growing a year older amid the chaos. Under what other circumstances would you get your very own birthday parade of drive-by pals, though?
Halloween candy chutes. Trick-or-treating was almost canceled, but clever folks designed elaborate candy delivery systems to keep up the Halloween tradition and maybe even started some new traditions.
Surprise drop-offs. Were you one of the lucky recipients of Krispy Kreme’s generous dozen doughnuts match on Saturdays? Nom nom.
Alys Tomlinson. Proms were a rite of passage that temporarily went by the wayside for 2020. But photographer Alys Tomlinson captured 44 teenagers in their planned formal wear for a series titled “Lost Summer.” And for her work, she won the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.
Ah, remember when all we had to worry about was the impending doom of Y2K, who was going to pick us up from the mall, and whether Angela Chase would ever realize that Jordan Catalano was kind of douchey? This year had us jonesing for the ’90s like nobody’s business. Thankfully, there were plenty of opportunities to steep ourselves in nostalgia.
“Saved by the Bell.” For 2020 we were all a little so excited and then suddenly so, so scared. And that makes the release of the “Saved by the Bell” reboot on Peacock pretty much perfect timing.
Netflix ’90s collection. “You had me at hello!” Netflix has a whole collection of ’90s film gems to feed your angsty soul.
“Father of the Bride Part 3 (ish).” Oh, didn’t you know? There is indeed a “Father of the Bride Part 3.”
Playing Yahtzee. Hmm… I guess I’ll take my full house. Yes, 2020 might have had you digging into your old game stash to play a round with your fellow quarantiners. Who’s up for Uno?
Thirty AF. The @iamthirtyaf account is there for commiserating when you no longer feel like you’re 22.
’90s snacks. Did you even do 2020 if you didn’t have a box of Eggo cereal in your pantry? This is a shout-out to all the snacks that came back in time for us to up our quarantine game. We’re talking Dunkaroos and Cheez Balls, baby. Just not together.
“Pieces of You.” I don’t know how to tell you this, but it’s been 25 years since Jewel released her album “Pieces of You.” Thankfully, she did a livestream run-through on Insta in November.
“Pen15.” Hulu released the second season of the wildly awkward and funny “Pen15” this year. The show actually takes place in 2000, but we’re willing to go back 20 years and rethink a few things.
“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reunion. Thirty years ago, we watched the fictional Will Smith (played by Will Smith) move “from west Philadelphia, born and raised” to live with his “auntie and uncle in Bel-Air.” And 30 years later, the Banks family and Smith reunited for us on HBO Max.
In 2020, we definitely got our lounge on, which has led to some questionable fashion trends. But hey, as long as you’re comfy, right?
Sweatpants. We got reacquainted with the joys of good old-fashioned French terry. These sweats are Greatist copy editor Naomi’s fave.
Tie-dye. If 2020 had an official color and outfit, it would definitely be a tie-dye sweatsuit.
Bread loaf slippers. We admit that pandemic fashion has gotten a little weird. But all that sourdough does look pretty cozy.
Nap dress. It’s a nightgown. No, it’s a dress. No, it’s a nap dress. Well, whatever it is, it became a fashion staple for sheltering in place and for those quick masked-up trips to the grocery store to check if the toilet paper shipment had come in yet.
Cabincore. Not surprisingly, the latest trend of 2020 is to dress yourself in all things warm and flannel-y.
Linen. Whether you wanted to pull the covers over your head or you were just spending a bit more time in bed, 2020 became the year of the linen splurge. Greatist senior editor Christal took the plunge and never looked back.
Zoom shirt. You know the one… you pull it on 5 minutes pre-Zoom and voilà, you look put together despite your joggers and bare feet.
Nesting Wes Anderson-style. Finally, there’s the “Wes Anderson Guide to Surviving a Pandemic,” which is essentially a guide for surviving 2020. We’re almost there, folks!
Last but not least, healing made us happy — or at least happier. In so many ways, 2020 seemed to break us down. But through the trauma and the turmoil, we’ve found ways to be resilient, to lift each other and ourselves back up.
Doctors, nurses, first responders, and frontline workers. We’ll keep it simple. This is just a note to say thank you. You deserve so much more than that, but we see you and we’re grateful for all that you’re doing.
Friendship. We may have been separated from our friends while sheltering in place, but we still made them a huge priority in our lives. We checked in on each other. We threw surprise birthday parties on Zoom. And we recognized the importance of their support and love in our lives.
Notebook therapy. Nothing will make you feel better than writing or doodling it all down — except for doing it on some killer stationary. Do you BuJo? Well, there’s no time like the present to get started so you can slay your goals for the New Year. Yes, 2020 will go away. We promise.
Howling. It’s 8 o’clock. Time to step out of your home or onto your balcony or fire escape to howl at the moon. The evening howl trend has let lone wolves everywhere know they’re still part of the pack.
Street murals. After the killing of George Floyd and amid the ongoing battle for justice for Breonna Taylor, America needed to express itself in a big way — whether through protests or paintings. Many magnificent street murals that now grace walls and buildings across the country depict those who have motivated a renewed movement for social and racial justice. The artwork has served as a form of collective therapy to get us through this year and remind us of the things we need to keep fighting for.
Dramatic reduction in pollution. No one likes lockdowns, but no one can deny that they also gave the planet a bit of a reprieve from air pollution. While the climate crisis we face hasn’t been solved, Mother Nature had some weeks of fresher air, quieter communities, and at least temporary healing.
Bath therapy. Drop everything and get in the tub. Sometimes a hot bath is the answer, and we certainly took a lot of them in 2020.
The healing power of laughter. Make no mistake, 2020 has been no laughing matter. But when things get bizarre, you can’t help but chuckle at the absurdity of the situation. Like, imagine if you had to explain the pandemic to your past self. And what if you had to choose a photo of where you are mentally? Or what if you were Paul Rudd doing a PSA for millennials on mask-wearing?
Mental health goes mainstream. This traumatic year has been a challenge for our mental health, to say the least. But that got us all talking more and normalizing the conversation about stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness — and why it’s important to seek help when you need it.