The Atlantic Daily: 8 Ideas for a Socially Distant Holiday

Many Americans are spending the final days of 2020 without the comfort of loved ones.

Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection /Getty

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This holiday season, there is reason for hope: The development of vaccines means the end of this pandemic is in sight. But in the meantime, travel and social gatherings remain ill-advised, and many Americans are spending the final days of 2020 without the comfort of loved ones. Below are some ideas for helping navigate this lonely period.

1. Stay in touch with loved ones.

“Even if you are not religious, the research shows that holiday happiness comes from being with people,” Arthur C. Brooks, our happiness columnist, writes in his latest. Because in-person gatherings aren’t safe right now, find creative ways to use technology to stay in touch.

2. Make old-fashioned telephone calls.

Reach out to friends and family to catch up. Long before the pandemic hit, our staff writer Amanda Mull argued in favor of phone calls, even in a digital age.

3. Play a game.

Ellen Cushing, our special-projects editor, shares her recommendation:

The universe tends toward disorder, and recreational Zooms tend toward everyone talking over one another at once and somehow not communicating a single thing. Or, worse, sitting in stony silence, worried about talking over one another. Having suffered through both experiences, I’ve come to believe that the only solution to the large Zoom gathering is structured fun in the form of an easy-to-learn, easy-to-play game. I recommend Scattergories: It works for all ages, requires only a pencil and paper, and—this is important—produces the kinds of very heated low-stakes arguments family lore is built on (Alex, if you’re reading this, receipts absolutely do not count as “things you find on the beach”). Here’s a handy list generator; just appoint someone to share their screen and you’re ready to go.

4.  Enjoy some of the year’s best culture.

It was the year of ambitious TV watching. The year of the quarantine reading project. And the year of the comfort show.

Our Culture team is rounding up the highlights of 2020: Review their picks for the best TV shows, the best movies, and the best albums.

Our film critic David Sims also put together a list of family movies for every mood.

5. Read something great.

Writers and editors from around our newsroom selected nine poems worth reading during this tough winter.

6. Turn to art for stress relief.

Try to write a novel in three sentences. Or start a craft project using whatever’s lying around. Our staff put together this list of ways to stay creative in quarantine.

7. Journal about your experience.

Do it for yourself, or for future generations. “Diaries from the coronavirus era will help preserve details that may fade from public memory over time,” Morgan Ome reported this summer.

8. Make space for grief.

The world is mourning the loss of so many people this year. “After the death of a loved one, a season of indulgent celebration can feel perverse to the bereaved,” Mikala Jamison wrote in 2018. She shared some expert advice for spending a first holiday without a loved one.


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