Family traditions, comforting meals, and virtual ideas all help to make it memorable.

By Emily Popp
January 07, 2021
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family celebrating together at home
Credit: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

To say that celebrations look different this year is an understatement. And while we're still practicing social distancing, that doesn't mean we can't make home gatherings feel special. It sometimes may feel like the world is on pause, but we can still make memories. 

So, we reached out to four women about how they spent their holidays and how they plan to celebrate special occasions during quarantine. Realistically, we will have to socially distance ourselves for some time longer, but that doesn't mean we have to scrap all celebrations. Each of these women has her own advice for celebrating during COVID-19 (whether it's a holiday, a birthday, or "just because"). As we enter a new year during a pandemic, take a cue from these women on how they made their quarantine celebrations feel special. 

Familial Comforts

Angela Richardson, CEO of PUR Home, couldn't be with extended family during the holidays, so she and her partner played virtual hosts over FaceTime. "We had a small celebration with a few household members, and then we FaceTimed our relatives," says Richardson. When it comes to food, she suggests having a more pared down meal. During times of stress, cutting some corners can make celebrations feel less overwhelming. "Instead of our large, buffet-style affair, we had a more streamlined meal," says Richardson. "But we still had our favorite dessert, a homemade pound cake that always brings us joy." And instead of feeling like you need to get dressed to the nines, take the opportunity to feel comfy. "Pajamas and socks were our holiday solace during quarantine. Dressing up real cozy brings us comfort and makes celebrations feel more intimate." 

Traditional Meals

Like Richardson, Johanna Howard, owner and creative director of her own home design business, also cut her holiday menu down to the essentials to make things more manageable. "My husband is an excellent cook, so he took care of the turkey. And I made shaved Brussels sprouts and a pomegranate celery relish," explains Howard. When meal planning for a home gathering, think about the foods that bring you the most comfort and choose those. But also take the opportunity to try out a new recipe. "I tried a new recipe and made mint chocolate chip cookies instead of typical chocolate chip," said Howard. She also makes her home celebrations feel special by leaning into family traditions. "Our family is quite diverse, so we like to have a traditional Swedish smörgåsbord feast that includes pickled herring, salmon gravlax, and my absolute favorite: Jansson's Temptation, which is a potato and anchovy casserole."

Deep Discussions

Filmmaker and assistant professor Dehanza Rogers, like so many of us, celebrated her birthday this year in quarantine. "For my birthday my close friends in California ordered me dinner here in Atlanta, and we ate over Zoom while talking about teaching, politics, family, racial injustices, the pandemic, you name it." For Rogers, doing the same activity over Zoom with friends, like ordering in the same takeout or cooking the same meal can make a celebration feel more connected. "Finding ways to stay connected during holiday celebrations has meant being creative," said Rogers. "I bought identical puzzles for some friends and myself and we're virtual puzzling."

Holiday Rituals

"We celebrate Hanukkah and, this year, we did a first-night lighting and latke dinner with five different kinds of latkes," says Nicole Adlman, cities manager at Eater. Make home celebrations feel extra special by bringing back a tradition that maybe fell to the wayside over the years. Adlman explains that certain celebratory rituals have a calming effect on her. "Lighting the menorah is actually a really comforting ritual for me. I was raised in a mixed-race and mixed-faith family, and I didn't grow up saying Hebrew prayers when we lit the menorahs. So now it's nice to light candles with my boyfriend, say the prayers, and sing the songs. For me it's less about the religious aspects, though, and more about connecting with traditions my boyfriend grew up with." 

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