Here Is Exactly How I Plan on Cultivating Joy This Holiday Season

Leading up to the holidays, my apartment is usually full of friends who travel across the country to see New York City in all of its holiday glory. We spend the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas marveling at elaborately decorated department-store windows, drinking hot chocolate in a (sometimes) snow-covered Central Park, and if we're lucky enough, we even have time to catch a show on Broadway. During the actual holidays, my family members from out of state all reconvene back in New York and stay with me. These days are generally jam-packed with us running around town taking care of any last-minute Christmas shopping before we all hit my grandmother's kitchen to prepare our holiday meal together.

This upcoming holiday season, of course, feels a little different. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, travel plans have been put on hold, trips keep getting postponed, and the holidays, in general, are looking like they'll be a little quieter this year. My younger sister, who usually drives back to New York City every year to spend the holidays with the rest of our family, is a hospital nurse who will be spending the holidays at home out of an abundance of caution. Friends from out of the country who would usually plan a winter flight to visit have decided to forego their trips this year, instead planning their annual NYC vacation for the warmer months when things hopefully calm down.

However, even though this festive season can't be experienced as it has been in the past, that doesn't mean that joy cannot be had and new memories cannot be made. This year I'm making sure to not dwell on the feeling of missing out or wishing things were different, but am instead focused on creating new traditions.

This holiday season will be a celebration of doing things that make me happy.

Not being able to have friends and family come to me just gives me all the more reason to make an effort to connect with them. I still plan on mailing out colorful holiday cards, a tradition I started a few years ago that was inspired by my grandmother and her sister's decades-long practice of mailing glittery cards to everyone in the family during the Christmas season. They are always a happy surprise to receive, especially in the middle of a gray winter. I also plan on sending holiday flower deliveries to the older members in my family who may have not been able to get out as much these past few months. My siblings and I started a monthly flower delivery to my grandmother earlier this year, and it has been both amazing and touching to see how happy it makes her. By creating joy for other people, I'm creating joy for myself.

This year, I'm also going to explore the holiday offerings that are right here in my neighborhood and nearby towns, something I always wanted to do during my otherwise busy holiday seasons. When friends have come from out of town in the past, my boyfriend and I tried to create the most glitzy itinerary since their time in the city was so limited. Now, I anticipate putting together a schedule that will have me spending time close to home; I may finally take that trip out to that apple orchard, pumpkin patch, or corn maze that I've been talking about forever. I'm making it a priority to experience all of the holiday programming my city has to offer, which will now be reimagined to fit our current environment. I may even spend a Saturday in one of the quaint upstate towns nearby that are decked out in beautiful holidays decorations. This holiday season will be a celebration of doing things that make me happy.

Even though this season won't be the same as those in the past, what I have learned — especially after losing my father a week before Christmas last year — is that it really is what you make of it, so let's make this a great one.