Traditionally during the year, many people visit family and friends for the holidays. Due to the unfortunate circumstances that have befallen us in 2020 regarding COVID-19 and the regulations that have been put in place to mitigate its spread, large gatherings have become something to frown upon by many people trying to do their part to keep America healthy. Coming from personal experience, my annual Christmas gathering at my grandma’s has been canceled, along with many other people’s, to no surprise, and New Years won’t be the same without a massive crowd watching a giant disco ball drop in New York. While everything might seem bleak going forward with the rest of the year and the months that follow, I have some tips that can help make a lonely holiday fun again (until we can go back to enjoying life as it was).

Secret Santa

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, gift giving (and receiving) is always an exciting experience. Since most people will be spending the winter holiday away from those they love, what better to do than set up a gift exchange via mail? My friends had the brilliant idea of doing so, and we organized a Secret Santa all online with wish lists and anonymity just like we were in person. Of course if you mail a gift to someone, the jig is up and it’s no longer a “secret” Santa, but the anticipation and gifts make it all worthwhile! Once everyone receives a gift in the mail (and knows it’s part of the gift exchange), set up a video chat with everyone, play some holiday jingles, dress for the occasion, and open the gifts altogether. The get-together won’t feel complete without hugs and some board games, but just make sure to save those for the next time it’s safe to gather! Plus, the added novelty of receiving a gift from someone far away makes this holiday tip all the more fun.

Online Fun

Since the beginning of quarantine, people have been coming up with ways to connect with others from afar. One of my favorite things to do to have fun with my friends while we’re apart is to play some online games together. One of the great things about video calls is screen sharing, since it’s perfect for having everyone look at the same screen at once when playing together. Depending on your friend group’s interests and their budget for these games, there are lots of options across the board. For your friends just looking for any sort of fun for free, play some Roblox and have an audio chat going on. If someone likes to host a lot, they can get Jackbox, something everyone can play on their phones together for a great time full of laughter. If everyone likes to game and owns a console, set up an online room for an Xbox, Nintendo Switch, or Playstation game. Personally, I’m a Nintendo fan, and Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart are definitely some of the best options for online fun with friends. This plan works even better if everyone can manage to designate a night for a meeting every week, two weeks, or month.

Not into gaming? Have a watch party for a movie or binge a series! Someone’s bound to have something everyone wants to watch, so get cozy, pop some popcorn, turn out the lights, hit play, and laugh or cry together with friends over the computer.

If TV’s not your thing either, a long conversation with a group of friends is always fun. There’s always something to talk about and you might be able to figure out some new ideas to have fun together remotely!

Unconventional But Safe!

This is for people who are really stir-crazy, need some company ASAP, have time on their hands, and have a friend or two who want to pitch in. Quarantine with friends for two weeks! Unless someone is okay with hosting without risking a possible spread of the virus amongst other people who live with them, Airbnb typically has deals for long stays at places, so a two week stay would be relatively affordable, depending on where you go, of course. This type of thing needs some decent planning beforehand, and getting a quick COVID test and its results before leaving home would probably be best. Not saying this is the most practical way to pass the time in quarantine, but it’s definitely plausible and it sounds like a lot of fun!