Celebrate small rituals for Christmas and make it special without the big gathering

Small rituals, like lighting a pine-scented candle on Christmas morning, can make the day feel special despite pared-back celebrations in the pandemic.

(CNN)Even as we count down the final days of December, many of us are still coming to terms with the fact that holiday events and gatherings are looking very different than Christmases past.

Christmas 2020, however, isn't canceled unless you decide it is. This season, don't say "bah, humbug!" Say "why not?" and start new traditions by celebrating small rituals for your family, however you define it.
"People like to use the expression 'it's not normal,'" said Jonathan Caspi, a family therapist and professor in the department of family science and human development at Montclair State University in New Jersey. "This year is different, but different isn't always bad."
By taking some typical holiday rituals off the table, the pandemic has created space for families to experiment with new ways to honor the holiday. The current situation can also help reset priorities about what you feel is most meaningful during the holiday season. "Coming up with rituals together can be extremely bonding," Caspi said.
    So scale back this Christmas, take a deep breath and find joy in the small things.

    Light a candle and let the day begin

    On Christmas morning, get the magic started right away. Light a big pine-scented candle — just make sure not to leave it unattended — and turn on some holiday tunes to set the mood. Whether you go with vintage albums or a streaming playlist is up to you.
    Acknowledge that the day is a special one by sparkling up your regular coffee with whipped cream and sprinkles, adding chocolate syrup or going all out with a homemade caramel macchiato. All the better to go with Christmas cookies for breakfast.
    Mark Christmas day with a homemade beverage treat, like this caramel macchiato, to go with your holiday cookie breakfast.
    Once you're caffeinated and fortified, pick out something in your closet that makes you feel happy. Maybe that's your ugly Christmas sweater, maybe that's the dress or heels you've been wanting to wear all year, or maybe that's your wearable sleeping bag.

    Say hello and ho, ho, ho

    You won't have to go over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house — or suffer through interstate traffic — this year. Do a video check-in with any loved ones you want to see and open presents together, if that's a tradition that makes you feel good.
    Not into physical gifts? One of this year's silver linings is that relatives might be more amenable to putting their dollars toward a charitable donation, such as a food bank, instead of another pair of socks or a bath gift set.
    As another easy way to connect with friends and extended family, you can host a group viewing of a classic holiday movie. The Teleparty app works with multiple streaming services, like Netflix and HBO Max (which is owned by AT&T's WarnerMedia, parent company of CNN), while Amazon, Disney+ and Hulu all have their own group-watching features for subscribers.
    To accompany holiday movie watching, a bowl of hot popcorn with freshly grated Parmesan is just the ticket.
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