Stay Close to Home

The winter holidays bring to mind many things… going off to visit family and friends or prepping the guest room for visitors, tables brimming with tasty foods, presents, lively conversation, cozy cocktails and hot cocoa. This year, considering these troubled economic times, many of us are, perhaps, not traveling as far or we’re cutting back on expenses in some way.

If you aren’t able to get out of town to visit far away family or they just can’t manage to travel to you, take heart and consider your options for a merry time at home. There’s still a lot of holiday cheer to be had close to home and no need to feel like you’re skimping – nor do you need to feel lonely. You can still honor your holidays and those you care for in a special way in the following ways.

Get creative
Stuck away from your family for the holidays? Bake up a batch of your best seasonal cookie recipe, or the cranberry bread you would ordinary bring along with you, and send out a care package so there will be a little bit of you celebrating with them in spirit.

Send a card… and if boxed cards seem expensive, create an online card. There are lots of ways to send e-greetings these days whether you design them or not. Or if you want to share your family photo, take it yourself and make your own photo cards either online or by regular mail.

In the mood to decorate, but don’t want to spend too much on seasonal baubles and trims that get stored away for another year? Have a decorating party! Ask your friends over for an evening and request they each bring one decoration – and maybe a snack or something to drink as well. Get creative and produce a festive ambiance. Then plan to rendezvous and celebrate together again during the season.

Family style
Speaking of togetherness… you know the saying, “Friends are the family you choose…” If you are away from your biological family, reach out to your chosen family. Invite them over for a holiday dinner and keep it interesting by making it pot luck. That way, you don’t have to spend days preparing and it’s a team effort! Instead of buying gifts for every guest or vice versa, plan a secret Santa gift exchange – that way everyone wins! One gift and one dish and your whole crew is happy. In fact, pick up a just released DVD or buy a game that is essentially a gift for all.

Take out
If nobody’s up for cooking, find a restaurant that you will all enjoy or order in Indian or Italian food – something that can be shared family style. You don’t have to have excess cash to gather with friends at home for the holidays. Invite them for hot cocoa, with all the trimmings (marshmallows, whipped cream, some spirits) then sit around and relax in front of a movie and chat. PJ’s and smores anyone? You may be adults, but the season does bring out the kid in all of us. You might even suggest a sleep over. That way if anyone has too much “eggnog” there are no worries about driving.

Day off
It is a holiday but it’s also a day off… and couldn’t we all use some quiet time to relax? Catch up on the movies you missed or be the first to take in the new holiday releases. Indulge in some delicious take out, start a cozy fire and catch up on your reading or phone calls, and remember that the benefit of spending it alone means no family stress! Ask around and see if you can drop by a friend’s family party for a drink or dessert – with no obligation to stay till the grandparents have left! Try a local restaurant or bar and you’ll be surprised at how many of your neighbors you may see – and they may be happy to see you too.

Even though you may not be celebrating this season the way you envisioned, with a little creativity, some reaching out and a lot of holiday spirit, you can keep your spirits up as well as the spirits of those who you hold dear.

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