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  • Nancy Samardzic

Coping With the Holidays: Home Alone Edition

Updated: 5 days ago

2020 has been an interesting year, to say the least. I have, and I am guessing you have, dealt with changes to your work, school, and social routines. Practicing social distance has not been easy. I miss my friends and our weekly dinner and movie nights. I could not believe when I looked at my calendar and saw that the holidays are basically upon us. So with the knowledge that the Holidays are fast approaching, it immediately came to me... they will probably look different this year.

wood table with holiday meal of pumpkin pie, coffee and a candle

Thinking about how some people might not be able to travel home for the holidays or have their families over to visit, had me contemplating how I handled my first holidays away from my family and on my own.

When I was planning my move to Savannah from Chicago over 3 years ago, the holidays honestly did not even cross my mind. I moved from a city where my family and friends lived to a city where I only knew my 2 good friends. The months before the holidays were filled with job and apartment hunting. Once things finally began to settle down, and I had more time on my hands, I realized the holidays were approaching. Are you noticing a theme? The holidays seem to sneak up on me.

trees over the street in savannah georgia

I began to feel sad and lonely as Thanksgiving approached. I was not able to travel home to be with my family. Growing up, Thanksgiving was a day filled with family and food. I have a lot of fond memories of Thanksgiving. My Dad’s stuffing is something that I dream (and drool) about as the day approaches. He only makes his special stuffing on Thanksgiving. I didn't realize how much I was going to miss this when I moved almost a thousand miles away.

I began to feel sad and lonely as Thanksgiving approached. I was not able to travel home to be with my family

As I started to come out of my sadness, I sat down and thought to myself...what could I do to make myself enjoy the holidays, even if I was by myself. Then an a-ha! moment happened. I realized that although my family was in Chicago, I did not have to abandon all my family traditions

(Cue Kevin McAllister’s dance party - minus the burglars!). So I made a list of things to do, watch, or cook for Thanksgiving and Christmas that reminded me of my family. I decided to make some of my family’s favorite recipes, but pared down in scale - because while I love my Dad’s stuffing, I do not need a 9 x 13 pan of it all to myself! As a family, we always watched certain movies every year, so I made sure to have Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Scrooged in my collection. I also created a playlist of happy and upbeat songs for me to listen to when I was especially feeling down and missing my family.

fall casserole with leaves an apples next to the dish

But, the thing that helped me the most during that first holiday season was maintaining the connection between myself and my family. What do I mean by connection? We made time to video chat and talk on the phone. I got to see my sisters, my Dad, my niece, and nephews! Even my shy great nephew made an appearance. While I was not able to be there in person, video was the next best thing. I loved seeing everybody, and the homes I spent my holidays in. I could almost smell my Dad’s stuffing and sense my sister’s frantic dinner preparations.

I could almost smell my Dad’s stuffing and sense my sister’s frantic dinner preparations.

My two good friends also made time to include me in their holidays, which definitely helped me feel welcome in my new home.

We don’t know what the holiday season will look like this year, but I believe that we need to be prepared for it to look differently. You might be by yourself for the first time or your family might celebrate on its own without the extended family gatherings.

However you celebrate the holidays this year, here are tips that helped me:

  • carry on your family traditions, make new traditions

  • enjoy family favorite foods and treats

  • stay connected to each other by using video chats and phone calls.

Even if we have to stay physically apart from each other that does not mean there are not other ways to stay in touch. (and I know, I know, we are all “zoom fatigued”, but I hope that you can get creative and find ways to connect with the people that you love in a safe and celebratory way).

Nancy in a blue shirt by the lighthouse



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