As confusing Christmas messaging from the government continues, a growing number of people are choosing to take matters into their own hands and burst their Christmas bubbles – before the five-day period even begins.
If you’ve had the awkward conversation with family about cancelling Christmas, it’s time to shake off the disappointment and start looking forward to your alternative day.
Here are some tips on enjoying the day with one other person, whether that’s a partner, friend, housemate or sibling. A lot of the tips are also relevant if you’re spending Christmas alone – or you may want to read this article from our head of entertainment Matt Bagwell, on why he loves his solo Christmas routine.
We can’t have a normal Christmas this year, but it doesn’t have to be a bad one.
1. Start the day with a new tradition
Plan an activity for Christmas morning that’ll enable you to focus on the perks of a low-key Christmas, rather than focus on the usual traditions you can’t recreate.
Francesca Specter, founder of Alonement, advises kicking the day off with a festive bath (cinnamon bath bomb and all), to set-up a day of relaxation. Alternatively, start off the day on a runner’s hig, by going for a festive jog.
“That feeling of anticipation is important,” says Specter, adding that it can turn apprehension into excitement. “Being able to rewrite the rule book and break away from tradition for one year is no bad thing, because there is opportunity.”
2. Agree on a dress code
If you’re staying at home, avoid slipping into the same jeans you’ve been wearing all year. For a lot of people, getting dressed up on Christmas day is part of the fun.
Whack the heating on and get out your glad rags, even if there’s not a big crowd to appreciate them. Or if you’re going for a super cosy day, have a pact to both put on fresh, festive PJs.
3. Plan an alternative menu
For once, you’re completely in charge of the menu and don’t have to cater to different tastes – so eat exactly what you want on Christmas day.
Cook a turkey if you’re a lover of tradition, but consider opting for a small crown rather than a whole bird, to minimise waste. Alternatively, take the opportunity to make something different – mouthwatering meaty options include pork belly, beef wellington or goose.
Rebecca Hastings, who’s spending Christmas with her boyfriend in their London flat, is looking forward to creating a veggie feast. “We’re both vegetarian, and so for the first time we can cook a big plant-based Christmas dinner, rather than picking at a stuffed mushroom from Tesco while everyone else tears into the turkey,” she says.
Enjoy the cooking process with no pressure on time by putting on these brilliant Christmas tunes in the background.
4. Take a festive walk
If you’re lucky enough to live close to other friends and family, you could still head out for a festive walk and wave at them from the end of the driveway (just don’t be tempted to pop in or hug – you’ll undo all of your good work).
If there’s nobody close though, a stroll around the block is a great way to walk off a big lunch before you bed down for the afternoon. Take a moment to appreciate the Christmas lights and say a heartfelt “merry Christmas” to any neighbours you see at a distance. If there’s one thing to celebrate this year, it’s our renewed sense of local community.
5. Make family Zoom calls fun
If 2020 has given you serious Zoom fatigue, you might be dreading the inevitable video calls with friends and family.
One way to make screens less invasive is to simply set up a call in the background. This could be while you’re cooking, for example, if you think the family’s usual head chef would enjoy giving you tips along the way. Or you could co-ordinate your lunch, and set up a tablet to chat more naturally over dinner.
If you’re saving calls for the afternoon, introduce a game or Zoom quiz. Yes, we’re bored of those too, but check out our guide on some super silly quiz rounds that are guaranteed to get everyone laughing.
6. Have some tech-free time
The temptation (or pressure from loved ones afar) may be to stay glued to your phone or laptop all day. Be sure to schedule some tech-free time too, to actually enjoy the company of the person you’re with.
6. Invest in a two-person game
Charades doesn’t really work with two people, so it may be time to invest in some more suitable afternoon entertainment.
If you usually dig out the Monopoly board at Christmas, the Monopoly Deal card game might appeal. It’s faster, works with two players and takes around 15 minutes to play. Traditional card games like Gin rummy also work well with pairs, so have a refresher on the rules.
7. Mix some Christmas cocktails
Making cocktails during a big family get together is a nightmare and can take hours to co-ordinate. But with just two people, it’s a delight.
From the Midnight Rambler to a traditional Irish coffee, our guide on festive cocktails is all you need (remember to order the ingredients in advance!).
8. Kick back with Christmas telly
Hurrah! You no longer have to watch Great Auntie Susan’s favourite snooze fest. Instead, end the day by watching a show entirely of your choice. Our bumper guide to 50 of the best programmes this Christmas should help.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.