This winter is looking much different than winter’s past, especially for those living away from their families and friends. As we all start to rethink what our holiday traditions look like, now is the time to get creative and to foster meaningful connections with your community. Whether that’s your neighbors, your roommates, or a close circle of friends, here’s a few ideas to kick off the holidays this year in NYC.
If you’re looking to get out of the house
Head to a (free!) show in a place where they take decorating for Christmas very seriously: Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. This neighborhood goes all-out to deck their homes in an incredible display of holiday artistry every single year. This tradition started back in the ‘80s with a single house, and now the lights stretch for blocks and blocks. Some of the decor starts going up just after Thanksgiving and stays up until the new year, but December is definitely the best time to visit. Make sure you go just after dusk, and may even want to rent a car and weave your way through the illuminated streets and see some of the wildest displays in the city.
Traditional holiday activities are looking a little different this year, but there’s still plenty of safe ways to see your favorite sights. The iconic tree at Rockefeller Center made quite a debut this year (of all years), with many speculating that it’s balding branches were an allegory for the times. The bare tree went pretty viral, but since then it’s gotten quite the glow up and is living up to its glorious reputation. If you’re looking to see this icon in person, make sure you enter the virtual queue using one of the QR codes placed around the plaza. Upon arrival, you’ll enter the tree viewing area through a designated entrance and be asked to pay mind to social distance markers on the ground. Each group has 5 minutes to enjoy the view and, of course, take photos, masks are required, and the tree will only stay lit until 10:30. Say hey to this famous New York landmark before the end of the season, after which the lumber will take on a new life when it’s donated to Habitat for Humanity.
If you’re looking for a change of scenery with only a day to spare, then consider renting a car and heading to the beach for a winter picnic. Fort Tilden is a former military base turned national park. Less than an hour from Manhattan, its beaches overlook the New York harbor. With sprawling sand and lovely dunes, it’s the perfect location for a winter picnic or even just a day trip. Dress warmly, because the sea breeze will only make the lower temps feel colder, and consider packing a thermos with a warm drink to enjoy.
For those who prefer to stay indoors (or aren’t in NYC)
Tie dye had a bit of a moment this spring, with everyone and their friends dying sweats for comfy-meets-trendy looks to work from home. We think you should take this trend into the winter by adding custom details like patches, or learning to embroider simple words or cute symbols on pairs of matching sweatshirts or sweatpants. Host a DIY party with your friends or roommates, and have everyone bring supplies to share or even old clothes to upcycle. You can create a custom style by cropping the hems to your desired length, or maybe even replace the ties with ribbons or other materials to make these feel special. Once you get the hang of making your own pieces, these custom hand-made items would also make amazing gifts, too.
If crafts aren’t your thing but you still want to get creative, have you thought of holding a niche PowerPoint party? You may have already seen a viral TikTok or two, but for the uninitiated, all you need is a slideshow presentation, a screen, and very specific interests. Each person takes a turn presenting facts, hot takes, or weird observations about one of their favorite subjects. If you’re hanging out with roommates, take it to the next level by hooking a computer up to a projector in the common area and stage the space with loads of pillows and comfy seating. What’s great is that this digital hang is just made for Zoom or virtual settings, too, so it’s a perfect way to connect with friends and family who are celebrating from a distance. The weirder the topic the better, so dive deep into the most far flung conspiracy theory, get a drink, and prepare to laugh until you cry.
Next, take the festivities to the kitchen with a spiked winter drink contest. This is the perfect way to engage your roommates or neighbors, especially if you’re sharing a kitchen in a coliving space. Set a theme, circulate the invite, and let everyone come to the table (or counter) with their take on a specialty cocktail. The best way to approach this is to take a note from wine or beer tastings: make the drinks in batches and serve them in cute little glasses. This lets you flex your mixologist muscles, get a little creative, and get to know your roommates a little better.
After you’ve traded signature cocktail creations, level up by hosting a recipe exchange. This is another way to hang with your roommates, but it’s also a thoughtful way to connect with loved ones across the country. If you’re hosting this in person, think about doing it potluck style. Ask everyone to submit their recipes beforehand, then use a free site like Canva to compile them all into a little booklet. If you’re not gathering in person, this one is also so easy to execute over email. Send out a request for favorite recipes – personal creations or old family recipes are the best for this – and don’t forget to get everyone’s address, too. You can email a PDF with a cute design, or even print them all out in a small book that everyone can keep for years to come. This way, even if you’re not dining together on the holidays, you can share a treasured tradition with some of your favorite people.