The holiday season is here, but there’s no sugarcoating it: This year’s different.

While past Decembers involved cocktail party-hopping and prepping for visits with extended relatives, many season’s greetings this year will be shared from a distance, voiced on screens or muffled under masks.

If the upheaval of 2020 left you feeling lonely, anxious or maybe just extra appreciative for the warmth and support of others, you’re in good company. All the more reason to find creative ways to gather and express gratitude for the relationships that have sustained us through trying times. In fact, a recent report from UC Berkeley explains how gestures of gratitude can make us all feel a bit better.

A simple way to express thanks this year? Give a bottle of handcrafted liquor that fits the season and your giftee. Below, explore pandemic-safe ideas for connecting, gifting spirits and toasting to a brighter year. 

Given the recent rise in Covid-19 cases around the world, public health experts repeatedly stress that the lowest-risk way to celebrate the holidays is to do so at home with the members of your household. If you do choose to meet up in-person with a best friend, sibling or anyone from a different household, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises staying at least six feet apart, wearing face masks and washing hands—while also adhering to any other state and local guidelines.

Ideas to satiate the in-person itch with your closest-knit crew in a festive, yet responsible way? Get together outside. Host an intimate, socially-distanced meetup at a park, in a backyard or around a bonfire. Bundle up and explore your neighborhood or chat on your apartment stoop. For more structure, explore a local hiking trail or play contact-free games like charades or Pictionary. Add extra cheer to the occasion by gifting a little dose of indulgence.

Depending on your family’s size, dynamics and volume level, shifting from a traditional extended family function to a virtual one might be a big relief. Others may feel gloomy about spending the season solo.

For an easy solution, brainstorm ways to move your family’s chaos from the dining room to the screen. Are there treasured traditions you can recreate via video? Task a scrappy relative with designing a family trivia game, share stories and cross-generational wisdom or ask attendees to prepare virtual backgrounds featuring tender (or amusing) photos from family functions past. Ahead of time, send a favorite family member a sippable treat to enjoy on the spot.

Despite foregoing the in-person soirees that typically monopolize the holiday calendar, there are plenty of opportunities to acknowledge those in this catchall category of people you’re fond of.

Do a quick drive-by or stroll to drop off an uplifting note for a neighbor. For closer friends, share some screen time: Stream a live performance or sign up for a virtual cooking class together. If convening a larger group online, collaborate on a shared playlist to get you through the winter doldrums, make a group donation to a community cause or have attendees dress up for the first time this year. Hold an anonymous gift exchange with a group of any size, draw names (a free generator can do it for you) and send something bright and drinkable. To up the ante, mix up a seasonal cocktail together and toast like there’s no screen in the way.

Just as many companies had to quickly reimagine work in response to the pandemic, our plans for bonding with and recognizing colleagues deserve a rethink, too.

With the assortment of tools designed to bring remote teams together anytime of year, your online options for connecting with coworkers are plentiful. But let’s face it: It’s been a long year and video fatigue is real. In fact, many companies avoiding virtual office parties and getting inventive about their 2020 celebrations. Alternatives that won’t feel like just another meeting? Team up to send provisions or presents to a family in need. Organize a recipe exchange. Check out a cocktail service with corporate offerings, arrange group or solo mixology workshops or surprise your coworker with a customized DIY cocktail-making kit featuring her spirit-of-choice.

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