How to Make Yet Another At-Home Holiday Not Suck
Here it is, the holiday season of 2021. We all thought we’d be having fun, festive celebrations with our friends this year, were excited that we could finally hug each other and be in the same closed spaces again. You’d dust off that ugly Christmas sweater or Santa Claus tie and someone would spike the nog.
Then our not-friend Omicron showed up and ruined everything.
And maybe you are a person who is still celebrating, still drunkenly belting Mariah Carey Christmas songs while your friend who took lessons 20 years ago sloppily plonks out notes on a piano. Just kidding. People in 2021 don’t own pianos or homes to put pianos in. You’re probably just crowded around someone’s laptop while a Youtube video plays the karaoke track.
In any case, some of you are undoubtedly still planning on attending holiday gatherings. And I get it. It’s been two hard years and a lot of people are barely holding on–I can’t fault you for weighing the risks against the impact that another lost holiday will have on your mental health and deciding that you can’t skip this one. You have to make that decision for yourself.
I do hope you’re vaccinated though. That’s a decision that’s bigger than you, especially if you’re going to be in contact with literally a single other human.
I’m on the abundance-of-caution side of history, though, so an at-home holiday seems to be on the horizon. A week ago my friends and I had a late Friendsgiving weekend, and we talked about making a plan for a Dipsmas feast together. That’s right, Dipsmas: a holiday meal consisting only of dips and dippable foods. A classic buffalo chicken dip? Yep. A fondue? Certainly. It was going to be epic.
But no number of delicious hot cream-cheese-based dishes is tempting enough to brave Omicron. Not for me. I love my friends and I want us all to be alive when we finally (FINALLY) get to the other side of this, and I really actually enjoy breathing. So Dipsmas is cancelled.
Digression: there should really be a Hallmark 12 Days of Christmas movie based very loosely on this tragedy. She was a small town veterinarian who got roped into attending a themed singles potluck with her quirky best friend. Other she (yes, this is a gay Christmas movie) is a hobbyist journalist only supposed to be there to document the event for the local newspaper. But then? A power outage. Chaos ensues. Somehow they end up at an ice skating rink. Then, of course, they fall in love. Dipsmas Is Cancelled: coming soon to a feel-good holiday lineup near you.
Glad I got that out of my system.
Okay, so what is a sad, dipless person to do?
Probably cry. Then eat Totino’s Party Pizzas on your couch.
You could rally your lonely friends together and decide to make the best of things.
I know, I know. We’re all tired of Zoom. But there are some enjoyable Zoom activities that you maybe haven’t tried yet, and the beauty of the virtual party is that the only rules are the ones you make with your friends. Maybe everyone wants to put on their fanciest holiday outfit and put on one of those crackling fire videos and just chat about how much you love each other! Or maybe you’ll all be in your stained PJs shouting over who’s cheating at the virtual game you’re all playing. The point is that togetherness can be achieved even across distances, and there’s still fun to be had over Zoom!
Maybe try a virtual White Elephant type gift exchange. The white elephant exchange has been a tradition in nearly all American families that I’ve encountered, even though every one of them calls it something different. At my extended family’s annual Christmas Eve party we called it Dirty Santa and the gifts were gags. In Massachusetts my friends called it Yankee Swap and gave things you might actually want to receive. It’s a holiday classic. And now you can do it virtually! And you’re reading this maybe mere days before Christmas and probably thinking “Wow, Ash, I wish you would have told me this weeks ago so we could have planned” BUT it just so happens that there’s a service called White Elephant Online (https://www.whiteelephantonline.com/) that allows you to do the classic swap before you even purchase the gifts! You can choose any gift from an online retailer or make it extra fun and only gift items from your respective homes! Swap and steal and reveal away and then you and your friends can send the prizes when the game is over.
Another Zoom group activity that I can definitely recommend is a virtual Murder Mystery party! I have hosted two of these during this neverending pandemé, and it’s such a good time. There are literally hundreds of stories and formats to choose from. I’ve hosted parties from https://www.shotinthedarkmysteries.com/ and from https://nightofmystery.com/ and they were both a blast. There is definitely a party out there that will fit whatever group size you have. Encourage your guests to dress up with whatever they can find around the house–a Kentucky Derby hat made out of pizza boxes would be truly thrilling! I drew on facial hair for both of my roles and it was a great time!
What about virtual Karaoke?! I’m definitely not a karaoke person, but many of my friends are and I could probably be convinced to humor them. You don’t even need an outside service! Just get a bunch of your favorites on Zoom and take turns choosing backing tracks from YouTube and singing into wine bottles from the comfort of your individual couches. Bonuses: you don’t have to share the wine and you can do as many Huey Lewis and the News numbers as you want without getting yelled at by the guy with the big books of songs.
Something I’m really dying to try with my friends over this holiday break is an online game of Resistance: Avalon. For a few summers in the beforetimes we rented a house with a pool with our closest friends and spent a week just hanging out, eating delicious foods, and playing games. Avalon is a secret identity game that is so simple but truly devious and fun, and I fell in love with it at those summer houses. Trying to suss out which of your dear friends whom you deeply love is lying right to your face? Chilling. But amazing! And I had no idea that there was an online version! But now that I know you can bet your sweet peppermint ass I’m going to talk my friends into a few rounds. There are several online versions, but I’ve heard this one works well: https://avalon.fun/
No matter what you decide to do or not do this holiday, the key is to make it as fun and relaxed as possible. Don’t stress over what fancy meal to make and definitely do not invite anyone who is going to ruin your good time by commenting on how bad Totino’s Party Pizzas are for you. Or if you have to invite them, do not hesitate to shout “STOP BEING SUCH A DRAG, CAROL” and queue another TPP up in the toaster oven right in front of them. We do not disrespect delicious convenience foods in this house.
And if you just want to be alone and reflective on your at-home holiday? That’s fine too. Maybe if you feel like it you could even submit a little something for inclusion in Vast’s next issue? Just a suggestion!
Photography: Costume and modeling by Kelly S Lenza (@_photopotamus_ IG/Twitter). Photography found at www.KellyLenzaPhotography.com). Photo taken by @Sinistra.Marissa (IG) for Kelly Lenza Photography. Kelly S Lenza (@_Photopotamus_ on IG) is a Chicago area photographer and artist. They create portraits for local clients as well as personal projects in illustrations, costumes, and writings.