Food + Culture

4 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays from a Distance

For a lot of us, the end of the year is something fun to look forward to, with social events, piles of baking, gift swaps, vacation time, religious reflection and celebration, and family gatherings. While there are obvious things that can’t happen safely in December 2020, it doesn’t mean the whole festive season is canceled.

In fact, thanks to live streaming and pre-recorded broadcasts, some events are accessible to more people than ever. We’ve rounded up a few examples, all of which you can tune into from around the world. Or, use these as inspiration and support a similar local event near you.

1. Hanukkah—December 10–18

Lighting the Hanukkah manorah on the first night of the eight-day festival of light.
The First Night of Hanukkah | Courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

NuRoots, a youth-focused arm of L.A.’s Jewish Federation, puts a modern spin on Jewish holidays year-round. The citywide Infinite Light festival for Jewish Angelenos in their 20s and 30s has shifted to a fully digital Hanukkah experience this year with participation open beyond L.A.

“One of the underlying themes of Hanukkah, you might know, is all around what light means,” says Jason Leivenberg, senior vice president at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. “This year I think it’s a different kind of hope. It’s a miraculousness of appreciating what you have and also hoping that we emerge out of this stronger, even though it’s been a really challenging year for everybody, not just us here in L.A.”

Infinite Light kicks off Hanukkah with a star-studded First Night, and continues with diverse nightly virtual events, including improv comedy, small group discussions, yoga and meditation, a Shabbat dinner, and a vegan latke cooking lesson. Most importantly, says Leivenberg, each night begins with candle lighting, so nobody needs to light a candle alone.

NuRoots also offers a range of ideas for celebrating Hanukkah with your household, including recipes like latke-stuffed challah, playlists, and guided meditations.

2. Christmas Theater Productions—Throughout December

Christmas tree with hanging ornaments.
Photographer: Rodion Kutsaev | Source: Unsplash

The Old Vic Theatre in London will stream live performances of A Christmas Carol from December 12–24. The theater’s artistic director told The Guardian the ambitious, socially distanced 80-person production has “a level of technical and creative complication which is mind-blowing, really.” Tickets are available online.

In a year with plenty of twists on traditions, why not tune in for Christmas Carol: A Drag Story? The adaptation of Dickens’ classic offers a new take on Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation. It streams December 16–23 with tickets (including pay-what-you-want options) available online.

3. Kwanzaa—December 26–January 1

A Flier for the Kwanzaa 2020: Global Edition online celebration.
Kwanzaa 2020: Global Edition flyer | Courtesy of Kevin McEwen

Kwanzaa was developed by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 to bring together African Americans and celebrate community. Throughout the seven days of Kwanzaa, families light a candle on a Kinara and spend some time discussing one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa, which include unity, purpose, and cooperative economics.

The principles of Kwanzaa were the inspiration behind an annual dance exhibition that will go virtual for the first time this year. Kevin McEwen is a dance educator and the producer behind Kwanzaa 2020: Global Edition, a collaborative dance project that will air December 20 on YouTube in the ramp-up to Kwanzaa. McEwen says the arts and education communities have been hit especially hard during the pandemic, particularly in New York where he’s based.

“We wanted this to be our offering to the community because dance is healing,” he says. “We fully recognize that … there is a healing aspect to the work that we do.” 

The pre-recorded event features performing arts groups from Uganda, Haiti, Los Angeles, and New York City. It’s free to watch, but donations are encouraged, and you must register online to receive the video link.

4. New Year’s Eve—December 31

Fireworks show on New Year's Eve.
Photographer: Mio Ito | Source: Unsplash

Every December 31 for the past 114 years, Times Square has been packed with revelers eager for a clean slate brought on by the new year. This year, Times Square will be cordoned off and the celebrations will move online.  

The free stream starts at 6 p.m. EST and will include yet-to-be revealed special guests, performers, and behind-the-scenes stories. Watch online at TimesSquareNYC.org.

Blueprint contributor Zoey Duncan

Zoey Duncan is a writer and book editor based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Find her at zoeywrites.com.

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