Making the holidays merry

Almost everything about 2020 has been different due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Many celebrations and gatherings have been cancelled, scaled down or otherwise changed to keep people safe. Though the sacrifices are worth making, there’s no denying it can be hard. Internationals might have a particularly challenging time during the holidays, as your loved ones could be far away.

The festive season can still be bright and merry, though! Fill your calendar with socially-distanced events, read some tips on avoiding the blues and find ways to be happy and active and you’re sure to have a nice time.

Celebrate from the comfort of home

Get a bottle of champagne, slip into something comfy and enjoy a relaxed New Year’s Eve at home. Though personal fireworks are not allowed this year, you can see them at the National Countdown to 2021. Taking place on Museumplein in Amsterdam, this event will air on television and stream online.

Feel like dancing? Create a party in your living room by watching a compilation of performances by some of the top DJs in the Netherlands – it’s the next best thing to being in a club. Exploring the city’s cultural institutions is still possible as well. Take a virtual tour of the Rijksmuseum, browse the Van Gogh Museum from afar or schedule a VR experience at the Anne Frank House.

The spiritual side of the holidays is important to many people. Whether you want to celebrate Christmas, Hanukah or another special day, there is probably a place to do it here. And many groups are worshipping from home using apps like Zoom, letting you come together with others while staying safe.

Oliebollenkraam Amsterdam CC BY-SA 2.0 Franklin Heijnen via Flickr

Indulge in an amazing feast

Delicious food is one of the best parts of the holidays and fortunately, nothing has to come between you and an unforgettable meal. Some of Amsterdam’s finest restaurants are offering takeaway and delivery options, so all you need to do is set the table and light some candles.

If you have a sweet tooth, stands selling oliebollen (a sort of donut that often comes with a tasty filling) are located throughout the city. There’s nothing more Amsterdam than bundling up and tucking into one dusted in powdered sugar, so don’t miss out.

Craving comfort food from home? Whether that means a roast turkey, potato latkes or a spicy curry, there are shops in Amsterdam where you can find the ingredients needed to whip up a feast that fills the belly and warms the heart.

Be good to yourself

And now for the hard part: Christmas might make you feel sad this year. Perhaps you’ve had to cancel plans to see friends and family back home, or they’ve had to delay a trip to visit you. The virus makes life stressful in many ways, and it’s important to honour your feelings and not pressure yourself to be happy every single moment.

To help you make it through and have some fun along the way, Ligia Koijen Ramos of in2motivation – one of IN Amsterdam’s partners – has some advice. "It’s Christmas and New Year’s time, and for many of us away from our families, loneliness is around the corner, if not already taking over our thoughts. How [can we] make this season even more special?”

She suggests embracing the cherished traditions that make this time of year wonderful. “Make your house or room feel the way you imagine a perfect Christmas and New Year's,” she says. “Cook the special dish, the amazing dessert and make yourself feel at home.”

Getting in touch with your nearest and dearest can put a smile on your face, too. And don’t forget snail mail. “Go back in time and send postcards. Make your own – paint, choose your best pictures, write a poem and words of love to those who matter,” Ligia adds. Calling people can bring a smile to your face as well, and don’t be afraid to tell others how much you care.