I am spending this festive season in Amsterdam, away from most people that I love and with a strict lockdown that was imposed in the Netherlands in mid December.
Are you interested to know why Amsterdam? Click here to read about how and why we decided to move abroad for a year.
There are nevertheless little things that make this time festive and special regardless of everything else. Christmas can be memorable wherever you are and regardless of current COVID measures.Here is a list of 10 things to do in no particular order to have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
1. Bake Christmas cookies
One of my favorite things and a must-do every season is to bake Christmas cookies. Almost every year, I make cookies from a (now traditional) recipe that we have used since I was a little kid.
If you have enough time, decide to bake cookies with decoration as this will give you a chance to express your inner artist as well. Besides being creative, baking has other benefits such as giving you time to meditate or a reason to be altruistic in case we bake for others. Christmas cookies can be a great homemade Christmas present that saves money but brings cheer to the one receiving it. It shows people we care, regardless of that Friends episode when nobody likes Monica and Rachel's cookies (for all of you who are not Friends fans, go watch them asap!).
I tried a new recipe this year as well but with a limited supply of kitchen utensils I had to make use of what I have. Nevertheless, I think the cookies turned out to be nice and they taste delicious (lekker in Dutch).
2. Go for a walk through the town
Although Christmas markets might be cancelled and shops might be closed, it is nice and peaceful to walk through an empty street that is lighted by Christmas lights. At least in Amsterdam, the government decided to keep the lights on for people and for me, the lights embed the Christmas spirit perfectly. I like to walk a different route through the city each time I go.
In Amsterdam, and maybe in your city as well, there is a Light Festival that is taking place during the festive season. While boat and other group tours are cancelled here due to lockdown, we can still purchase Light Festival Map and go on a walk by ourselves.
3. Make gifts (and wrap them up)
With the shops being closed, how about you think about the gifts you can make at home and by yourself instead of ordering it online? If that doesn't sound like much fun to you, think about supporting local vendors and artists and purchase local products to gift this Christmas.
4. Write Christmas cards
Somehow, I usually end up writing Christmas cards a few days too late for them to arrive in time for Christmas. Anyway, better late than never. It is not too late to send over your new year wishes to the people you love. If you are super late to the party, an e-card will work as well. Get creative with graphic designs and design a nice Christmas card online!
This is the Christmas card that we decided to send out this year to our family back home.
It doesn't matter if you are a good cook or not, try to cook something for yourself this holiday season. Try a different recipe or prepare a new dish and let yourself be immersed in new tastes.
This year, Luka and me made a whole menu for the Christmas weekend and planned our meals ahead. Downside of this plan is that we could barely fit our groceries in the small fridge that we have here in the flat. But it was fun preparing the food and sharing it with the person I love.
6. Pop some champagne
Champagne or a non-alcoholic bubbly makes the season bright. There are so many different ways to enjoy champagne, from simply enjoying it from a glass to pairing it with fruits or mixing it with orange juice, making mimosas for a Christmas brunch.
7. Play card or board games
Spend some quality time with family and friends and put away the smartphones. Pick a card game or a board game that you all like and the night will pass by before you know it.
8. Go ice skating
Despite the lockdown measures, outer ice skating rings are still welcoming ice skaters in the Netherlands. Be active and at the same time enjoy the Christmas lights and the music at a close-by ice skating ring.
If possible, check if any lakes or canals in the vicinity are frozen. Ice skating in the nature can sometimes be far more magical than skating in the city.
9. Decorate your space
Whether you want to make some decorations yourself for your house or buy some to put out aestheticly or even just put up some lights and decorate your Christmas tree, seeing our house with some extra decorations makes us happy as it breaks the monotomy of everyday.
10. Watch Christmas movies and listen to Christmas music
Although often quite cheesy and overly romantic, Christmas movies can relax us as they represent the cheer of Christmas days. And the same goes for Christmas music. Listening to the music that we associated with good times in the past such as the festive season can bring out the joy in us and make us excited for the holidays.
Here is a list of some movies to watch this Christmas:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
A Castle for Christmas
A Holiday in the Wild
A Christmas Carol
And here is a list of some of my favourite Christmas songs:
Driving Home For Christmas
Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire
Shake Up Christmas
Happy holidays to all and a happy new year!