A Pop Culture Guide to Surviving the Holidays Alone


“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” takes on a whole new meaning in 2020. Millions decorate their trees and hang socks for one and figure out how to spend the season in ways that don’t leave our hearts feeling two sizes too small. If you can not be near the family this year, you must able to recreate the experience through the pop culture you eat.

The time that would have been spent packed in an airport, then your childhood bedroom, and before a dinner table inquisition about why you do not come home more often, is now entirely yours. Brush up against the friendly fire by fighting for security policy at a podcast on your headphones. Instead of defending your hinge profile to an aunt who knows a (1) single guy your age, read a Sally Rooney novel. Or maybe just indulge in entertainment as far away from traditional festivities as possible.

In the wake of socially distant holidays and snow days spent solo, ELLE.com offers movies, books, music, TV shows and podcasts for your specific blues brand. As the song says, “One day soon we will all be / if fate allows.” Until then a few suggestions to get involved somehow.

If you miss family sparring about politics …

Maybe you’re one of those weird birds that feels closer to family after fighting it over the election college. Maybe you were planning to present to your relatives about the importance of the Georgia Senate runoff? If you fancy some wartime conversations – or at least the chaotic energy that comes with them – look no further.

Movie: Love, actually

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Hear us out … debating this rom-com problematic plot points have the same energy as discussing socialism with your grandfather. Plus, Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister deserves genuine analysis every Christmas.

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Podcast: Still treating


Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham dissect pop culture through a political framework in this New York Times podcast. Their lively discussions provide valid counter-arguments without diving into anything close to all-out warfare.

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TV show: Comey rules

comey rule


This Showtime limited series, adapted from former FBI Director James Comey’s book A higher loyalty, was designed for discourse. Whether you look at Comey (played by Jeff Daniels) as a hero or villain, there is one thing we can all agree on: Brendan Gleeson creates a scary Trump.

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Order: Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld


Random house

$ 25.76

A figure sure that get blood pressure rising at the dinner table is Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sittenfeld leans into HRH‘s controversial nature of imagining what her life would have been like if she had never met Bill.

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music: The chickens Gaslighter

Listen to the revelation album from The Chicks is always a good idea – this year you do not need to hear your full uncle going about the band’s name change or political views.

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If you miss invasive questions about your love life …

Of course, this is the year when all romantic inquiries could be answered with a simple, “We are in one pandemic, Aunt Maureen. “There is also a lot no photos please energy that comes with revealing just enough about your love life to keep them wanting more. Fortunately, there is plenty of pop culture to dive into that deals with messy relationship dynamics.

Movie: Family stones

Those who used to defend their relationship status will find fellowship with Diane Keaton’s matriarch in this holiday movie. And if you’ve ever been embarrassed by a romantic mistake, it’s not going to get much messier than this movie’s sibling relationship.

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Podcast: Modern love

Play judge and jury for the love life of others via this New York Times podcast. After hearing some of these first-person essays, you ask as many questions as your immediate cousin.

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TV show: Insecure

unsure hbo issa rae yvonne orji


We’re all kept our Mirror Bitch a pep talk à la Issa and HBOs Insecure. Be greeting with our favorite unlucky heroine until it’s safe to wade back into the dating pool.

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Order: Any Sally Rooney novel

Think your romantic windings are complicated? Live inside the worlds of Conversations with friends and Normal peopleRooney’s first two novels—And reports back to us.

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music: Joni Mitchells Blue

This typical heartbreaking album features all the melancholy associated with sitting at the singles table. Mitchell’s decades of avoiding who inspired songs like “A Case of You” and “River” will also feel familiar.

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If you miss homemade meals …

Ordering enough Chinese takeout to justify three sets of chopsticks for your meal for one has some tension. But many long for the warm and fuzzy emotions that accompany an actual Christmas dinner. Allow the culinary stylings of Ina Garten, Jessie Ware and a rat named Remy to soothe you into an emotionally charged food coma.

Movie: Ratatouille

There is a reason why TikTok users have ordered an actual musical from this Pixar movie about food. It manages to make animated meals prepared by a cartoon rat look and feel like delicacies.

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Podcast: Table manners with Jessie Ware

Jessie Ware and her mother Lennie host this soulful podcast about food, family and culture. Listening to an episode feels exactly like drinking too much wine after burning Christmas cakes and discussing who should lick the spoon with your siblings.

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TV show: Barefoot Contessa

If you can not cook with your mother this holiday, let an Ina with cocktail mixture stand in. For many, Garten has long felt like family – her warm kitchen that looks like another home.

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Order: Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Basically, this is a book about a woman who eats her emotions, shares recipes for mashed potatoes, Lillian Hellman’s casserole and a series of pies along with anecdotes from a crushing bride. By giving us recipes from her post-split spiral, our heroine also finds a way to satisfy her own cravings.

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Music: Ella & Louis jul

It is important to find the right soundtrack while cooking or sharing a meal. When it comes to cozy vibes, nothing beats Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s festive output.

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If you miss forced festive merriment …

Isolation does strange things in the mind, including fooling us into thinking we miss ugly Christmas sweaters and eating figgy pudding. Never has an elf on a shelf or a stylish Secret Santa felt more desirable. Lean into the season with these jolly picks.

Movie: Christmas holidays

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is everyone’s great-grandfather from Black Friday to New Year. If you can not be with your real family this Christmas, spend some time with the overbearing movie equivalent.

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Podcast: Cover the mark

Looking at Hallmark Christmas movie is a completely separate lifestyle. Hosts Klid, Panda and Dan are all approaching 40 (?!) festive films with certainly different perspectives on what formal romance means to the world.

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TV show: Dash & Lily

dash and lily l to r midori francis as lily and austin abrams as dash in episode 106 of dash and lily cr alison cohen rosanetflix © 2020


A Christmas series set in New York hits differently in 2020. The titular couple (played by Austin Abrams and Midori Francis) write each other love letters and leave them around sights – Beach Bookstore, Two Boots Pizza, McSorleys – beautifully filled with spectators.

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Order: Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

If it’s unfortunate ever after Kronenfourth season left you craving royal romance, this is the book for you. It tells the story of a romance between palaces that has enough Meghan Markle parallels to keep readers curious for more than 300 pages.

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music: Mariah Carey Merry Christmas

“I live from Christmas to Christmas; that’s the only thing i look forward to every year. That’s not it only things … but it really is the best time of the year for me, ”Carey said ELLE.com earlier this year. You heard the queen of the holiday clap. Press play.

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If you are actually embracing spending the holidays alone …

Avoiding large groups during the holidays is a welcome change of pace in an exhausting year. Spend a few weeks snow-covered solo or with roommates to catch up on the best entertainment of the year folklore to I can destroy you. These recs will make you feel relaxed and recharged for 2021.

Movie: The holidays

Who has not dreamed of rolling up an idyllic Christmas house and falling in love with Jude Law? Treat yourself to this fantasy properly by watching the Nancy Meyers classic again for the 27th time – no verdict.

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Podcast: How was this made?

Feel guilty about binge-watching “bad” movies anymore. The hilarious trio of comedic actors Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas unpack an amazing film each episode and deliver guaranteed laughs fit every time.

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TV show: I can destroy you

This challenging series from Michaela Coel seen best solo and with ample time for break and process. It is one of the best series of the year and offers an ending that is hopeful in a way that will resonate during the long winter of 2020.

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Order: The disappearing half by Brit Bennett

This novel, which is about a couple of twins walking separately, is one of those books you should have plenty of time to get lost in. Read this while spending a cozy night in; you have nothing to answer except to get to the next beautifully written page.

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music: All are folkemere playlists

As proof of all the time we have, people are combining Taylor Swift’s two 2020 albums –folklore and always– to create their perfect folkemere track lists. Dive into the moody experiment by listening to a few playlists or making your own.

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Editorial colleague
Savannah Walsh is an editorial board member at ELLE.com.

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