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A Pop Culture Guide to Surviving the Holidays Alone

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“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” takes on a whole new meaning in 2020. Millions are decorating their trees and hanging stockings for one, reckoning with how to spend the season in ways that won’t leave our hearts feeling two sizes too small. If you can’t be near family this year, you can recreate the experience through the pop culture you’re consuming.

Time that would’ve been spent packed in an airport, then your childhood bedroom, and before a dinner table inquisition about why you don’t come home more often is now all yours. Brush up against the friendly fire of fighting about politics from the safety of a podcast in your headphones. In lieu of defending your Hinge profile to an aunt who knows one (1) single guy your age, read a Sally Rooney novel. Or maybe, just indulge in some entertainment as far removed from traditional festivities as possible.

In the wake of socially distanced holidays and snow days spent solo, ELLE.com offers the movies, books, music, TV shows, and podcasts for your specific brand of blues. As the song says, “Someday soon we all will be together / If the fates allow.” Until then, a few suggestions for muddling through somehow.


If you miss familial sparring about politics…

Perhaps you’re one of those strange birds who feels closer to family after battling it out over the electoral college. Maybe you planned to lecture your relatives on the importance of the Georgia Senate runoffs? If you’re craving some combative 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’s problematic plot points has the same energy as discussing socialism with your grandfather. Plus, Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister deserves real analysis each and every Christmas.

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Podcast: Still Processing

Courtesy

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

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TV Show: The Comey Rule

the comey rule

Showtime

This Showtime limited series, adapted from former FBI director James Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty, was designed for discourse. Whether you view Comey (played by Jeff Daniels) as a hero or villain, there’s one thing we can all agree on: Brendan Gleeson makes for a terrifying Trump.

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Book: Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

Rodham

Random House
bookshop.org

$25.76

One figure sure to get blood pressures rising at the dinner table is Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sittenfeld leans into HRH‘s controversial nature by imagining what her life would’ve looked like if she never met Bill.

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Music: The Chicks’ Gaslighter

Listening to the revelatory album from The Chicks is always a good idea—this year, you won’t have to hear your drunk uncle going on 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 all romantic inquiries could be answered with a simple, “We’re in a pandemic, Aunt Maureen.” There’s also a very no photos please energy that comes with disclosing just enough regarding your love life to keep them wanting more. Luckily, there’s plenty of pop culture to delve into that deals with messy relationship dynamics.

Movie: The Family Stone

Those used to defending their relationship status will find fellowship with Diane Keaton’s matriarch in this holiday film. And if you’ve ever been embarrassed by a romantic misstep—it doesn’t get much messier than this movie’s sibling relationship swap.

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Podcast: Modern Love

Play judge and jury for other people’s love lives via this New York Times podcast. After hearing some of these first-person essays, you’ll be asking as many questions as your nosiest cousin.

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TV Show: Insecure

insecure hbo issa rae yvonne orji

HBO

We’ve all given our Mirror Bitch selves a pep talk à la Issa in HBO’s Insecure. Commiserate with our favorite unlucky-in-love heroine until it’s safe to wade back into the dating pool.

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Book: Any Sally Rooney novel

Think your romantic entanglements are complicated? Live inside the worlds of Conversations With Friends and Normal People—Rooney’s first two novels—and report back to us.

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Music: Joni Mitchell’s Blue

This quintessential heartbreak album offers all of the melancholy associated with sitting at the singles’ table. Mitchell’s decades-long dodging of who inspired songs like “A Case of You” and “River” will also feel familiar.

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If you miss home-cooked meals…

Ordering enough Chinese takeout to warrant three sets of chopsticks for your meal for one has some thrills. But many long for the warm and fuzzy feelings 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 emotional food coma.

Movie: Ratatouille

There’s a reason TikTok users have commissioned an actual musical from this Pixar film about food. It manages to make animated meals, cooked 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 cookies and arguing about who gets to lick the spoon with your siblings.

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TV Show: Barefoot Contessa

If you can’t cook with your actual mom this holiday season, allow a cocktail-mixing Ina to stand-in. To many, Garten has long felt like family—her warm kitchen akin to a second home.

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Book: Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Basically, this is a book about a woman who eats her feelings, sharing recipes for mashed potatoes, Lillian Hellman’s pot roast, and a variety of pies alongside anecdotes from a crushing breakup. In feeding 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 Christmas

Finding the right soundtrack while cooking or sharing a meal is essential. 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 to the mind, including tricking us into believing we miss ugly Christmas sweaters and eating figgy pudding. Never has an elf on a shelf or stilted office Secret Santa felt more desirable. Lean into the season with these jolly picks.

Movie: Christmas Vacation

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is everyone’s overeager father from Black Friday through New Year’s. If you can’t be with your real family this Christmas, spend some time with the overbearing cinematic equivalent.

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Podcast: Deck the Hallmark

Watching Hallmark Christmas movies is a lifestyle all its own. Hosts Bran, Panda, and Dan approach all 40 (?!) festive films with decidedly different perspectives on what the formulaic romances mean for 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

ALISON COHEN ROSA/NETFLIX

A New York-set Christmas series hits different in 2020. The titular couple (played by Austin Abrams and Midori Francis) write each other love letters and leave them around landmarks—the Strand Bookstore, Two Boots Pizza, McSorley’s—beautifully packed with bystanders.

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Book: Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

If the unhappily ever after of The Crown‘s fourth season left you craving royal romance, this is the book for you. It tells the story of an inter-palace romance that has enough Meghan Markle parallels to keep readers intrigued for 300+ pages.

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Music: Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas

“I do live from Christmas to Christmas; it’s the only thing I look forward to every year. Well, it’s not the only thing…but it’s truly the best time of year for me,” Carey told ELLE.com earlier this year. You heard the Queen of Holiday Cheer. Press play.

Listen Now

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If you’re actually embracing spending the holidays solo…

Avoiding large groups during the holidays is a welcome change of pace in an exhausting year. Use a few weeks snowed-in solo or with roommates to catch up on the year’s best entertainment, from folklore to I May Destroy You. These recs will have you feeling relaxed and recharged for 2021.

Movie: The Holiday

Who hasn’t dreamed of rolling up to an idyllic Christmas cottage and falling in love with Jude Law? Indulge in this fantasy properly by rewatching the Nancy Meyers classic for the 27th time—no judgment.

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Podcast: How Did This Get Made?

Feel guilty about binge-watching “bad” movies no longer. The hilarious trio of comic actors Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas unpack a baffling movie each episode, delivering guaranteed laughing fits every time.

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TV Show: I May Destroy You

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

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Book: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This novel, about a pair of twins who go their separate ways, is one of those books you should make ample time to get lost in. Read this while spending a cozy night in; you’ll have nothing to answer for except getting to the next beautifully written page.

Read Now

Music: Everyone’s folkmore playlists

As evidence of all the time we have, people are combining Taylor Swift’s two 2020 albums—folklore and evermore—to create their perfect folkmore track lists. Dive into the moody experiment by listening to a few playlists or crafting your own.

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Fashion

28 Commoners Who Married Royals

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28 Commoners Who Married Royals


Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiary

She became an Iranian queen when she married Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1951. The daughter of a German mother and a father who was a member of Iran’s powerful Bakhtiari family, Queen Soraya was the Shah’s second wife and later became an actress. She went on to star in two films, I Tre Volti and She, after the couple’s divorce in 1958.

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35 Unforgettable Royal Wedding Scandals, Shockers, and Bizarre Moments

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35 Unforgettable Royal Wedding Scandals, Shockers, and Bizarre Moments


Princess Stéphanie of Monaco married her bodyguard.

Grace Kelly’s daughter, Princess Stéphanie, tied the knot with Daniel Ducruet, who had previously been assigned as her bodyguard. When the couple wed, they already had two children together. At the time, The Associated Press described Ducruet as “a former pet shop salesman and fishmonger known to have a hot temper,” and noted that Stéphanie’s father, Rainier III, opposed the love connection. The wedding took place on July 1, 1995, at Monaco Town Hall. However, little more than a year later, the marriage ended in divorce when, per the AP, Ducruet “was caught by paparazzi in a poolside romp with a Belgian stripper.”

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All of Queen Rania of Jordan’s Best Fashion Moments

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the king and queen of jordan will visit the basilica of st francis of assisi


Franco OrigliaGetty Images

Since her husband, Abdullah II, became the King of Jordan in 1999, Queen Rania of Jordan has been hard at work. The Queen is best known for her advocacy in public health and education, as well as her supremely trendy sense of style. Throughout the years, Rania has proven that her sartorial tastes are impeccable. She has a penchant for monochromatic looks and pops of color, but also knows her way around a neutral palette. Read on for 63 of her best royal style moments here.

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April 17, 2019

Rania stepped out in a casual tank and pants combo during a tour of Jordan, and brightened it up with a coral jacket.

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March 29, 2019

For a visit to the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Queen wore a collared navy midi dress, a trendy Louis Vuitton handbag, and added dainty silver earrings.

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March 29, 2019

While visiting French President Emmanuel Macron, Queen Rania wore this bold monochrome look, which features a pleated midi dress and a tailored leather jacket.

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October 14, 2018

The Queen stunned in a belted pinstripe midi dress for the state opening of Jordan’s Parliament.

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June 25, 2018

On a visit to the White House with her husband, Rania wore a flowy blush pantsuit with a matching purse and pumps.

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May 22, 2018

Rania wore a gorgeous grey-blue pleated turtleneck dress to her daughter Princess Salma’s graduation.

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March 21, 2018

Rania chose a tailored grey blazer, turtleneck, and crisp white pants for a visit to the Netherlands. Her suede heels and elaborate woven handbag were perfect complements to her neutral outfit.

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March 20, 2018

Queen Rania showed us that she isn’t afraid of a bold pop of color. Here, she wore a bright blue swing coat with statement buttons and a white neck scarf over her grey dress.

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November 11, 2017

For this look, Rania paired a simple white top with a brightly patterned pencil skirt and coral handbag.

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August 11, 2017

For the Sovereign’s Parade at the Royal Military Academy, the Queen chose a bright pink quilted princess coat and matching heels. She accessorized with a black purse and silver jewelry.

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May 21, 2017

Rania glowed at the Fashion for Relief event at Cannes, wearing a delicate white dress with lace details and simple jewelry. She posed for a photo with Princess Beatrice and Sarah, Duchess of York at the event.

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December 3, 2016

The Queen wore an elegant A-line gown with pink silk details to a gala in Germany.

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November 11, 2016

Rania chose a simple black blazer and pencil skirt, drawing attention to her intricate turtleneck, for the state opening of Parliament in Amman, Jordan.

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September 11, 2016

Queen Rania stepped out in a beautiful crimson and blue gown for the Celebrity Fight Night gala.

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June 2, 2016

Rania arrived at the Great Arab Revolt centennial wearing a deep teal dress with gold embroidery, turquoise drop earrings, a cream quilted clutch, and black heels.

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May 25, 2016

For Jordan’s 70th Independence Day, Rania chose a belted maroon top with an extravagant red and white detailed skirt, maroon heels and silver accessories.

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May 18, 2016

Rania wore a soft pink swing coat adorned with a floral detail and black kitten heels alongside the Queen of Belgium during a visit to Brussels.

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May 2, 2016

The Queen turned heads on the red carpet in a feathered gown dotted with delicate silver gems by Valentino at the Manus x Machina Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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January 8, 2016

During a visit to London, Rania wore a hot pink pencil dress with a complementary belted coat and black pointed-toe heels.

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November 20, 2015

While in Spain, the Queen wore a black and white striped accordion skirt, a white blouse, and a mahogany wide belt.

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November 19, 2015

Here, Rania paired a trendy leather pencil skirt with a patterned blouse for a visit to the Prado Media Lab cultural center in Madrid, Spain.

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November 19, 2015

Queen Rania walked with Queen Letizia of Spain on the airport tarmac as she arrives in Madrid, Spain for a royal visit. Rania’s chic ensemble proves that even after a long plane ride, the royal is glowing. This look features a simple sky blue dress, a red and white woven wrap coat, and glittery heels.

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September 25, 2015

For the UN Foundation’s Gender Equality Discussion, Rania stepped out in an all-white ensemble, but it’s far from dull. The detail in her top, her snakeskin clutch, and her reflective pointed-toe heels make this a style to remember.

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August 26, 2015

Rania and her daughter walked the red carpet for the Medef Summer University Conference. The Queen wore a simple A-line dress and accented it with a Louis Vuitton bag and strappy heels.

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May 19, 2014

Here Queen Rania wore a black and white patterned top, a black midi skirt with a sheer overlay, and pumps.

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March 12, 2013

Rania and Camilla Parker Bowles pose for a photo during Prince Charles and Camilla’s royal tour in Jordan. Rania chose a bright blue and white knee-length dress adorned with a flower, and pearl drop earrings for the occasion.

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May 18, 2012

Queen Rania chose a classic flattering dress for a dinner at Buckingham Palace. The celebration was held in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, her 60th anniversary on the throne.

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May 18, 2012

Rania wore a white ruffled top with gold accents, paired with a fiery red pencil skirt, and her signature black pumps for an event at Windsor Castle in England. The royal was in town to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee.

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April 2, 2012

The Queen was glowing on a visit to the Royal Palace in Italy, wearing an embroidered double-breasted trench coat, peep-toe heels, and a sleek black purse.

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June 19, 2010

Rania stepped out in a purple gown—the color of royalty—paired with a tiara and sash for Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Daniel Westling’s royal wedding in Stockholm, Sweden.

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