2020 Holiday Rules to Avoid Being the Neighborhood Grinch

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An older man screams to the heavens and curses himself, for the holidays are upon him.

It’s that time of year again. You know: the time of year when your neighbors host loud parties late at night, clutter your halls with tacky decorations, and play obnoxiously festive music. Meanwhile, you’re spending the holiday season alone, just looking for some peace and quiet. Maybe your family lives far away, or maybe you’re quarantining and trying to be responsible.

Either way, you don’t want to ruin the holidays for everyone else. Sure, you might be gritting your teeth as you prepare for neighbors to drive you up the wall, but there’s a better way. The key is to be polite, friendly, and understanding. In a word, neighborly. Talk to your next-door neighbors and tell them how you feel. If you’re nice enough, they might even let you join them for some festivities. If not, you can make your own at home. It’s a holiday, after all.

Whatever you do, don’t ruin things for everyone else. It’s tempting, but you can avoid disaster with a few easy tricks. Here are four basic rules for surviving the holidays without becoming the neighborhood Grinch:

Talk It Out in Advance

The best approach is just to talk to them. If you suspect your neighbor’s going to annoy you come December 25th, knock on their door or give them a quick call in advance. Wish them a Happy Holidays, but also mention that you’re planning on taking things slow this year. You can slip in that you’re looking forward to a quiet evening to yourself, and most people will take the hint.

Don’t forget: your neighbors are just hoping to have fun and enjoy themselves. They almost never mean ill toward you or anyone else, no matter how annoying they might seem on the surface. The holidays are one of the few fun, meaningful times of the year. Most people just want to celebrate and be happy (especially in 2020).

Join Them

If your building has a courtyard or other outdoor areas, you might even be able to join your neighbors for their holiday fun. Of course, you can’t just invite yourself over without asking. Instead, try to talk to them. Tell them you’ll be alone during this communal time. You never know — they might be struck with the holiday spirit and offer you a seat on their patio. You can even try preempting this by inviting them to your sad, nonexistent party first. At that point, they might just bring you over out of pity.

Also, you never know: they might be all alone, too. In this strange era, many people will be spending the holidays completely by themselves. It presents an opportunity for at least a little greeting or brief outdoor get-together within your apartment building. You can have a neighborly holiday hello and be jolly together.

Don’t Be a Hall Monitor

Four Santa Hat-wearing fingers duke it out.

The key to the holidays is being friendly and bringing joy to others. Some people take the opposite approach, and they end up ruining things for their whole neighborhood. That’s why you should always avoid being the Grinch. The last thing you want to do is call the police or your other neighbors or, even worse, your landlord.

Over the years, many Americans have gone too far. Back in 2016, there was even a New York City lawyer who sued his neighbor over Christmas decorations. Apparently the display included a reindeer that was playing “Jingle Bells” too loudly…

Not every little holiday disagreement needs to end up in court! If you find your neighbor playing insufferable holiday music all day long, you can just knock on his or her door. Be friendly and considerate, and they might be friendly and considerate back to you. That’s the true holiday spirit.

Have Your Own Fun

If nothing else works, you can always just have some fun of your own. If your neighbor’s blasting “Jingle Bells,” for example, you don’t have to sue them —you can just blast your own music and rock out to something else.

You can even have a guest or two over. Though you should always follow the laws and local guidelines, there are some COVID-safe solutions within that framework. One trick is to make sure that you and your guests quarantine for 10-14 days beforehand, as per the CDC guidelines. Then, when the day arrives, you can rest assured that everyone is most likely healthy.

Still, it’s worth socially distancing no matter how you gather. Make sure to keep your windows open, or just put on some coats and hang out outside. Nowadays, Zoom is also a great platform for hosting events. Cook a nice meal by yourself or with your partner or roommates, maybe even light some candles, and then open up a laptop across the table. If your “guests” are doing the same on the other side of the screen, it really can feel as if you’re almost in the same room with them. At first it might seem odd, but you quickly forget that and begin to just engage (especially if you add some champagne into the mix).

The holidays only come once a year, so try to enjoy them if you can. Have a little fun, and if for some reason you can’t, don’t be the one to ruin it for everyone else. In the end, even your most annoying neighbors are people, too, and they’re struggling through these tough times just like the rest of us. Let them sing. Let them celebrate. Let them drink and be merry. And when you pass them in the hall, make sure to wish them Happy Holidays.

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