How to Keep Fall Festive During a Pandemic


There are still many ways to celebrate fall while staying safe. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Around this time of year, the autumn breeze brings with it the excitement of football games, haunted house tours and potlucks with friends. As the colors of the leaves change, so do our spirits, as we gear up for a new start to the school year. However, this fall feels different. With a cap on our social gatherings and a limited college budget, finding new festivities can be challenging. In an attempt to experience my favorite season, I have found myself incorporating new activities into my routine — even if it’s in a modified way. 


I start my autumn days with a cup of fair trade coffee with pumpkin spice creamer and a bagel with cream cheese. The little things that remind me of the nostalgic fall days of my childhood are what bring me the most joy. I love my “falling leaves” candle that spreads an aroma reminiscent of apple and cinnamon and my favorite pair of tall knit socks that I can finally slip on as the temperature drops. With my breakfast ready, I start to get a bit of work done, and I always have my “Chilly” playlist on in the background. I began compiling “Chilly” in 2014, and it remains an ode to my favorite artists that remind me of fall, including Hozier, Ben Howard and The Lumineers. Music has always been able to lift my festive spirits, and in these unknown times, it fuels my hope for a return to pre-pandemic life. 


The transition from September to October brings with it my favorite weather. On days when the sun is out, I love to start my day at the park. A long walk through the New York Botanical Garden will immerse you in fall’s burnt oranges and bright crimsons. With a free ticket and a basket full of food, a socially distanced fall picnic is the perfect way to embrace the autumn weather. Central Park is another beautiful fall destination where you can situate yourself amidst the changing leaves and the calm reservoirs. There, you will find yourself immersed in the culture of the city, which is finally reviving as it transitions to socially distant gatherings. While people-watching, you may notice the inconsistency of fashion during this strange time of year, with some folks taking in the final summer heat in bikinis and others bundled up in anticipation of the cold winter ahead. 


After returning from a day outside, my go-to activity is baking. If you haven’t over-killed this hobby in quarantine, then it’s time to bring out the fall recipes. A house favorite has been pumpkin cream cheese muffins, which not only bring the spirit of fall but also bring the house together. My roommates and I found we already had most of the ingredients on hand, so this recipe was both inexpensive and simple. The smell of sweet pumpkin circulates the space and lingers throughout the day. As we wait, we typically play some of our favorite fall tunes and watch the muffins rise in the oven. If pumpkin isn’t your thing, there’s a wide variety of easy baking recipes on Pinterest. Some of my other favorites are mason jar apple pies, maple cinnamon rolls or  classic chocolate chip cookies.


If you’re in the mood to cook rather than bake, a distanced fall potluck is still achievable. Before the warm weather fades away, take advantage of your rooftops and backyards to host a few friends with a variety of fun dishes. Potlucks allow us to make meals that connect us with home and share them with the people who have given us a new sense of belonging. When we have potlucks in our house, a few notable dishes include a festive cheese plate, a casserole, a pasta dish and a classic pumpkin pie. 


When your food coma draws you in for the night, curling up to spooky movies is my next move. While “spooky season” is still over a month away, a few favorite fall classics are “Halloweentown,” “Hocus Pocus” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” I also find myself shuffling through past “Gossip Girl” episodes that capture just how aesthetically pleasing fall in New York City really is. With our fairy lights hung across the living room and fall candles lit, my roommates and I look forward to finally wrapping ourselves in knitted blankets and catching up on the day. 


While we may not be celebrating this season in the crowds of a festival or the stadiums rooting for our favorite team, we may find that our alternative festivities actually bring us closer together. Taking advantage of the outdoors gives us the fortune of celebrating autumn for what it really is: a change in season. We are keenly aware of nature, and we cherish the time spent together, uncertain of the future that winter will bring. In these months, we take an extra step to care for ourselves. Finding ways to appreciate the season and its notable festivities helps prepare and excite us for a new start to the school year.