Driving around looking at Christmas lights, baking cookies, going for a walk on snowy paths, sitting at home having hot chocolate while watching a Christmas movie...all things and more that help make the holiday season merry and bright for you and your significant other.

But how do you know what to do and when? What kind of gifts do you get if you've only been dating a short while, a long while and even when you're married? If you're single at this time of year, what are some ways you can find happiness and love?

New Jersey's Matchmaker Dating Service, dating coach and relationship expert Julianne Cantarella, who is also a former social worker and therapist, has some guidance to help you on your holiday sleigh ride.

Just be sure that you're being safe, socially distant, wearing a mask, following any safety guidelines to be safe or be in each others bubble to avoid exposure to Covid-19 the best you can.

Activities To Do Together:

For couples who are looking for ways to find romantic activities this time of year, especially in 2020, Cantarella encourages you to build up the holiday and hold onto that joy you find.

It starts at home.

"Make something together, make a meal together, make hot chocolate together, decorate the tree together or do something that is holiday related that would really bring joy into your life," Cantarella tells Townsquare Media Jersey Shore News.

Gifts To Give Each Other:

Is there a limit on how many gifts to give someone or how much to spend on them? Does it depend on how long you've been together? What are the most special ways to celebrate your love?

It's the gift you make yourself or more so something that comes from the heart.

"I think more of a thoughtful gift is the way to go instead of something over the top or grandiose, I'm not a big believer in grandiose gestures, I think it's like you're trying too hard," Cantarella said. "What I would suggest is if you're newly dating, you've had a couple of dates but it's not anything that's really defined yet, meaning you haven't met the significant people in their life, your partners family or anything like that and it's just been a few dates, then buy them something that's really going to speak to them on a personal level. Find an author that they like, buy them a nice book or something that they really enjoy eating, maybe you can make them a special meal. Doing thoughtful gifts is more important especially in the early stages where you're really not sure where the relationship is going, so you're not going to go out and buy them jewelry or anything of that nature, it's too soon, and too much too soon can be overwhelming."

The simple approach is the right way to go if you're just starting off and just as much if you've been together for a longer period of time as well.

"Perhaps baking your significant other something special would be really nice or if you're an artist, make them something," Cantarella said. "I think we really go to the big box shops to try and meet our significant others needs and we don't think about the more meaningful gifts we can give. Depending on how long you're together, maybe a husband and wife...you can get some nice essential oils and give each other a nice massage in privacy and share that experience which can reignite romance too."

If You Get A Gift You Don't Like...What Do You Do?

Sometimes we get those gifts at Christmas or around the holidays that just aren't us or perhaps something we really don't like and then try and figure out a way to say something without someone getting their feelings hurt or things escalating into an argument.

The way in and out is through your communication channel.

"We always run the risk of hurting someone when we don't like what they've made for us or purchased for us so it's really a sensitive subject but hopefully you know your partner and can sit down with them and say 'I love that you put so much thought into this and I do appreciate that but it's not really something I'm going to use and perhaps we can return it and put the money elsewhere', I think being very honest is the best way to go and having that conversation around having the need met is important," Cantarella said.

If You're In A Rocky Or Up And Down Relationship, Is It Better To Break Up Before Or After The Holidays?

It varies from person to person and relationship to relationship depending on the circumstances.

"I would say 98-percent of people wait until after the holidays are over, it's just easier for so many reasons, you know that it's potentially going to spoil someone's holiday so out of sensitivity you stay with them," Cantarella said. "I would say it's a very personal assessment someone needs to make. If it's a difficult relationship like a really painful relationship, if there's any type of abuse involved then I would say obviously get out as soon as possible but if it's a relationship that just seems to be ending naturally, I would probably wait until after the holidays."

What Are The Best Ways To Enhance Romance Around The Holidays?

It's being naturally romantic, doing things together and for each other and embracing everything about the holidays.

Cantarella says a way to enhance the romance is to focus on your partner.

"Make it about them and do things together, it's really wonderful when you can make something, bake cookies, maybe you want to bake cookies for someone in your neighborhood whose going to be alone. If you do something with a purpose, that also makes you feel really good," Cantarella said. "Do something with your partner, it doesn't need to be anything big or over the top but engaging in activities is always a way to spark romance into the relationship. Maybe you can go for a nature walk together, do a winter scavenger hunt together, decorate outside your home or outside for a neighbor who can't because they're a little older or they need to isolate...doing something together always gives purpose and brings people together and that can really spark romance."

Whether Single, In A Relationship Or Married, There's Much You Can Do To Enjoy The Holidays.

It's been a tough year for a lot of people for a lot of reasons, much in many cases is tied in one way or several ways to the pandemic, but the Christmas season is about so much including giving, forgiveness, hope and anticipation of something good.

Be thankful for what you have and who you have in your life and keep a light on in your heart for those who aren't with you this Christmas.

Keep your eyes set on 2021 when things will be more normal and regulations won't likely be as strict.

Be as positive as you can be and whatever it is you're looking for with love and romance, there's someone out there for you.

"Try and put the big positive spin on on it and know that this next year is going to be better I think for everyone in general and just try and connect with a special person in your life, it doesn't necessarily have to be you looking for a partner if you are single and consider giving and volunteering at this time of year. I've seen so many single clients over the years engage in that activity and they've actually met someone," Cantarella said.

If You Are Single, How Can You Spend The Holidays?

It can be a lonely time of year for single men and women who are experiencing a range of emotions preparing for Christmas and the holiday season including feeling alone.

"Typically what I see from people who are single at this time of year unfortunately during the holidays is that they're really struggling in terms of really dealing with being single," Cantarella said. "With the holidays absolutely shines a huge light on their being single and the holidays can be very depressing for some people. What I would typically tell my clients is regardless of Covid or not, you're going to want to try and connect as much as you possibly can. This time of year is a wonderful time to volunteer, of course you want to be safe and take measures to protect yourself but if there is a cause that is really near and dear to your heart, you may want to try and find a way to volunteer."


You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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