The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unexpected interruption to everyone’s lives. After months of distance and uncertainty, it’s entirely reasonable to want to gather with your loved ones, especially during the holiday season.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases are growing every day, and it is risky to travel, gather, and celebrate with groups of people outside of your immediate household. The pandemic doesn’t mean that the holiday season won’t be special. This year can be memorable for the new traditions you adopt and the extra time you spend with your family. If there’s one thing that the pandemic has given us, it’s more time at home with our families. Take a look at these seven creative ways to make this holiday season safe and memorable.
Celebrate old and new traditions virtually
Being apart from one another doesn’t mean anyone has to be alone. Without the hustle of years past, this holiday season is a great chance for families to be available to each other, even if it’s over the phone or on a screen. This year, try to celebrate some of your favorite holiday traditions together virtually. For example, if your family always prepares a holiday meal together, set up a free Zoom call while everyone cooks simultaneously in different households. (You can find directions for setting up Zoom here.) If you celebrate Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, plan a time to light your menorah or kinara candles together. If you celebrate Christmas, you can set up a virtual time to decorate or light your Christmas trees together. If your family members are not tech-savvy, consider setting up a practice session with Grandma the day before so she’s ready to go. And remember, these activities are also just as much fun over the phone.
Your family can also connect with others virtually to simply catch up and spend time together. You can work with friends and family to plan virtual caroling, game nights, and dance parties to get into the holiday spirit. There are also many resources online for holiday-themed trivia and winter icebreakers to get everyone engaged and feel closer.
Unplug and go old school
If your family feels a little bit of virtual fatigue, spend some time unplugged and connect with loved ones by writing letters or making holiday cards. Sending holiday mail was once a widespread tradition, and your family can take part in the holiday card comeback. Think about the way holiday cards and letters can help your family connect with other families. Encourage your children to get creative with crayons and paper to share messages of hope with others.
If you don’t have stamps handy, your family can drop off cards in neighbors’ or nearby friends’ mailboxes, or near their front door. Just be sure to remain at least six feet away from each other, and wear a mask for the drop-off. Making cards for people can also be a good exercise for children to express gratitude. Your family can make thank you cards for familiar faces working at your local grocery stores, delivering mail, or nearby frontline workers. They can even make thank you cards for people inside of your household. This activity is a great way to show appreciation and acknowledge one another.
Get some fresh air together
Staying active during the pandemic is important for mental and physical health. This holiday you can get good exercise and make it memorable too. Bundle up, put on your masks, and take a walk with your family to tour nearby holiday decorations.
While you’re out and about, you can incorporate a holiday scavenger hunt into your walk. Can everyone spot two wreath decorations and three different Christmas trees? You can adjust the difficulty of this activity based on the age of your children. When you get home, you can discuss your favorite decorations and have your children draw pictures of what they saw, or draw their own decorations to put in the window.
Get creative with dinner plans
For many, sharing a meal with extended family is a favorite tradition. While that may not be an option this year, you can use this unusual year as an opportunity to make your dinner a memorable one. Talk to your children about what they like most about holiday dinners. If your children look forward to a traditional dish at a relative’s house, they can still experience all their favorite meals from a distance. You can reach out to your extended family to get directions for how to make one of your family recipes. Even if the dish isn’t exactly the same as you remember, your family will appreciate the original even more next year. You can even incorporate some child-friendly recipes so the entire family can get involved in the kitchen.
It can also be exciting for children to experience something entirely different than past years. Think outside of what your family is used to for holiday dinners. If your children love pancakes and eggs, make breakfast for dinner. If they have a favorite outfit, costume, or pajamas, encourage them to wear the clothing they love most. You can try new foods, eat in a different room, or even serve one another breakfast in bed.
Learn about the world from home
Use this extra time at home to help your family learn about other holidays and cultures. Encourage your children to pick a country and learn about a holiday tradition from that part of the world. You can help your children make a craft or draw a picture that represents the holiday celebration. They can find a recipe from another country for a holiday dish and incorporate it into a special holiday meal, or share the recipe in the recipe swap discussed earlier.
Focus on what you can do
Help your family concentrate on all of the new things they will experience this year, and remind them not to worry about the things they will miss. Explain that these moments will be memorable because the world is a different place than ever before, and they may like the new traditions so much, they continue them for years to come.
You can restart old traditions by sharing your favorite memories from growing up and bringing back some of those activities this year. Perhaps you remember reading holiday stories aloud before bedtime or playing hide and seek in your pajamas. Many families pick a project they can do together, like a jigsaw puzzle or scrapbook. Explain to your children that the priority this year is staying connected and staying safe.
Document your experience
Encourage your family to document how you celebrate this year. You can help your children keep a journal, take photos, or draw pictures of what this holiday felt like. It will certainly feel different from other holiday seasons, but it could be a very special moment to look back on and remember.