Embracing a COVID Christmas Holiday Season

Embracing a COVID Christmas Holiday Season

By Eleanor Warren

Eleanor has worked actively as a nurse for many years and has five grown children and several grandchildren. She wrote this article for the families of those she cares for and hopes you will find it helpful this COVID Christmas. Reprinted with permission.

Many of us are approaching this Christmas season warily, not sure how it’s all going to turn out with Covid-19 still very much a part of our lives, and perhaps dealing with other challenges that we are facing. Many of us look forward to this holiday season, and maybe some of us are thinking: Ok, now what? We can’t go anywhere or have people in. If we have children, the challenges are even greater!

In no particular order, here are some random ways we can make this season special for everyone…

  • Make a list of the members of your extended family. Create a document and circulate it to the other members of your family. Each person is invited to write one thing they love or admire about that person. Or perhaps their favourite memory of that person. The organizer receives each person’s list and is responsible to compile the comments for each person. These can then be shared with each individual, by mail or email! What a gift!
  • If your family decorates a crèche or nativity scene, go outside to find natural elements to make it special this year- bark, twigs, driftwood, greenery from shrubs and hedges. Use little battery operated tea lights to create a glow around the crèche. Build a backdrop to set the scene.
  • Jumble dinner. Each person in the family is assigned to a part of the meal- appetizer, main, side dish and dessert. They get to choose the recipe and are responsible to cook it (maybe with adult supervision!) It is sure to be an eclectic meal!
  • Find a neat recipe that you have long been wanting to try. Purchase and assemble the ingredients and have fun trying it out. (for me it will be my Grandmaman’s doughnut recipe!)
  • Ask everyone in the family to name their favourite Christmas (or other) movie. Try to find them online, from your own collection, or perhaps by asking other friends and family if they have a copy). Set up dates to watch them over the holidays.
  • Find a chapter book to read aloud together. Choose a time to gather together. One or more can take turns reading. Create the setting (fire in the fireplace?) and bring your pillows and blankets to get comfortable.
  • Science in the kitchen. Find a neat experiment online and carry it out!
  • Tongue twisters. Everyone looks for a tongue twister to practice and recite. Or, create a page of tongue twisters and invite the others to choose their favourite to recite! Create a challenge or contest! Let the best tongue win!!
  • Family slumber party. Choose the spot- family room, rec room, Mom and Dad’s bedroom. Haul in the sleeping bags, blankets and pillows and sleep together in the same room overnight.
  • Fondue night. Fondues are slow meals. It takes time to cook the meat, but a great chance to chat with people around the table. If it’s just the two of you, set up a fondue night with another couple and use zoom (or other social platform) to enjoy the time together. Another option- a dessert fondue with fruit and pound cake…yum!
  • Family Games Night. Choose board games or card games and play together. Snacks essential!!
  • Drive around the neighbourhood or town or city, taking in the beautiful light displays all around. Play Christmas music in the car!
  • Christmas crackers aren’t just for Christmas. They can be great for New Year’s Eve or any holiday dinner as well! You can buy them in stores or make your own (Michaels sells kits). Making your own allows you to personalize them. What to include? A joke, a quote/wish/prediction/inspiration, a lottery ticket, a small trinket or IOU, and a paper hat. Everyone can wear their hat during the dinner.
  • Escape room/murder mystery. Fun for older kids and adults. Check online for ideas, themes, etc.
  • Christmas Minute to Win it games. Lots of ideas on Pinterest and different websites (e.g.chrstiancamppro.com) Choose games that work with the age groups of the participants. Have prizes (or print certificates of merit- for bragging rights!) Create teams if your immediate family is large or if doing by Zoom.
  • Make a video. Decide on questions, set up a space for the interview. One person interviews another. The questions can be lighthearted or deep. Recalling memories is an option, especially with older members of the family. Or, do a little entertaining. Anyone with singing, musical, magician, comedic talents- create the act and film it. You can enjoy as a family or share with the grandparents.
  • Another video idea: If you are lucky enough to have a newborn or a little one, create a tender video holding your little one and speak from your heart your hopes and dreams for this precious little being. Someday, your child will be thrilled to watch this! This can also be done for any other special person, too!
  • Create a video card to email to our friends and family to wish them a Happy New Year!
  • Search the world for other Christmas traditions and try them out. Did someone say piñata??!! Make a special food from that country, explain a little about their culture to the rest of the family.
  • Go through old photos. Maybe they are in a box or neatly organized in albums or photo books. Spend time remembering and talking about the photos. So many memories…
  • Gratitude jar. This could be a great 2021 project. Find and decorate a jar to hold all the things you are grateful for. This can be an individual or a family project. Add all the little and big things for which you are grateful. Some people add to the jar daily and others whenever the spirit moves them. At the end of the year, take great delight in reading all the little papers that the jar holds.
  • Write letters- expressing appreciation, thoughts and catching up with friends and loved ones. Or maybe write to strangers- the staff at a long-term care facility. Take a moment to thank people who rarely get thanked- your family doctor or dentist, the staff at the grocery store, hairdresser…the possibilities are endless. Try to reconnect with people you haven’t kept in touch with for a long time.
  • Make outdoor décor for the birds. String cranberries and popcorn and wrap around the tree and shrubs outside.
  • Have a “make your own pizza” night. Find a recipe for an easy dough (my husband swears by ‘Jay’s signature pizza recipe’ at allrecipes.com) Form the dough into shells that will fit into an aluminum pie plate. Create a bar of toppings and let everyone go to town, creating their personalized pizza. Depending on the size of your oven, you can possibly cook up to 6 pizzas of this size at a time.
  • Dance! Push back the furniture, roll the carpet, find some catchy music and dance. Don’t know how to dance? No problem! Lots of YouTube videos on how to waltz, tango, do various folk dances. Great chance to learn ourselves, or teach the kids. Have fun! And, if you are alone- well, you only need one person to dance!
  • Outdoor fun. Build a fort together! Or a snow family! Make snow angels! Build a skating rink in your backyard, or make a point to visit the local rink. Go skating, sledding, snowshoeing, skiing. Whatever gets you moving!
  • Scavenger hunts can be simple or complex! Indoors or outside! Children, adults or a combination! Lots of ideas online! Use your creativity!
  • Winter walk in the woods, looking for wildlife, animal tracks, birds. Listen. Take photos of things you find interesting. Or, try a walk at night. Especially a night where you can actually see the sky and the stars and be filled with wonder.
  • Gingerbread men and ladies- taste good anytime, but especially during the Christmas season. Use royal icing and decorate with small candies. They can be personalized in many creative ways (check Pinterest for some cool ideas!)
  • Is there someone who lives alone in your neighbourhood? An elderly couple? Someone who has recently lost their partner? A friend or family member who is feeling lonely? Get the kids to draw pictures, write a note, prepare a meal, or package up some Christmas baking and drop it off to them.
  • Find your love language- your own, your partner’s and others in your family. (Google Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. There is a quiz that each person can take, and the results sent to you almost immediately. It’s a fun activity that also offers insights that will help our relationships.
  • The giant puzzle challenge. Find a puzzle (lots available in stores at this time of year) Choose one suitable for your family: depending on their age, level of patience, visual acuity and interesting image. (They range from 200 to 2000 pieces) Set it up on a table not currently being used and close to the action in your home. Over the week, spend time each day working on it- individually or as a group!
  • The gift of music. Many online concerts this year, some free. Or, check your TV schedule, especially public broadcasting stations. Lots of wonderful cultural events there! Take the opportunity to enjoy them from the comfort of your home.
  • When things feel a little overwhelming, take a few minutes to pause, focus on your breathing, take not f how you are feeling. If you sense tenseness, work on relaxing that area of your body. Do a body scan. If you need a nap, find a way to make it happen. Send the kids to their rooms for quiet time (our rule- bring a toy to play with but you have to stay in bed. It worked- sometimes!) so that you can have a few minutes of quiet yourself.
  • Write thank you notes for all the gifts you have received at Christmas. And mail them.
  • Family far away? Create a Zoom get together to read a story, or do a radio play. Besides the characters in the play, you will need people to create the sound effects and make the story or play come alive!
  • Have a barbeque! Clear a pathway to the barbeque and create a little summer in the winter! Choose a simple menu- something that cooks fast, and enjoy!
  • Create a warm, cozy atmosphere in your home. Lights low, or candles, fire in the fireplace, snuggle in comfy clothes and do something you love- listen to music, cuddle up with the ones you love, read a book, watch a movie. Take a moment to pause, live in the moment.
  • Extra special treats
    • Hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream!
    • Mulled apple cider
    • Cinnamon toast
    • Popcorn
    • Make your ice cream sundaes
    • Natchos
    • Fudge
    • Smores/skunks (Skunks are 2 chocolate wafers with an After Eight mint patty and a marshmallow wedged between and heated in the microwave- yum!!)

These ideas are just the beginning to get your own creative juices flowing. And, any of these ideas can be adapted to personal needs/interests/situations. Some of these suggestions require a little planning but many can be pretty spontaneous! This year provides a unique opportunity to build connection with the people near us within our “social bubble” and also to find unique ways to connect with others, who are physically distant. I hope that years from now you will remember this holiday season with a smile.

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