By: Kathryn Jackson
I have heard it so many times. In conversations with friends, at work, and even in line at the grocery store: “This year is going to be so different.”
As we planned for the holidays, my husband and I assumed we would take the kids and make the trek to my parent’s house like we always do. But this week, after the CDC released guidance on stopping the spread of COVID-19, and after discussing a series of worsening “what ifs,” we decided to spend the holidays with our household only.
I know we’re not alone in the fact that the holidays are our absolute favorite times, and much of that is due to family traditions: huge meals with our extended families, with Thanksgiving spent riding four wheelers and taking long walks in the woods, and Christmas full of games, baking, and holiday movies with my four siblings, their kids, and our parents and grandparents.
So, what do we do when it’s just us? After the holiday movies have been checked off our lists and we’ve made the rounds on our favorite board games, how do we make this year magical, especially for our little ones?
In anticipation of the holiday, my husband and I have been creating a “25 Days of Christmas” plan with our two girls. This is not a “we-have-to-do-this-or-else” list. If we’re not feeling up to a specific day’s activity, we’ll skip around to another one, or change our plans altogether. But it’s a nice way to make the holidays feel a little extra special, and a little less lonely. Here’s what’s on our list so far:
Create a Holiday Fort
After Thanksgiving, we’ll get to work creating a fort that’s sturdy enough to stay up until January – hopefully one that’s big enough to watch movies in. There are a lot of great tutorials on YouTube and Pinterest, but this is the one we plan to use: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HPnf15i-Ls
Rock a Photo Op
We’re going to set the kids loose and tell them to dress up in their craziest Christmas-themed outfits, then have a photo shoot (maybe in our fort!). Luckily, our girls are just the age to enjoy this. In fact, they just might have more fun doing this than standing in line to see Santa.
Plan a Family 5K
Whether you’re a family of two or ten, this can be a fun way to spread holiday cheer and burn off some of that pint-up energy. You can create fun prizes like “best race outfit” and “most team spirit.” Plus, we’re going to challenge our girls to make a “race” map from memory, then surprise us with the route. Also, please know that you don’t have to run this! Long strolls are totally acceptable.
Host a Talent Show
With so many at-home distractions during quarantine, I know my girls could use some extra attention. We’re hosting this with the whole family virtually so all the nieces and nephews can join in.
Challenge Each Other: Family Bake-Off
Since we have two girls, my husband will each have a “team” that will choose a recipe with a special Christmas design. The team whose baked good looks closest to the original recipe will win. We’ll send the photos to grandma and grandpa to choose the winners. (By the way, the bake-off could also be a paint-off, a gingerbread house competition, or any other idea your family may have.)
Compose Christmas Songs
This activity might depend on the shyness of your kiddos, but we’re going to task each family member with writing a poem or lyrics for a Christmas song. I am a pianist, and my husband plays guitar, so we’ll put the songs to music after they’re written.
(Safely) Stick to the Basics
Of course, we’re putting plenty of the usual holiday festivities on our list: favorite Christmas movies, Bible readings, decorating the house, picking out a Christmas tree, driving through the park to look at the Christmas lights, writing letters to Santa, fun arts and crafts, and more.
As strange as this holiday season will be, I am focusing on holding my people tight, and practicing gratitude every moment.
From our family to yours, may this season be full of joy, peace, and hope.