23 Creative Ways to Make Your COVID Christmas Special
Our public health officials recently announced that social gatherings in our area will continue to be banned over Christmas. While the announcement wasn’t unexpected, I had optimistically hoped for a reprieve to allow small gatherings over the holiday season.
For me, Christmas is the light that I’ve been looking forward to at the end of a very long year. I was prepared for a smaller-than-normal Christmas gathering, but hoped that we’d still be able to see our small COVID bubble. To hear that even Christmas dinner with the grandparents is out of the question was really tough pill to swallow.
Without our normal Christmas traditions, I know that Christmas is going to be sad and lonely and weird. But I also know that, for me, I have to find a way to make this year’s COVID Christmas special – both for my kids and for myself. If you find yourself in the same boat, here are 23 ideas to make Christmas 2020 special – even when you’re stuck at home.
Try out a new tradition
Good or bad, Christmas 2020 is one we’re likely to remember. Just like how we don’t remember the specifics of our daily commute, but DO remember the day that something unexpected happened on that commute, the uniqueness of this year’s COVID Christmas means it’s likely to stick in our memories for years to come.
With many of our normal celebrations out of the question, it’s the perfect year to try out a new tradition, or add a just-this-year celebration to your normal festivities. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Camp out under the Christmas tree
We did this last year for the first time, and my kids absolutely LOVED it. There’s something magical about sleeping under the glow of the tree. Not to mention, a sleepover with Mom or Dad in the living room is special in and of itself.
2. Have a candy cane hunt
Depending on the restrictions in your area, this may be something that you can to do outside with those in your COVID bubble.
3. Go all out with the Christmas decorations
While so many of our normal Christmas traditions are cancelled this year, we can still enjoy outdoor Christmas lights. This is the perfect year to up the ante on the Christmas decorations, to spread some extra holiday cheer in your neighbourhood.
On a similar note, since we’re all spending so much time at home, why not go all out with the indoor decorations? Add some extra decorations throughout the house, decorate the kids’ doors like snowmen, or create some of those DIY decorations that we never seem to have enough time for.
4. Ring bells for Santa on Christmas Eve
This is an idea that keeps popping up on my Facebook feed. To spread some extra Christmas cheer, and help Santa fly his sleigh after a long, hard year, people are encouraged to go outside and ring a bell at 6 PM on Christmas Eve.
5. Declare a theme day in the days leading up to Christmas
As much as parents grumble about theme days, kids love them. Early on in the pandemic we declared a random day “backwards day” and our kids thought it was the best thing ever. This year, when it feels like we’ve been living the same day over and over since March, adding a little extra cheer in the days leading to Christmas may be just what we need. A few ideas: red and green day (you could even serve red and greed food all day), Christmas sweater day, Santa hat day, Christmas PJ day, Christmas movie marathon day, Christmas baking day, etc.
6. Plant some extra evidence
For many of us, we know that Christmas morning without extended family and loved ones is going to be difficult. There’s perhaps nothing better to combat that disappointment than the excitement of children on Christmas morning, aided by an extra dose of Christmas magic. Leave footprints on the rug, sleigh marks on the driveway, nibbled pieces of carrots on the front lawn…you get the idea.
7. Get creative with your COVID Christmas dinner
Christmas dinner is going to be a tough one in my house, as it will be the first year that we haven’t gathered with extended family. I know that I need to figure out a way to make it special in its own way, or it’s just going to make me really, really sad. Some ideas I’ve come up with:
- order takeout,
- make it a unique meal and serve appetizers only, breakfast for dinner, or a seafood feast,
- order a meal kit from a favourite restaurant,
- order a pre-made traditional turkey feast,
- let each family member choose a dish (a charcuterie board to start, mac and cheese for the main, followed by ice cream sundaes? why not!)
- if your family is local, each family member could still make and drop off their “signature” dish.
8. Check out the Christmas star
On December 21, 2020, Jupiter and Saturn will align closer together than they have in centuries, appearing as an extra-bright “Christmas star” (source). If that isn’t a sign of hope as we leave 2020 behind, I don’t know what is.
9. Find a virtual substitute
Many of our regular events are cancelled this year, but some have moved online. Ballet companies are streaming online Nutcracker performances. The CP Holiday Train has shifted to an online concert. Even Santa has arranged for virtual visits.
10. Connect virtually
There’s no doubt that many of us will be connecting via Zoom or FaceTime with friends and family this holiday season. A few ideas to make these Zoom calls special: have a virtual Christmas PJ party, play games, exchange Secret Santa gifts and open them during the call, or have a virtual wine tasting.
Related: 7 Easy Ways to Simplify Christmas
Spread joy during the COVID Christmas season
One of the most difficult things about 2020 has been the isolation from almost everyone outside of our immediate households. Here are a few ideas to connect, spread joy, and thank those who have helped keep us safe this year.
11. Leave a box of Christmas cheer
Traditional cookie exchange parties are out, but we can still drop off cookies, Christmas treats and goodies for friends and loved ones.
12. Go carolling
Carolling is outside, can easily be physically distant, and spreads some much-needed joy. Obviously big groups are a no-go, but it strikes me that carolling is the perfect COVID Christmas activity – provided it complies with your local COVID restrictions.
13. Mail a hug
Hugs have been sorely lacking this year, and I’m willing to bet there are grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or other loved ones who would be thrilled to receive a hug from your kids. We mailed hugs to grandparents a couple of years ago, and they loved them. Check out this post for instructions.
14. Decorate a tree outdoors
This past weekend, while out for a walk on a local trail, we passed a tree that somebody had decorated. It was such a simple way to spread Christmas cheer, and made all of us smile.
15. Send thank you cards to healthcare workers
Our frontline healthcare workers have been working tirelessly for all of us this year, and making enormous personal sacrifices. Send a note of thanks, or a homemade card from the kids, to your local hospital or healthcare workers.
16. Give back
Giving back is even more important this year, when so many of us have had our lives turned upside down by the pandemic. There are so many simple ways to make an impact. Donate to the food bank, sponsor a family, donate toys, give to a homeless shelter, or enlist help from the kids to choose a cause to support.
17. Leave a thank you for your delivery driver
Our delivery drivers have kept us going through this pandemic, dealing with increased volumes and a huge amount of uncertainty (remember when we were all wiping down our packages??). As always, this is their busiest time of year, so I’m sure they’d appreciate a heartfelt thank you, along with some drinks and snacks that they might not otherwise have time to grab during their very long days.
Enjoy outside activities (while social distancing?)
Coronavirus restrictions are different everywhere, but in many places outdoor activities with those outside your household are still ok – especially if you’re able to maintain physical distance (and/or wear masks). The problem? The hikes, bike rides, and socially distanced backyard barbecues that got us through the early days of the pandemic aren’t a viable option in the middle of winter.
I’m about as indoorsy as they come, but this year, we’re channelling the advice of the oft-repeated Scandinavian mantra: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” Here are a sampling of winter activities to enjoy this holiday season – if your local COVID restrictions permit.
18. Check out Christmas lights.
Driving around to look at Christmas lights is an annual tradition in our family. While we can’t go for a drive with extended family members, walks are allowed, so this year we may walk around to check out the lights in our own neighbourhood instead. I also love the idea of making this into a game with a Christmas light scavenger hunt.
19. Winter sports
Perhaps you wouldn’t normally spend Christmas day on the ski hill. This year, it’s not a bad option. Skiing, skating, snowshoeing, sledding – as long as you’re not piling on the same sled, these are easily adaptable for social distancing.
20. Play in the snow
Build a snowman or snow fort, make snow angels, have a snowball fight. Again, these aren’t holiday-specific activities, but may be a safe way to spend time with local family or friends.
21. Gather safely
If COVID restrictions permit, there are ways to make socially distanced outdoor gatherings work in winter. Have a bonfire, bundle up for an outside picnic, or just go for a walk.
22. Play a game
This is far from a normal Christmas activity, but one of my sons is getting a laser tag set for Christmas, and I keep thinking it would make the perfect COVID activity. There are so many outdoor games and activities that are easily adaptable to social distancing – hide and seek, tag (use a pool noodle to keep distance), capture the flag, etc.
23. Drive-by parade
By now, we’re no strangers to drive-by parades for special occasions. This is a great way to spread holiday cheer to older extended family members.
Do what works for you
Finally, an important qualifier. Don’t allow this list – or any other list of Christmas activities – to add more stress to your life. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m all about figuring out what’s important to YOU, and skipping the rest. This list is intended to help you brainstorm ideas to make this COVID Christmas special. If that’s not what you need this year – or you don’t have the bandwidth to worry about Christmas magic when you’re just trying to survive this brutal year – that’s ok too. Do what works for you.
How are you celebrating your COVID Christmas?