Many of our family traditions involve *gasp* public gatherings. Now that everything has changed, we needed to find some new ways to celebrate the holiday. Our activities might look different, but there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the holidays with your family. Read on for 9 of my favorites!
1. Cookie or gingerbread house decorating contest
Many children love opportunities to get creative. This is especially true when the supplies include sweets of all kinds! Bring out the gumdrops, candy canes, gummy bears, licorice, chocolate chips, and of course, frosting. We often split a batch of frosting and use food coloring to make a rainbow of colors.
Instead of food, you could also use stickers or cutouts of gingerbread, candy canes, red and green hearts, snow drifts, trees, lights, and ornaments. Your local scrapbook supply store will have oodles of options at the ready.
Once the final touches have been placed, share photos of the completed projects. Friends, family, and/or other participants can vote on the winners. Prizes can be bragging rights, a DIY trophy, gift cards, a movie ticket, bragging rights, cookie-themed gifts, or a movie ticket, for example.
2. Take turns video chatting or pre-recording a holiday story to be read aloud every night
Our family’s nighttime routine always ends with a story (or three) before bedtime. In December, these often include The Christmas Carol and The Night Before Christmas. A winter-themed chapter book would allow you to stretch the story out over a couple of weeks, or even the month.
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, The Long Winter, is about winter-time, and the family celebrates Christmas in the story. The fourth book in the Swallows and Amazons series is titled Winter Holiday (originally published in 1933) and is great for kids who love adventure. When finished with a longer book, it can be fun to discuss afterward – almost like a family book club!
3. Christmas light caravan
One of our traditions was to load up in a large van, drive around to view holiday light displays, and sing Christmas carols. While we won’t be gathering in the same way this year, we can form a caravan to view the displays together.
Plan an evening to peruse Christmas lights. Make a map of the areas you will visit. Call each other on walkie-talkies or phones to discuss favorites or surprises along the way.
Finish the night with a cup of hot cocoa topped with marshmallows when you get back home.
4. Recipe share
This activity can be stretched out over a week or more to savor the delight. First, choose the theme. This could be a favorite holiday cookie/dessert, drink/mocktail, or green- and red-colored foods, for example. Each family shares a favorite recipe that goes along with the theme. Set up a video call to share where they got the recipe, any tips on how to make it, why it’s special, etc.
Set a date to review the prepared recipes. Prepare and taste all the recipes beforehand. Arrange for a video call to share reviews of each recipe. If your family is competitive (like mine!) you could offer a prize for the best/favorite recipes. Prizes could be a fun holiday potholder and towel set, a gift card to a local bakery or restaurant, or a traveling trophy to be passed to the winner next year.
5. Ugly sweater contest
Hold an ugly sweater contest for an easy way to get everyone in the holiday spirit. Once everyone is dressed in their most hideous garments, share the photos or schedule a Zoom party and have a fashion show.
Attendees can vote on the tackiest DIY sweater, most original idea, best color combination, or most traditional ugly sweater. If you prefer to keep it simple, you could award Ugly, Uglier, and Ugliest sweater.
Create a playlist for the Zoom meeting or take turns singing holiday karaoke. Remember, the point is to have fun, not create Instagram-perfect photos!
6. Host a holiday film showing followed by movie trivia
If your family loves games like mine does, a trivia/game night is just the ticket for holiday fun. You can make it an even better event by hosting a holiday film showing beforehand.
While the list of qualified “Christmas” movies may be controversial (looking at you, Die Hard), there’s a film for everyone during the holiday season. Choose a Hallmark movie, Christmas classic, or modern holiday movie and set a date/time for friends and family to watch. Connect via Zoom, by speaker phone, or set up a group for live-texting during the movie.
Once the movie is over, grab some more refreshments and start the trivia. There are trivia questions grouped by film category (classic, modern, movie music, etc.). No peeking — you have to click for the answer to each question!
Or you can try to guess the original movie title from a clue, such as “Stupendous existence” or “Jovial north dweller.” For younger players, here’s a kids reindeer trivia game. For us, the fun, laughter and memories we made were more important than the movie itself.
7. Opt for outdoor activities
While some activities are dependent upon the weather, (come *on* white Christmas!), even if it’s merely cold, there are plenty of outdoor holiday activities. If the white stuff is in abundance, don your snow pants, coat and gloves and go have a snowball battle or snowman building contest!
Plastic sleds are inexpensive, easy to find, and glide beautifully across the snow. Grab some sleds, or a traditional runner sled, if you have one, and hit the hills.
Even if the weather isn’t cooperating, there are several ice rinks available. Call your local ice rink to find out times available for public skating. For example, The Ralston Community Ice Rink offers skate renta
ls, and admission is only $5. They also offer drop-in hockey sessions for anyone age 16 and over.
None of these ideas sound good, or snow not happening? Try making a wreath, cutting down a Christmas tree (or purchase a live one), go for a winter hike, hold a candy cane hunt in your backyard, or warm up your vocal chords and take the family caroling.
If random acts of kindness are more your style, shovel snow for a neighbor, decorate an outdoor tree for the wildlife, write sidewalk chalk messages of encouragement, pick up litter in a local park, or leave candy canes on windshields in a parking lot.
8. Virtual gift-opening party
My favorite part of gift-giving is seeing the recipient’s expression when they open my gift. Engage the family in the excitement with a live video call or recording that can be shared later. Skype, Google Meets/Hangouts, Zoom and FaceTime are great platforms for group sharing.
For a virtual party, assign an order for opening the gifts in advance so everyone knows when their turn will be. Be sure to mute your mics or stay quiet while the person is opening the gift so you can hear their reaction.
Collect the bows and ribbon from each of the gifts opened and compare the collections at the end. Children may stay more engaged when they have a task, especially when they have another chance to win!
9. Cookie/treat swap
Each family prepares their favorite cookie or treat and pre-packages them into “family-sized” portions. (Be sure each family adheres to good hygiene practices when preparing contributions for the swap!!)
Designate a house where the treats can be placed on the porch or driveway, and place a large bag/box labeled with each family’s name. (Or agree on a ship-by date if you have family members not within driving distance, to ensure everyone receives their treats at nearly the same time).
On the swap day, participants take turns placing the sweets they prepared into each of the family containers. Some might even like to dress up to deliver the goods! When everyone has dropped off their contribution, each family takes their bag/box of goodies home to enjoy.
Schedule a Skype session, Google Hangout, or Zoom meeting afterwards, if you want, to share recipes or plan another event!