How to Make the Holidays Memorable During COVID
2020 has undoubtedly been a year we will remember, often due to the many changes we have had to undergo around holiday times and special occasions. With the holidays around the corner, it is time to consider new ways of making this year memorable for the entire family.
Many people have traditional family dinners that may not be possible this year. Holiday parties may not be a wise idea, depending on where you live. With COVID numbers on the rise again in many states, you may have to reconsider your holiday plans.
As parents of children with special needs, we have to think of their well-being first. Next, we have to consider the health of our elderly relatives and their risk factors. Finally, the city or county where you live may also have rules in place that you must follow. It is easy to understand why some people just want the holidays to be over rather than to have to think about how to make them memorable and safe this year.
Lowering the Risk During the Holidays
If hosting or joining a family event is still in your plans, consider taking the celebration outdoors. According to the CDC, outdoor celebrations are the safest option. Of course, if it is too cold, rainy, or snowy, you may want to reconsider how many people to invite. Ensuring that you have proper ventilation is also crucial. Setting up dinner in a garage is another option in inclement weather. Open inside windows whenever possible if gathering in a home.
Keep social gatherings as short as possible. The longer people are together, the greater the risk. If you plan a get together with loved ones, make sure everyone knows that masks are required except while eating. The CDC also recommends everyone to get the flu vaccine this year to help reduce that risk.
Traveling is another area where the CDC recommends avoidance. Mass transit, such as planes, buses, and trains, can increase your risk. If you or loved ones are planning to travel, wash your hands frequently, wear a mask, and social distance as much as possible. Select air carriers that block the center seats to reduce the number of people on the plane. Make sure to check state quarantining guidelines for the latest updates. If possible, quarantine in a hotel room for 48 hours before seeing family and friends.
Another possible option for some families is for everyone to travel to a hotel operating at reduced capacity. You may even be able to arrange for a private family dinner in a separate dining or conference room.
If your holiday is a multi-day celebration, limit extensive contact by sticking with the same guests each night. The more people you share holiday events with, the greater the health risk.
Preparing Your Children for Holiday Changes
Talking to your children ahead of time to let them know about the change in plans is crucial. Perhaps they look forward to seeing a favorite aunt, uncle, or cousin at the holiday celebrations. Let them know you can still find ways to be together.
Acknowledge their emotions – there is no right or wrong way to feel here. Anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, or, in some cases, relief may appear at any time. Be prepared for breakdowns or tantrums – many children have difficulty with change during normal circumstances – COVID-19 is anything but normal.
Include your child in the plans as much as possible. That way, your child may feel more in control of situations beyond their control. Let them have a say in some of the changes you will be making. Give them limited choices so as not to overwhelm them with decisions.
Sharing Family Meals Together but Apart
Making holidays memorable often means sticking with traditions. However, this year, many of the traditions we know, and love are not possible. Perhaps you are secretly missing your great aunt’s fruit cake (ok, maybe not that one).
You may not all be together in the same location, but you can enjoy the same meal. This year may be the time to have everyone share their treasured recipes so that you can still enjoy each other’s cooking in the safety and comfort of your own homes. Maybe one person can create a digital recipe book for the entire family to prepare the same meal.
Select a time for everyone to gather together in their homes for dinner via Zoom or Facetime to enjoy the meal. One by one, each person can share what they are grateful for this year. Make it fun by having someone say, “pass the potatoes,” and each family passes the bowl around their table simultaneously.
Allow for silliness. If family meals are often filled with laughter and jokes, or even the occasional overstuffed mouth, keep those traditions alive during your zoom events. Go ahead and see who can put the most olives on their fingers without breaking them!
Keeping Traditions Alive – In New Ways
We may not be able to get together with family and friends this year, but we can still keep many traditions alive – just in new ways.
Sending greeting cards, especially homemade ones by the children, is a great way to connect with loved ones.
Here are some other ways to keep old traditions alive in these COVID times:
Diwali – send candles, gifts, and special sweets (mithai) to family members
Thanksgiving – share recipes so that you do not miss out on family favorite dishes, create handprint turkeys and send them to relatives
Hanukkah – create paper menorahs and dreidels to mail to loved ones, or send Hanukkah cookies and chocolate coins (gelt) to family and friends
Christmas – create Christmas themed crafts such as candy canes and ornaments to mail to loved ones, send gifts of chocolate covered fruits, nuts, and bark
Kwanzaa – send gifts of fruit baskets (mazao) to relatives, make pictures of fruit baskets and candleholders (kinara) to send by mail
Since many people will not be getting together for gift exchanges, this is a great time to turn to friends you know who have small businesses that would usually be doing gift fairs this time of year. Their incomes are likely suffering. Go on their websites to send gifts to relatives.
Quarantine-friendly gifts such as board games, puzzles, books, music, personalized throw blankets, and fuzzy socks are excellent holiday gifts this year. Everybody can get together via Zoom for one big present opening party.
For all these holidays, letting your child help even more with homemade decorations can minimize the impact of not getting together with extended family members. They can make decorations for your home, as well as ones to send or deliver to relatives.
Make festive holiday wreaths to hang on your door using supplies from dollar stores in the colors of your holiday. There are plenty of ideas online. If your child is able, have him or her search and come up with options.
How to Handle Missed Holiday Traditions
It can be challenging to explain to your child that some annual traditions cannot happen this year. Telling your son or daughter that they cannot sit on Santa’s lap may very well lead to a breakdown or tantrum. Prepare yourself in advance for how to handle this to limit the outburst.
Perhaps you can explain that Santa is working extra hard this year to make presents and that he has asked for all the boys and girls to send him letters instead of being able to meet in person. Help your child write a special note, and perhaps enclose a photo or picture they have made to “cheer” Santa up. If possible, ask a family member or friend to dress up and pay your child a visit at home.
If your child looks forward to playing a game of dreidel each year with his or her cousins, turn it into a zoom event, with everyone taking turns with their dreidels. Let the parents put the gelt or coins into the “pot” for them to win.
Whatever your holiday traditions are, be creative. Talk with family and friends to come up with new ways to keep these activities alive in these often-trying times.
Creating Special Ways to Make the Holidays Memorable This Year
Making holidays memorable often takes some planning, even in “normal” times. In 2020, you may feel overwhelmed by the decisions at hand. While you do not want to disappoint your child or extended family, you also have to consider safety.
Keeping all that in mind, you can make the holidays memorable this year without overtaxing yourself. Many stores and restaurants offer holiday meals at affordable prices. Instead of cooking, sit with your family and look over menu options together, giving everyone a say at what they would like to have. Just think of all the time catering in will save you.
Deliver meals and gift baskets to loved ones in nursing homes or hospitals. Let your child decorate a special cookie (even the messiest decorations are meaningful) and pick out gift basket items at a local dollar or other store. For more safety, choose items online and have them shipped to you – or the recipient directly.
Look up new recipes together for special family meals you can all make. Get some new cookie cutter shapes and bake holiday cookies to share with friends and family. If the first responders in your community accept home-baked treats, that is another fun activity to do with your child.
Other Fun Ways to Make the Holidays Memorable This Year
We want to leave you with a few more ways to make the holidays memorable this year:
- Have an all-day movie or TV marathon of your family’s favorite holiday movies and videos. String popcorn garlands – or just eat it while watching!
- Make hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream – even if it is 80 degrees outside.
- Create a scavenger hunt featuring holiday-themed treats and small gifts around your house or backyard.
- Plan a unique local excursion to someplace in your town that you have never been before or one that you have not visited for some time
- Visit a nursery and bring home a new plant that your child can help care for and watch grow.
- Take a walk or drive around your neighborhood at night to check out the holiday lights and decorations.
- Learn or create new songs for your family to sing about the holiday.
- Act out some holiday skits, finding ways to include all family members – even your pets!
- Attend religious services and events online. Many places offer Facebook live events for children and families, as well.
Most of all, laugh, hug, and have fun with your child. Remind yourself that this, too, shall pass. Take photos of this memorable year – it will be one to remember for decades to come.
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This post originally appeared on our November/December 2020 Magazine