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Christmas in the middle of a pandemic is bound to look a lot different from most years. And we all can get a little caught up thinking of all the things we CAN’T do this year, it’s important to remember just how many things we still CAN do! So we’ve compiled a list of things you and your family can do to celebrate Christmas this year, in 2020 (including some things you’ve probably never tried before!)
1. Hunt for a Christmas Tree in the Forest
Head up to the mountains, Griswald Christmas Vacation style, to find and cut down your own Christmas tree this year! Trust us – it can be MUCH more fun than it’s portrayed in the movie.
First step – you’ll need a permit. Check out Recreation.gov, and search for Christmas Tree permits to find a forest near you with permits available. Pack warm clothes, sleds, a thermos of hot cocoa, and a warm lunch or snack. Then make a day of it! Explore the forest, enjoy being outside, and do NOT cut down a tree 10 miles away from your car 🙂
2. Go Sledding
Sledding doesn’t need to be at a big sledding hill with a zillion other families, or with a tow rope and an expensive ticket. Head up to the mountains and find your own spot. Just make sure you scope it out carefully before sending the kids down (just in case there is a partial frozen river, a hidden rock, etc. at the bottom).
Or, if you are comfortable with it, check out the commercial sledding or tubing locations near you. They can be really convenient, since you can often rent gear right onsite, and they come with amenities like bathrooms, and don’t require any searching for the perfect spot.
Go See Lights
3. DIY Polar Express
Make driving around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights EXTRA fun this year by converting the family car into a Polar Express. Decorate your car with battery powered holiday lights, bows, whatever you want. Then play a recording of a loud train, and ask your child to come outside to check out what is happening. As they enter the vehicle, hand them their special ticket, and be sure to punch it. On the ride, serve hot cocoa in a to-go cup or a special treat, like Reindeer Chow.
4. Go to a Drive Through Christmas Light Event
Many of the best holiday events have made the decision to change things up this year, and allow guests to visit from the safety of their own vehicles. This huge Christmas event near us has switched to drive-thru for the 2020 season, and will even be offering some of their yummy snacks and treats as drive through. We are looking forward to making the most of this event, and checking our their truly amazing light display in a safe way!
With most events and get togethers cancelled this year, use the extra time to DIY with your family!
5. Decorate with Greenery and Pinecones Collected from the Forest
Save money, and up the fun by making your own Christmas decorations this year. Collect different types of greenery, pinecones, sticks, and more. Maybe even take a walk around the neighborhood and ask neighbors if they’ll allow you to take a clipping from a holly bush, something with winter berries, or just a unique colored branch.
6. Make Ornaments
Sure those Pinterest-friendly perfect trees are nice, but who doesn’t love a tree filled with a mix of beautiful ornaments made by hand. This year is the perfect year to make one, or a ton of new ornaments for your tree. My kids LOVE making something special, and then hanging it up on the tree to show off. And I might even make a few ornaments myself this year, after the kids go to bed.
7. Make Gifts
Making a gift for friends and family can be a great budget-friendly option AND you can have a lot of fun, and put a lot of heart into your gift as well. Even better, if you get the kids involved, you’ll teach them some really valuable lessons, like sewing, knitting, woodworking, or baking, that can provide them with a hobby they’ll enjoy for the rest of their lives.
8. So Many Crafts
Pinterest is filled with a zillion really fun craft ideas for kids, or adults. Pinterest-fail or Pinterest-success- it’s really more about the process and having fun trying! So get your craft supply list ready, and dive in!
9. Watch a Virtual Performance
ARC Dance Company in Seattle, WA is a really amazing non-profit that does a short and sweet nutcracker performance, perfectly designed for younger kids that may not be able to sit through the WHOLE Nutcracker. This year, they are going virtual! So even if you do not live in the Seattle area (OR you were not brave enough to take your little guy to an in-person performance), you’ll get to enjoy a wonderful performance!
Trans-Siberian Orchestra is also going online this year! If you love their creative take on Christmas classics, this is the perfect opportunity to get an up-close performance from the comfort (and safety) of your home!
10. Do a Zoom Silly Gift Exchange Party
When meeting virtually, you won’t be able to follow ALL the rules of a White Elephant gift exchange – no stealing gifts unfortunately. However, you can mail friends and relatives a silly gift and watch them open it up over Zoom. The kids will love picking out something truly hilarious, and watching someone else laugh over their goofy choice.
OR just do a White Elephant exchange at home with your immediate family. Everyone can gather silly things from around the house, and wrap them up beautifully for a fun, and funny, way to spend an evening.
Go All Out
11. Do It Up on Decor
Decorate tastefully, or with LOTS of kitsch. Silly or serious, or a combination of everything. Bring on the cheer this year, because we all could really use a little extra, by decorating inside and outside to the max!
Pull out ALL the decorations from storage, scour your local Facebook market, DIY from Pinterest, and watch for sales on lights and decorations.
12. Make the Fanciest Hot Chocolate
Hot chocolate on its own is wonderful. But, serve it in a fun Christmas mug- our kids adore these– and add fun toppings, like crushed peppermint, whipped cream, sprinkles, mini marshmallows, white chocolate chips, and add a cute little peppermint stick to stir, and you and your kids will be in hot cocoa heaven. You can even make a separate adults-only spike-your-hot-chocolate area for mom and dad.
Pro tip – watch the Hot Chocolate song 15 minutes into the movie Polar Express for extra fun!
13. Watch Every Christmas Movie
With longer nights, the evenings can drag on a bit. But, there are TONS of amazing Christmas movies out there that you can only really watch this time of year. A few of our FAVORITE kid-approved Christmas movies include:
- The Grinch – 2018 is more fun for kids, and less scary than previous versions
- Polar Express
- Arthur Christmas – perfect for even very young viewers
- Christmas Chronicles
- Olaf’s Frozen Adventure– short and sweet, with lots of great songs
- Christmas Vacation
14. Make Your Own Holiday Movie
Now that you’ve seen ALL the Christmas greats, why not try making one of your own? All you need is your phone, and the free Go Pro Software that’ll make video editing a breeze. Have the kids write a script, design costumes, and act everything out. Even if it’s a disaster, it’ll be a fun memory you can look back on for YEARS.
15. Go on a Sleigh Ride
A sleigh ride over snowy terrain, with mountain views, and a stop to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate is the perfect way to get your family in the holiday spirit. And, and it’s an activity that you can still enjoy safely this holiday season, with a few precautions – check out how Leavenworth Sleigh Rides plan to keep it’s riders safe here.
16. Ding Dong Ditch – Christmas Edition
Though we may be keeping our distance from friends and family this year, we can still show our love. Make your friends a bunch of your favorite Christmas cookies, and put them in a pretty Christmas box – we love this adorable set on Amazon with a note so they’ll know who made them. Then ring the doorbell and run.
17. Build a Snowman
Or even build a family of snowmen. Or make a snow beast, or a fort. Whatever you choose, you’ll have fun working on a big project outside together. Take lots of photos of your creation so you can remember it!
No snow? Try this fun FAKE snow and build a mini snowman inside.
Keep it Quiet
18. Board Games
With long nights and cold days, a cozy family game night might be just what your family needs. Here are a few Christmas-themed family games we love!
- 12 Days (age 8+)
- Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries (Age 8+)
- Santa’s Workshop (age 8+)
- Christmas Lights: A Card Game (Age 6+)
19. Send a Letter to Santa
One more reason to love our United States Postal Service – with their Letters From Santa Program, your child can send a letter to Santa, using the instructions here, and they’ll get a letter back from Santa himself!
20. Family Coloring Session
Get everyone in the family a coloring book – we love this one, pencils or crayons, and enjoy an evening coloring together under the light of the Christmas tree. Coloring can be a genuinely relaxing, and totally enjoyable experience you may have forgotten about. And of course, the kids will love having mom and dad on the floor participating as well!
This year has been particularly hard for lots of people. And many families are struggling this year. This year is the perfect year to start a tradition of giving and to help your children understand the joy of giving. There are so many ways to give!
21. Donate Unneeded Items from Around the House
Look around your house for any unused items that someone else may be able to use. Winter gear and clothing, blankets, and toys in good condition are great to donate to your local donation center.
22. Donate to the Food Bank
Make a donation to your local food bank. Nonparishables or monetary gifts are both welcome, but remember, food banks can buy much more food per dollar than you and I can.
23. Donate a Gift for a Child in Need
Here are a few programs we love:
- US Marine’s Toys for Tots Program
- Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program
- Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child Program
- Nationwide Children’s Hospital wishlist for kids who are spending extended periods of time in the hospital
24. Donate to an Animal Shelter
Make the holidays happy for a shelter pet by making a donation to a local animal shelter. Toys, blankets, and food are all welcome. Your local shelter may have a list of other needs as well or a list of things they could use volunteer help with. Some shelters will even let you come and play with a lonely pet, but be sure to call ahead to understand the rules and requirements.
We’ve all felt a little isolated this year, but when we can’t be together physically, it helps to extend a (distanced) hand, and help out those in our lives who could use a little help.
25. Drop Off a Hot Meal
Drop off a hot meal to someone who many not have had one in awhile or might be feeling lonely. Or, consider volunteering with Meals on Wheels- a program that delivers meals to seniors and acts as a way to check in on our senior citizens.
26. Help a Neighbor
Shovel a neighbor’s driveway, or rake their leaves. They may be overwhelmed right now and offering a helping hand might really make their day.
27. Give a Small Gift to a Friend
Drop off a small gift on the porch of a friend you haven’t seen in a while. It’s nice to let them know you’re thinking of them, even if you can’t hang out in person right now.
28. Help out a Senior
Many of our seniors are suffering from major loneliness, as we’ve had to isolate ourselves from grandparents, or older friends or family members. Bring a little joy to all seniors in your local senior center, or retirement home by donating small gift baskets, or… anything really. Our local Meals on Wheels Program has asked for donations of artwork from the community to donate to brighten the lives our their clients this year.
Try Something New
If your family normally goes on a big vacation, or spends the holiday season checking out every big holiday event, Christmas 2020 might look pretty different for you. But make the most of it by taking your family on a new adventure this year – maybe something you’ve never considered before.
29. Rent Snowmobiles
Take your family out on a big mountain adventure on snowmobiles! They can be a great way to explore the wilderness and see some beautiful sights you might never see otherwise. Note that snowmobiling is not a great activity for small children, but families with older kids will LOVE it.
31. Try Downhill Skiing
Sometimes, even when a ski hill is right in your backyard, actually getting out to do it is tough to swing. If you’ve never tried it – get out there this year and finally give it a go. Look for ski lessons that mention safety precautions to make sure you, and the instructor, stay safe (and BONUS: masks act double as a cozy face warmer in the cold, so you won’t mind wearing one!).
If you haven’t gone skiing in awhile, this is the perfect year to test your skills.
32. Try Cross-Country Skiing or Snowshoeing
Getting out on cross-country skis or snowshoes is a peaceful feeling you really can’t get anywhere else. And it’s a safe activity you and your family can do this year! Give it a try this holiday season!
34. Make Your Own Ice Rink in the Backyard!
If it’s cold enough, and you are brave enough, make your family a private skating rink! Check out these instructions on how to do it (and don’t worry – even if your skating rink is much MUCH smaller, it’ll still be fun!
30. Go Horseback Riding
No snow in your area? Try horseback riding. For many of us, this is an activity we’d love to try, but just never really get around to making it happen.
33. Try Winter Camping
Winter camping can be a really fun family adventure. With shorter, colder days, you’ll need to plan accordingly, with lots of warm clothing, hot chocolate, and lots of fun ways to stay cozy and entertained in the dark. During the day, enjoy cold-weather hikes, beautiful views, or just relaxing in the woods.
35. Have a Big Winter Bonfire!
Get the family bundled up with blankets and jackets, and light a big fire in the backyard. Roast chestnuts, marshmallows, hotdogs – whatever you and your family would enjoy!
And of course…
There is no denying that 2020 has been a crazy year. If you are lucky enough to have a little extra time with your family to enjoy it, there is no shame in just sticking with the ordinary. Sometimes, the best memories are those that are the most ordinary. I know we are definitely planning to take some time to slow things down, relax, and just enjoy a little quiet family time this holiday season.
Here’s hoping this holiday season is a great one, even if it’s a little different than normal.
Let us know in the comments what wonderful things you and your family have planned for this holiday season!