Anticipation is one of the best parts of the holidays. Who among us can’t recall watching out the window for relatives, aunts, and uncles to arrive? Bundling into the car to get to the big feast or to gather around a warm fire? Or in a world that seems long ago, waiting to see the faces and feel the hugs of your people in the arrivals area of the airport….

This year, many families and groups will be celebrating smaller, with fewer people. That may leave the grownups feeling less festive. It’s important to remember though, that kids take their cues from us. For them, the excitement is still present (and presents, honestly) so this year, part of the holiday to-do list needs to be prepared with a list of activities that fill in the gaps in such fun and meaningful ways that new traditions are born. We’ve tried going beyond puzzles and board games. They are tried and true, and kudos to you if your family is still enjoying them this far into 2020. Here are some suggestions to get you through:

Get outside

It’s not a news flash that people have gotten more active since the pandemic hit, but we don’t have to dial it back as the temperatures drop. Now’s the time to see the fam look straight out of an LL Bean catalogue. Bundle ‘em up, and get ‘em moving. Everybody acts better after a little fresh air. So download an app like AllTrails and hit up a nearby park or nature preserve, Need an urban version? Try geo-caching. Little kids will love the treasure hunt aspect, and older ones will like that they get to use their phones. 

Progressive Dinner

This could be done one of two ways depending on your location and/or comfort level with dining out. Give each child or member of the family (depending on how many people you have and how hungry you are) a course like appetizers or a food category like “side dish” — then let them pick where to go or who to call. Kids of all ages will think it’s fun to see eggrolls next to Chick Fil A fries or go from a Thai restaurant to a bakery for dessert. 

Art for the ages

Hit up the local craft store and purchase matching crafts for the family. Turn on the tunes and decorate them together. Before you begin, write each artist’s name on theirs. Be sure to include the year. When everything is dry, set up a display of them or use them as place cards for your scaled down meal. These will become treasured favorites, and possibly something you can add to every year. 

Art for others 

Break out some fresh supplies (who isn’t inspired by fresh markers or colored pencils?) and make cards or pictures for people in local health care facilities who may not be having visitors. 

Decorate differently 

Embrace the change! If you won’t be entertaining, who cares what it all looks like, as long as it brings joy? Let the kids wrap their beds in lights. Fill your yard with the inflatables you normally think are tacky. If you normally get a fake tree, maybe this is the year you want to go cut down your own (just be careful!) 

Socially distanced service 

Sign up to ring bells for a Salvation Army kettle. Bring strollers, camp chairs, hot chocolate, and put on festive attire and good attitudes. Even if it’s just for an hour (we recommend tag teaming with friends, as shifts are usually two - three hours) this can be a great starting point for the concept and conversation of helping others. 

Movie magic

Many families have the tradition of a post festivity trip to the local cineplex. Even though it looks like we’re going to be waiting for the Top Gun sequel til next summer (sigh) many theatres are showing classics and renting whole theatres. So, call the people you’ve been around (or keep it close and don’t) and enjoy being able to talk as much as you want without making people mad. 

Home spa

This one may not fly with certain demographics (tween boys, here’s looking at you) but turn off all the screens, turn on the calming music, light a bunch of candles, and set up different spa stations throughout the house. If your kids are just too little for this, break out the swim suits, the beach toys, and the goggles, and throw them in the bathtub for an afternoon “swim break.” 

Let every voice be heard 

With the grownups not having to go to so many functions, it’s the perfect year to go caroling. Grab your LED candles, your flashing necklaces, and let each family member pick a stop and a song. Just ring the doorbell, stand at least six feet away, and  make sure nobody is pulling the trick that Buzz pulled on Kevin in “Home Alone 2.” 

Let it gooo

Hey, like Elsa said……it’s “a kingdom of isolation.” When the Covid holiday gets you down...pass out the screens and “turn away and slam the door” Just don’t stay there. 2021 will hopefully be worth melting for.

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