5 Cool Activities Any Family Can Do Absolutely Anywhere — Even During a COVID Christmas
“Rejoice! Rejoice!” — to quote a familiar Christmas carol
If you’re tired of restrictions, fear, and continual talk of the COVID crisis, take heart. If you think your Christmas will be different this year, you’re probably right, but you can still rejoice because “different” isn’t always bad. This year, without the traditional parties at restaurants, without Christmas open-houses, movie-escapades to the theaters for annual holiday releases, and without the unbridled bustling at shopping centers, you may think there’s nothing for your family to do this holiday season. But think again. To quote another familiar tune, “Don’t worry. Be happy.”
Here are five cool activities that any family can do absolutely anywhere, even now, during this unprecedented COVID Christmas.
1) Light Show Tour
When I was a little girl, my parents would stow their three daughters in the backseat of our old black Chevy. Fresh from a bath, wrapped in flannel jammies and smelling of talcum powder, we sat arranged by age, upright like crayons in a box, gazing out the frosty windows. Daddy would drive around taking his girls around our neighborhood, slowing cruising up and down every single street before he’d head to another large subdivision across the road. Then he’d chauffeur us through surrounding towns, listening to our oohs and aahs and the occasional shout, “Oh, look at that one!”
Here’s good news: This year, more people than ever have put up holiday lights, and they’ve done it earlier than in previous years. Decorating for Christmas this year is a valiant effort to repeal the darkness, to bring smiles to our faces in a year when there hasn’t been much to smile about.
Looking at lights is good for you and your family. Kristen Carpenter, the chief psychologist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center notes,
“Holiday lights and decorations can help bolster people’s moods and fend off seasonal depression.”
Take your crew on a Light Show Tour. Make this activity even more fun for your family by creating a paper ballot with categories like “Most Original Design,” “Most colorful,” “Most Decorated,” and “My favorite.” Or you could do a “top three” list. Depending on the age of your family, you can even ask them to write down an address to indicate which place they’re voting for or mark the spot on a printed map.
Follow up with a voting party when you get home and record the winners in a notebook, so you can compare results from year to year.
2) Family Christmas Documentary
Everyone has a camera and video feed these days. How about using those to create a documentary film about your family’s Christmas 2020?
You can plan ahead or do an impromptu kind of interview, asking questions like these:
- Name three good things about this year.
- Tell us what school was like in 2020.
- Tell us what your job was like in 2020.
- Is Christmas this year the same or different as it’s always been?
- What have you learned from this year’s experiences?
- When you’re old, what do you think you’ll remember most about 2020?
You might start by asking each family member to introduce themselves — not just asking them to tell their name and age, but to tell you about their favorite activity, what they want to do when “they grow up,” who their hero is, or what they want most in 2021. You never know what statements may become the stuff of family legends and appropriate video clips — either charming or churlish — for rehearsal dinners or future “roasts.”
A family documentary may become a valued tradition, a loving look at a family’s growth and evolution from year to year.
3) Music and Movie Marathon
Ask members of your family to contribute the names of a certain number of their favorite Christmas songs. (You choose how many depending on the ages of your family members). Teenagers may be happy to put together a playlist of the family favorites, and if they enjoy a bit of showmanship, they can prepare a DJ-style commentary discussing whose favorite it is. Younger kids can make a poster or list with the names of the songs in the order of popularity.
This playlist can be streamed while you’re opening presents or eating Christmas dinner.
Using the same approach, ask family members to contribute the name of their favorite Christmas movies. Have someone tally the votes, and then make a list of the family favorites. You might even consider having a Top Ten or a Top Five list. Start from the bottom of the list, and play these movies while you’re prepping, wrapping, or resting, or use this as an “after-package-opening” activity.
4) Photo Gallery
Do you have boxes of old photos? Dozens of memory cards filled with hundreds of photos? Collections of pics stored on your phone or in cloud storage?
How about asking your family to go through them and pull out all the Christmas photos and then categorize them by years? Compile a Christmas photo gallery, either virtually or physically. Create a collage of photos over the years, or put them into a photobook via Shutterfly, Snapfish, or Walgreens. It’s an easy process, and older kids can exercise artistic creativity in picking out templates and captions.
An alternative to photos is to do a family collection of past Christmas cards. You know those wonderful photos families often send at holiday time? I have a collection from my kids and my nieces and nephews because I can never stand to throw them away after Christmas. The resulting stack of photos chronicles each family’s history, year by year. You can track engagements, marriages, births, pet adoptions, and graduations through those photos.
Whether the photos are of your own family, or a friend or relative’s family, you’ll enjoy watching the evolution of the group. Your family can easily create these portable, annual photo galleries. Take a 5–6 foot long strip of wide decorative ribbon. Staple or tack it to the wall, and then staple those photos, year by year, vertically on it. TaDa! A family history in photo cards.
5) Chess Tournaments
If you haven’t heard of the Netflix show called “The Queen’s Gambit,” check it out. While it’s not appropriate for younger children, it may be something you can watch with your teenaged children. If your family consists of grown adults, even better, because this is a compelling story of a young woman whose brainpower boosts her through the ranks of an all-male chess world. It’s also the story of addiction, loneliness, and how one person’s kindness can change the world.
Watching “The Queen’s Gambit” will make you want to play chess and play it well. This year, since many people had more time at home, the sale of chess sets and other board games was already up, but since the premiere of the Netflix series in October of 2020, the sale of chess sets has skyrocketed by 215% since last year.
Learn the rules together. Have a chessboard set up in a corner of the kitchen or the living room. Stash a book on rules in your bathroom or on your bookcase. Encourage practice sessions. Review “a-rule-a-day” when you’re together. Organize a family chess tournament (with or without prizes). Keep ongoing tallies of wins and losses, or set a family goal of playing 20 games by the end of January. Your brains and relationships will get stronger because “The family that plays together, stays together.”
To Quote Another Christmas Song…
“Have yourself a merry little Christmas Let your heart be light From now on Our troubles will be out of sight…”
A vaccine is coming. The Christmas star is visible for the first time in 800 years. Things are looking up, and these five activities will help you and your family find the cheer in this difficult year.
If you liked this, you might appreciate these Christmas articles: