No Christmas Tradition Is Worth Spreading COVID-19—What We're Doing Instead

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
10 Ways To Have A Merry Stay-At-Home Christmas This Year
Scary Mommy and Annie Otzen/Getty

Thanks (no, thanks) to the pandemic, many of us are altering our traditional holiday plans. I admit, I’m disheartened at the thought of not decorating cookies with my extended family or exchanging funky gifts in-person with my favorite cousin. My kids are beside themselves that the cousin party isn’t happening at the hotel like it has their entire childhood. However, I’m also mindful that no Christmas traditions are worth putting family members or ourselves at risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19.

I’m beginning to come around to the fact that Christmas, our favorite holiday, will look a lot of different this year. We’ve been brainstorming on how to make sure our stay-at-home Christmas is merry, despite how non-traditional it will be. There are endless possibilities, and we just have to get creative.

Bake your family’s favorite Christmas cookie recipe.

Introduce your kids to your family’s passed-down cookie recipe, if you haven’t already. Or, find a new cookie and make plenty to freeze and have later. A few years ago, we made peanut butter reindeer cookies, with chocolate-covered pretzels for antlers and red and brown chocolate candies for eyes and a nose. They were a huge hit and the main cookie they ask to make every year. We also make snowball cookies and mint-chip cookies, both of which freeze well and last us the whole month.

Take time to purge and organize before the holiday fun.

There are many donations needed this time of the year, including coat and winter accessory donations. Help your child go through their rooms and find any toys, books, and games that they no longer enjoy. By purging, organizing, and donating you are making room for any new items your family receives this season as well as helping others. While you’re at it, ditch all the holiday décor you no longer like or use.

Watch Christmas movies from your childhood.

My kids absolutely love Home Alone, which was my favorite childhood Christmas movie. We can quote the entire flick. Elf is another favorite. However, we’re also watching a few other more contemporary faves, including Jingle Jangle on Netflix and Christmas Chronicles 2. Staying in and watching a holiday movie has never been a better idea.

Take on a charity project.

Just because we’re staying home doesn’t mean we can’t contribute. There will still be donation toy boxes, nursing home and children in foster care buddies, and plenty of charitable organizations that can use cash. Get your entire family involved. Kids can contribute some of their allowance, for example.

Schedule video gift-opening sessions.

No, it’s not the same as opening gifts in person, but it can be fun. Ship gifts in advance, get them wrapped (if need be), and put a video session on the calendar. We plan to spread out our video chats over the month so we don’t jam-pack Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It’s a good idea to set ground rules for kids. Good manners are still expected such as saying “thank you” to the giver. For the adults, plan in advance how you will go about opening gifts, such as the order, so you’re not scrambling the day of.

Take and share the pictures.

Just because you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go doesn’t mean you can’t commemorate the holidays. In fact, this year more than ever, our relatives and friends will appreciate the pictures we share with them on social media. We need a sense of normalcy and joy during this unprecedented time. Go ahead and order the matching family pajamas and snap some pics. Don’t forget to schedule a virtual Santa visit for your kiddos–another fun photo op.

Blast the holiday music.

Music (and twinkly lights) can lift overall mood. There are so many fantastic new Christmas albums this year, no matter your family’s vibe. Check out Dolly Parton’s A Holly Dolly Christmas, Meghan Trainor’s A Very Trainor Christmas, Leslie Odom, Jr.’s The Christmas Album, and Pentatonix’s We Need a Little Christmas. You can’t go wrong with classics from Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald.


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Bring back family game night.

Perhaps your family has never been big on game nights, or maybe you used to do them before you became “too busy.” Well, now we have the opportunity. Buy favorite snacks (or haul out the leftover Halloween candy) and play games the whole family can enjoy. If your family is bigger like mine, you can split between two games. We prefer games everyone can play like Uno, Sorry, and charades. If you have a favorite childhood game, teach your family how to play it. When in doubt, old fashioned BINGO (with prizes) is always a big hit.

Write Santa letters.

My kids love writing letters to Santa to leave out on Christmas Eve night alongside milk, cookies, and carrots for the reindeer. Bust out paper, markers, and stickers and let them have fun. An alternative is to mail a Santa letter and get a response with the help of USPS! (Yes, it’s for real!) Just make sure you do it before December 7th.

Treat yourself.

Oftentimes, parents make the holidays all about the kids and neglect themselves. Work some special treats into your holiday budget for yourself, your partner, and other adults in your lives. Splurge on favorite coffee for Christmas morning, and get yourselves some new and cozy pajamas. Perhaps gift each other a few hours of alone time just to relax and rejuvenate.

Certainly, this holiday season is going to look and feel much different than years past. However, I’m hopeful that with some planning and commitment to a good attitude, we will still have a merry stay-at-home holiday.

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