This holiday season will certainly be different than any in our memory, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be meaningful and memorable. While many of us are forgoing our usual family gatherings and parties with friends, I want to offer several ideas for other things you can do to make your holiday great. They won’t replace your normal traditions, but they could help you enjoy this strange season just a little bit.
Enjoy the Light of the Holidays
1. Join us for First Fridays: Light Up the Holidays. During this FREE virtual event that's part of Aurora's First Fridays, we’ll create paper luminaries using simple materials while we chat about ideas for making the holidays meaningful. Register now to join us December 4 at 7 pm CST.
2. Go see the lights! Here in Aurora, there’s always a great light display at Phillip’s Park, but there are various drive-thru light displays all over the country. Find one near you and drive through to enjoy the festive lights.
3. One of my favorite holiday traditions is singing “Silent Night” at the end of Christmas Eve services while holding a candle. There’s no need to miss out on this fun tradition! Light a candle wherever you are and sing! You can sing any of your favorite Christmas songs. If you have small kids, you might use glow sticks or battery-operated candles for safety. You could also gather outside with a few friends or neighbors to do this. (Be sure to stay apart as you sing!)
4. One of my favorite moments of the holiday season is sitting in a quiet living room at night by the lit tree. It’s so still and beautiful. I often use this moment to meditate on God’s light or on the things I’m grateful for. Enjoy these quiet, precious moments this season.
5. Do extra decorating this year. Because we won’t be hosting anyone in our homes, it may be tempting to cut back on decorating—after all, we’re the only ones who will see it. But I think this is reason to do even more than normal! We could all use a little extra light this holiday season, so feel free to decorate even more, especially with lights. Don’t forget your outside decorations, too! Make your home extra cheery for your neighbors as well.
6. Create an Advent devotional moment each day. Light a candle and read from an Advent devotional each day. You can see all my suggestions here.
7. If you're local, we're still holding our annual Christmas Prayer Night on December 17. Space is limited to keep everyone safe. Enjoy 90 minutes of contemplative prayer activities with us.
8. Be sure to enjoy holiday music! You might even have a dance party. I've been loving the new Christmas album from Leslie Odom, Jr. But listening to classic Christmas hymns is so meaningful too. They have such staying power and can help us feel grounded.
Meaningful Household Activities
1. For the last few years, we’ve created a tradition with our daughters where we read from an Advent book each night while we enjoy a piece of chocolate. We use Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. Each evening we read the day’s story, eat our piece of chocolate, and then hang up a small related ornament (free printout when you buy the book) on a small tree. It’s a meaningful tradition that we all look forward to. For a simplified version, you can use The Wonder of the Greatest Gift which includes a pop-up tree with ornaments.
Buy on Bookshop: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift or The Wonder of the Greatest Gift
Buy on Amazon: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift or The Wonder of the Greatest Gift
2. Explore the characters of the Nativity by spending time each day talking about one person and wondering about what it might have been like to be him or her. You can talk about Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, the shepherds, the wise men, and even baby Jesus. You might even color a picture each day.
3. Use stickers to make a nativity scene. I recently found this fantastic set of nativity stickers that feature darker-skinned people, making them more accurate. You can also print and color a background image for the stickers. It’s a great activity even for very young children. Tell the story of Christmas as you create your nativity.
4. Create a menu of 25 days of family fun. Create a list of fun activities you can engage all of December. These don’t need to be big things to be fun. You could assign activities to certain days, or create a menu that your family can choose from each day. Include things like watching a Christmas movie with popcorn, making Christmas cookies, coloring a nativity scene, dancing to holiday music, driving through holiday lights, wearing holiday pajamas, making fun hot cocoa with peppermint sticks and whipped cream, reading a holiday book together, making something for your neighbors, creating holiday cards for family, or anything else you can think of.
5. Make a new tradition. Involve kids or roommates in creating a brand-new tradition this year—perhaps something you don’t normally have time for. It could be just about anything! Just make sure that it’s fun and meaningful and doesn’t add more stress.
6. Food has a way of making ordinary days feel especially festive. Many people already make something special on Christmas morning, but if you don’t, plan to do so this year! We always make homemade waffles, which really are very simple. I use this recipe with an inexpensive waffle iron I got at Target. (One tip: keep waffles warm in a 200˚ oven while you’re making the rest.) Years ago, I used to make French Toast, and that was always a lot of fun, but waffles are a bigger hit with my kids. Cinnamon rolls are also popular, or you could make my favorite Blueberry Oatmeal Bake that you may recognize from retreats at The Perch (Pro tip: Use maple syrup instead of honey, and make it vegan by omitting the egg). Add bacon, orange juice, and coffee and you’ll have a rich, delicious breakfast to celebrate.
Connect with Friends and Family
1. Make cookies, cards, or another special treat for your neighbors. We’ve spent a lot of time chatting with neighbors this year, and it’s been so lovely to get to know them even better. Because many of us are seeing our neighbors more than anyone else, it’s a wonderful year to send a little something to brighten their holidays. You could make cookies, decorate a card, or drop off a small gift. You could even send over a holiday meal to a neighbor who lives alone.
2. Do a sides swap with your neighbors or friends. For Thanksgiving and/or Christmas, have each person choose a side to make: green bean casserole, salad, sweet potatoes, etc. Make extra portions and swap them so you each have a full dinner without having to make everything. You could even drop them off uncooked so they can bake them whenever they’re ready. It’s especially fun if your neighbors make a personal or cultural favorite so you all get to taste each other's traditions as well.
3. Meet outside for a brisk walk for some in-person connection that's still safe. Bundle up and grab a warm drink! You could explore a new trail, hike in the snow, or even do cross-country skiing.
4. Share some holiday cookie decorating with friends. You could decorate cookies live together over Zoom or simply swap photos of your decorated cookies in a group text. Make it even more fun by delivering cookie decorating kits (a few unfrosted cookies with some frosting and frosting bags) to your friends and then coming together live over Zoom to decorate and chat. You could even have a small prize for the best decorated cookies.
5. Speaking of Zoom, use this popular service to join virtually with friends and family for cooking together, enjoying a toast together, or even opening presents. It doesn’t have to be a long meeting, but seeing each other’s faces will be really nice. Zoom announced they’re removing their 40-minute limit for Thanksgiving, so take advantage!
6. Send a meaningful gift to friends near and far. We offer lots of thoughtful and inspirational gifts at The Perch. Shop our online store here. We offer shipping around the U.S. or you can select Local Pickup to get it from our downtown Aurora location.
Share your own ideas with us below! I'd love to hear what you're doing this season.
Amy Jackson is founder and director of The Perch. You can read more about her here.