I’ve said it several times now. And I am sure I will say it many more times before we are out of the woods – this year has been weird. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down in many unexpected ways. Earlier this week, while reflecting over the last year with my husband and thinking over what 2021 would look like, I expressed that it was like being in the flashback of a post-apocalyptic movie, I just didn’t know which one yet.
But damn it, it’s Christmas. And despite the social distancing and the disruption of our traditions and the people we miss and the Zoom burnout, we are going to celebrate. So there will be no large gatherings bringing the extended family together. There will be no Santa lunches or teddy bear teas for our girls this year. But COVID is not going to win Christmas. There will be Christmas magic.
So here are some ideas I can share for how our family will be spreading Christmas cheer, not COVID, this year.
Outside, socially distanced playdates
Our girls are lonely and they miss their friends. My working solution for the playdate drought is to set up tables outside. Each family attending will get a table. At the table, we will have all of the supplies we will need for the activity. We could make ornaments or holiday decorations or decorate cookies. Since we are outside, let it be extra messy. Blast some Christmas music to round out the ambience. (Pro tip – keep these gatherings short since bathroom facilities may be limited.)
Front yard parties
I’m not going to lie, when Cinco de Mayo rolled around and I realized that Taco Tuesday (a weekly tradition in our house) was going to be ruined by COVID, I cried. Hard. To cope, we hosted a small front yard gathering. We measured and put out three sets of two chairs on the front lawn, all more than six feet apart. Everything was wiped down and sanitized. Each station had its own ice chest and hand sanitizer. Each person’s tacos were individually wrapped and waiting for them on their chairs. We had a nice visit, enjoyed company with our tacos, and broke what had been total isolation up until that point. The neighbors thought it was hilarious.
We just moved into a new neighborhood. We have been going for walks and waving at the neighbors. Several of them have introduced themselves to us. One of them loaned me his phone when I locked myself out of the house and needed to call for help. The next thing they are going to learn about us is our love for Christmas carols. A tradition of past times was to walk house to house and sing Christmas carols. So this year, our family is going to do just that.
Easter weekend was tough. My mom’s birthday fell on that weekend, so we weren’t just missing Easter with family, we were also missing my mom’s birthday. But we were in lockdown. We saw this coming. So in the weeks leading up to Easter weekend, our girls made lots of arts and crafts to give out as gifts to their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We had Shipt deliver little baskets that we loaded up with homemade cookies, chocolates, and all of the things the girls had made. On Easter, we delivered the baskets. You can do the same thing for Christmas – simple arts and crafts, homemade goodies, and a little creative assembly makes a Christmas surprise you can leave on a loved one’s doorstep to deliver a little Christmas cheer.
A friend of my in-laws has a very cool holiday tradition that lends itself perfectly to the current situation. Every Christmas Eve, they drop off the materials to make french toast casserole. They mix the wet ingredients in one gallon size ziplock, the dry ingredients in the other, and include a tag with the instructions. On Christmas morning, my mother-in-law mixes it up and makes a warm, gooey Christmas breakfast treat. We plan on delivering a few of these this year. Here’s a recipe I found online to try.
For those in my life focused on healthy eating, I plan on rolling out the same veggie frittatas I made and delivered at Mother’s Day. (Y’all. It was a lonely Spring for my poor Mom.) Using a disposable baking tin with lid, combine eggs with a bit of milk and season to taste. Bake just long enough for the egg mixture to set. Use raw and roasted vegetables to craft a flower display. Finish baking.
For one set of our extended family, we are exchanging mail rather than having a gathering. The kids are coloring and painting pictures for each other, gifting stickers, and printing pictures. Then they are mailing all of it to each other. We all love receiving fun mail.
I saw a meme on Facebook suggesting that at 6pm on Christmas Eve, we should all go outside and ring a bell for two minutes to spread Christmas cheer. Why not? The neighbors will have already gotten their caroling; what’s another evening disruption? And singing from their windows got the Italians through lockdown, so this just might be worth a ring.