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  • Megan Johanson

A Very Virtual Christmas

As many of us are facing tough choices about whether to travel or visit family and friends this holiday season, I am using data to help inform that decision. In my latest blog post I shared data resources that my husband and I are using to consider choices for our holiday plans.

To keep spirits up in the meantime, and possibly in lieu of actual travel this holiday season, my family and I compiled 10 festive activities we can do together virtually throughout the next month.

If you are looking for ways to stay connected with family and friends while making the best of staying home, these ideas are for you!

Note that while I celebrate Christmas, and therefore many of the ideas are Christmas focused, several of the activities would be fun even if you do not celebrate Christmas.

Virtual Family Activities

A book of Christmas stories. On the cover Santa is flying through the night sky with eight reindeer.

1. Read Christmas stories

We are meeting every Sunday afternoon for a different activity, and each gathering will start with 1 or 2 of the family members reading a short Christmas book.

There are several children in the family who love reading and being read to, so this is a low-pressure way to get everyone engaged.

On Christmas Eve my mom will read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, a family classic.

2. Make holiday cards

We will dig out our construction paper and markers to make holiday cards for a local nursing home. Especially this year, people who are isolated may be lonely and we want to brighten their day!

Not everyone celebrates Christmas, so we can make general winter and Happy Holiday cards as well as ones for Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and the New Year. This will be a good opportunity to talk with the children in the family about how other families celebrate differently.

You can check with your local nursing homes or community organizations to see if they are accepting cards. In addition, here are some other groups who would appreciate your cards:

B. Children in hospitals:

On the left are some examples of cards made with construction paper, stickers, markers, and buttons.

3. Watch Elf

The tradition with my family and friends is to watch Elf on Thanksgiving night to mark the official start of the holiday season. It is a favorite in the family and we love to quote lines along with the movie.

We're also going to do Elf impressions of our favorite lines and play Elf trivia.

A plate of snickerdoodle cookies on a snowman plate.

4. Bake cookies.

Although traditional sugar cookies are a contentious topic in my family, we generally enjoy baking and plan to set up our computers in our kitchens and sing along to Christmas music while we bake.

One of Pentatonix's many Christmas albums is likely to be playing while we bake and eat.

Wood slice ornaments with painted snowflakes hanging on a tree.

5. Paint wood slice ornaments

We fancy ourselves a crafty family, so we agreed on a simple holiday craft. With a heavy dose of Pinterest inspo, we hope to create some custom ornaments we can display with pride.

6. Make paper snowflakes

This simple craft takes me back to grade-school, and only requires paper and scissors. Since my nieces and nephews are distance learning right now and won't make them at school, we are excited to pass down the tradition.

We will test out different patterns and show the family our favorites. We can hang the snowflakes on the tree or around the house to admire our handiwork for weeks.

My nephew helping a neighbor shovel their driveway.
My nephew helping a neighbor shovel their driveway.

7. Acts of kindness

This will likely have to be within our own households or safely distanced outside, but it will be a good opportunity to focus on the needs of others. This isn’t a task we’ll do in our Sunday calls, but we will discuss ideas one week and then check back in the following week to see how it went.

8. Watch a movie together

Home Alone, The Grinch, The Santa Clause, Rudolph or anything Hallmark are top choices in my family. Find a streaming service you all can access and pick a time. Of course, make sure your cameras are set up so you can see everyone’s reactions during the movie.

Two holiday Mad Libs activities, one about the Grinch and one about Christmas baking.

9. Play holiday trivia, Mad Libs, Scattergories, Name that Line

A quick google or Pinterest search will give you a lot of options to work with here, and that’s what we plan to do. I think the kids will especially enjoy the holiday themed Mad Libs since no one wins or loses that activity.

10. Family dance performances

Christmas Eve is always a big celebration for us, so something new we are trying is to have each family unit perform a choreographed dance to a holiday song. There are only a few good dancers in the family so this should be quite interesting.

An alternative idea we considered is a family talent show. Each person would get the spotlight for 2-5 minutes to show off whatever they want: singing, dancing, juggling, instruments, or stand-up comedy, to name a few options..

Since both of these activities take preparation, it could be a good way to keep kids occupied during the week while you are doing other holiday prep.

Extra Festiveness

In combination with some of these activities we will be wearing festive pajamas (to watch movies) or our best holiday shirts/sweaters.

Some of the activities will also involve themed drinks or foods. For example, Christmas morning in our family includes Orange Julius and caramel rolls, while movie watching usually involves hot chocolate and popcorn.

How are you converting your holiday traditions to a virtual set-up?


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