5 Ways to Make the Most of the Holidays During a Pandemic

lady in santa hat staring at computer screen

You skipped the annual Fourth of July block party and lit a few sparklers with your kids in the backyard instead. 

You spent hours pre-packaging hundreds of individual Halloween candy bags, then took your kids trick-or-treating from a six-foot distance. 

You even taught your great-aunt Susie how to attend your family’s annual Thanksgiving feast via Zoom.

So far, every single holiday this year has looked drastically different than years prior. And now you’ve reached the last in the line. The big one!

Whether Christmas is your thing, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or something else entirely, there’s no denying it. This is a special time of year. One that you look forward to with great anticipation.

Of course, just as with every other holiday so far, this year will be different.

But who says different has to be bad?

Now, more than ever, we need to really embrace the joy that comes so abundantly during the holiday season. Sure, we may have to give fewer hugs, share fewer goodies, and enjoy our families from a larger distance. But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate!

So strap on your masks, hop on Zoom, wash your hands–do whatever you have to do to get ready. The holidays are here and we have 5 wonderful ways you can make the most of them this year. 

Even during a pandemic…

1. Keep Your Traditions…With Safety in Mind

Does the idea of watching your little one sit on Santa’s lap delivering her Christmas wish list ignite your holiday mood? Does listening to your son’s sweet voice belt out Jingle Bells during his school Christmas pageant make your heart melt? Perhaps nothing says the holidays quite like volunteering with your teens at your local food pantry?

Whatever your favorite holiday tradition may be, chances are it will look different this year. However, don’t put on your Grinch hat so quickly! The holidays are NOT canceled simply because we are in the midst of a pandemic.

You can still keep your favorite holiday traditions. You just need to modify them with safety in mind.

When you really think about it, there are very few things you cannot do as long as you’re willing to put forth the effort and good conscience to make them happen. Besides, when it comes to the best place to be during the holidays, there truly is no place like home.

To get started, here are a few traditions you can enjoy with your family this season…with an added measure of safety:

Go on a Christmas Light Tour

Want to really dive into the festive mood? Take your family on a Christmas lights tour!

Pour some hot cocoa, dole out some cookies, crank up the carols, and drive around your neighborhood admiring all of the beautiful Christmas lights. Not only is this an incredibly easy and inexpensive way to celebrate the holidays, but you’ll be sure to enjoy some much needed time out of the house with those you love most.

Take Part in (COVID-Friendly) Community Service

Even though we are living through a pandemic, the need for community service is as strong as ever. The great thing is, many nonprofits have amended their needs this year to make sure safety is still top of mind.

Try delivering food for Meal-on-Wheels, or clean out your kitchen pantry to take items to a local food bank. You can even adopt a grandparent at a local assisted living facility by writing them letters and calling them on the phone. 

There are plenty of ways for you to still get that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with holiday service while maintaining your peace of mind.

Treat Your Neighbors

Whether you want to safely share your own homemade goods or purchase them from a store, you can still spread holiday cheer by bringing delicious treats to your friends and neighbors.

As always, show consideration by reaching out first to see if they are comfortable with the gesture. If they give you the go-ahead, you know what to do! 

Through this pandemic, we’ve certainly gotten the hang of doorstep drop-offs, and this doesn’t have to be any different. So package up those goodies, add a pretty bow, and drop them off with a sweet little note. 

You’ll be amazed at how far a simple but sweet act can go.

2. Establish Rules Ahead of Time

At the start of the holiday season, take a moment to sit down with your family and establish your own set of holiday rules. 

A Family Meeting is a great place to do this. Grab some snacks, sit in a comfortable spot, and let the meeting begin. Ask questions like:

  • What holiday activities are we comfortable doing as a family this year?
  • How many people should we/do we want to invite over?
  • Will we be shopping for gifts online this year or making them at home? 
  • How and where will family dinner be served?

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions® Members can check out Step 6 for more information on how to host fun, informative, and wildly successful Family Meetings!

Once you’ve posed the questions, give each family member (yes, that includes the kids!) a chance to voice their opinion. The goal is to hold on to the joy of the season while ensuring everyone feels safe and secure.

Take the time to clearly determine your family’s level of comfort during the holidays and then stick to it. It may be tempting to give in to your mother-in-law’s wishes for a big, traditional family Christmas–36 cousins and all–but if that’s something you’ve decided against, stick to your resolve! The holidays will be so much more enjoyable without the added stress of doing something you’re uncomfortable with. 

Note: This is also a great time to take note of your local government’s rules and regulations regarding COVID-19 gatherings and events. You can reach out to your local Department of Health for more details.

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3. Take it Virtual

How fortunate are we to live in a time and society where staying connected is so easy to do? 

With technology and applications like Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Meet, distance makes less of an impact. As long as we have Wi-Fi and a smartphone or computer, we can talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

So, if traveling to see relatives or hosting out-of-town friends and family is not an option, why not take it online? Sure, your usual family get-togethers of holidays past may have aimed to include less technology, not more, but I think it’s okay to make an exception…just this once.

Here are a few ideas for you:

Host a Virtual Holiday Party!

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that there’s very little we cannot do together–even from a distance! If social gatherings, whether at work or at home, are not going to be a part of your holidays this year, consider hosting a virtual party instead. 

Send out party invitations, decorate the space behind your computer, and put on your ugliest (or most beautiful) Christmas sweater! Do whatever you need to do to make your spirits bright.

Because, in the end, the atmosphere may change, but with a little creativity and some wonderful conversation, the party can–and should–go on!

Share Your Family Caroling Online or Outside

Buddy the Elf said it best: “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear.”

And if singing for others is your favorite way to spread happiness during the holiday season, you shouldn’t let a pandemic stop you. You just have to be creative.

And a bit technologically savvy…

Hop on Facebook or Instagram and make a Live video of you and your family belting your favorite holiday tunes. Or, if going Live is not your thing (hello, stage fright), just pre-record your beautiful caroling and send it out with your family’s holiday e-card. 

And didn’t caroling used to happen outdoors anyway? Some assisted living communities might be grateful for outdoor carolers if you call ahead and set a time for your family or group. Go along with their rules and bundle up as you wave to residents through their windows and spread cheer inside and out.

So whether you take your caroling online or outside, you’ve got options!

4. Manage Your Expectations

If you want to make the most of your holiday season this year, you’ll first have to accept that things will be different than they were before. You may be upset about the upcoming changes, scared, or even a bit angry–and that is perfectly fine! This year has been tough and we’d be doing ourselves no favors if we pretended it wasn’t.

So accept what you’re feeling and grieve it if you need to. Then, manage your expectations for what’s to come.

Start with the knowns…

Family get-togethers may be smaller, budgets may be tighter, and travel plans may be delayed if not canceled. 

Then, focus on the positives…

Smaller family gatherings mean fewer mouths to feed and more quality time together. A tighter gift budget may present the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about giving. And skipping the family road trip or navigating your way through a crowded airport may mean a lot less stress.

Having a clear understanding of what you can expect from the holidays–before they’ve even begun–will ensure you aren’t setting yourself up for disappointment. There’s no need to compare this holiday to any of the ones in the past because this year is different.

And, as I’ve said before, different doesn’t have to be bad.

5. Find Joy in the Little Things

You want to know the best thing about joy? It costs nothing and can be found in the simplest of places!

Start by taking note of all the things you are thankful for this year. You can do this by yourself or as a family; it’s up to you! But I definitely recommend writing them down in a gratitude journal.

What do you have to be thankful for–especially this year? 

Is it more time at home with your family? The chance to get to know your kids a little better? What about your health? Maybe even your financial stability?

Whatever you have to celebrate (big or small), write it down! Because when you write it down, you commit it to memory. And when you remember what you have to celebrate, joy simply falls into place. 

Not only will you become more joyous, but you’ll start to see your kids filled with gratitude, too. And there’s an added bonus that pops up when you instill gratitude in your children–they naturally begin to feel less entitled

Now that’s what I call a win-win.

Final Thoughts

There’s no denying it; 2020 was tough! We’ve weathered some pretty rough storms and for many of us, we are merely waiting for the year to end. BUT despite COVID-19, lockdowns, virtual schooling, and more, this can STILL be the most wonderful time of the year! 

Because, as anyone who has taken my proven 7-Step Parenting Success System® course can tell you, a little positivity can transform anything. And I am positive you can enjoy the holidays just as much now as you did before the pandemic.

Who knows?! With the simplicity of the world and the extra time at home, maybe–just maybe–you’ll enjoy them even more.

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About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions® and the best-selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on The Doctors, CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.