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Mother and daughter decorating for the holidays

12 Holly Jolly Holiday Ideas During Quarantine

Stay safe and be joyful

The December holiday season may look different this year, but can still include meaningful celebrations and activities. Large group gatherings are out of the question as a result of COVID-19, and some folks might even be celebrating alone. I have combed through several resources to compile a list of fun ideas for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza (or however you are rejoicing this time of year). Remember that good holiday experiences are what we make of them, from our heart, and shared with loved ones. Many don’t require being in the same room.

This article is also a bit personal for me. Minnesota COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing, including in rural counties, including where my family lives. While I am not there currently, every member of my Minnesota family is affected by COVID-19, either by diagnosis, symptoms or having been in contact with someone with COVID-19. But this is not an article to preach to you about what you should or shouldn’t be doing—I think we all know by now what is required. It is an article giving you alternatives to gathering with extended family or in other group settings. As complex humans, we still need outlets to celebrate and share our joy and good feelings with others.

Here is my version of the 12 Days of Christmas to celebrate the holidays at home, alone or with people in your household.

12. Decorate your home. There is nothing that will get you into the spirit of the holidays like making your home a festive space. Put on some holiday tunes (you can stream festive music free on Pandora). You’re going to spend more time at home than going out this season, so you might as well go all out in making your space the winter wonderland. Order some new decorations, like a party pack of glittery, swirling hanging snowflakes from Amazon. Or, get crafty and upcycle items you may already have at home for Christmas décor. Check Pinterest for inspiration.

11. Finish your gift shopping online. Settle in your favorite chair, in comfortable sweatpants with some egg nog or hot cider and prepare for some enjoyable cyber shopping. Doing your holiday shopping online does not mean bypassing local merchants either. The pandemic has pushed many stores online that weren’t there before. Many local stores offer pick up at the store too, like The Market in Fergus Falls. Curators of the creative, I love items like the candle for Dogs (smells like unconditional love, and drool, lots of drool). There is a huge selection of local stores with online shopping in the Minneapolis area collected by

After shopping locally, is a great resource for a variety of merch, especially when time is short. Start with their Holiday Gift Guide for inspiration. You can narrow your search by type of gift, price range or who you are buying for such as Grandma or a teenage boy. Most products by Amazon, and many other vendors, offer gift wrapping at check out, and you can pay for an item but have it shipped directly to the recipient.

Holiday cookies gingerbread men

10. Make holiday treats. Fill your kitchen with scents of the season! You may have some traditional recipes you like to make for the holidays. Baking and decorating cookies adds a festive touch. The best and easiest cookies to decorate are sugar cookies, and everyone staying home can get involved. Here is one foolproof sugar cookie recipe for cutouts. Icing sugar cookies is little more than blending powdered sugar with water, vanilla and food coloring, but there are a few tricks to make cookies look more professional, including using a finer blend of powdered sugar and creating different consistencies of icing for backgrounds and outlines.

No need to shop crowded stores for cookie ingredients, or any of your holiday meal prep. Grocery stores were among the first retail industries to digitize their inventory. Since the pandemic, online ordering and pickup has surged 40% nationwide. All major chains and many of the smaller or independently owned stores offer online shopping and touchless pick up, even in rural areas. You simply order what you want online, pay for it in advance and advise the store you are on your way through the app. Then pull into a special pickup lane, have someone load your groceries for you, and you are on your way. You can also find grocery stores to home deliver in larger towns and cities.

9. Share your bounty with neighbors. Make extra cookies to gift to nearby neighbors. Since everyone is social distancing, leave on the doorstep in a sealed to-go container with a festive note inside. You can buy containers in bulk for cheap, which is also great to deliver holiday meals to elderly or quarantined friends and family members. Since it is unsafe to go indoors and visit, ring the bell then get back in your car and wave as you drive away (we used to call this ding-dong-ditch when we were kids—it truly is fun).

8. Connect up digitally. Do you recall seeing the opening of the Brady Bunch TV show where all eight family members, plus Alice the housekeeper, were displayed in their own video box on the screen smiling at each other? That’s what it is like on a family online video call. You can see the person you are talking to, watch them open gifts and see their decorations.

Online meeting platforms, such as Zoom, have exploded in popularity during the pandemic. But this app, which lets you meet with video and audio with multiple others in real time, is not all about business. Many people staying at home or separated from distant relatives are using the platform to stay connected.

One reason Zoom is so popular over predecessors like Skype is ease of use. If you have not used online video meeting software, check out this New User’s Guide ahead of time. Then make sure everyone you want to connect up with for your holiday video call downloads the app ahead of time too.

You might find yourself using Zoom more and more for group video calls after the holidays to stay in touch. Free accounts are limited to 40 minutes in duration for group chats, but you can meet one-on-one for an unlimited amount of time.

7. Plan an outdoor activity. Quarantine does not mean you are imprisoned in your house, as long as you social distance, wear a mask when around others and practice good hygiene. If there is snow, go sledding or build a snowman. If snow has yet to fly, gather organic materials and build a rustic wreath. You can soak narrow sticks to bend into a circular shape for the base, or repurpose an old metal coat hanger. Take photos of winter scenes around your house. Toss a ball for the dog. I could go on, but you get the idea- bundle up and go outside!

6. Put together a holiday puzzle. Putting together a puzzle is enjoyable alone or with others. You can walk away from the puzzle and return when the mood strikes you. Doing a puzzle activity reinforces connections between brain cells, improves mental speed and is an especially effective way to improve short-term memory. Puzzling is also a great meditation tool and stress reliever. When was the last time you slowed down enough to ponder over puzzle pieces?

5. Add some premium TV channels. When the pandemic was in full swing and my husband was underfoot, I suggested he pick out a new channel for our TV streaming service. He picked the Disney channel. Recently, I added FrndlyTV, which has all three Hallmark Channels, including this year’s Countdown to Christmas. Yep, it’s all Christmas movies all the time playing in the background while I am working, baking and wrapping gifts! Whether you are a cord cutter or get your TV programming through cable or satellite, many companies offer add-on channels with no long-term commitments. After Christmas, I likely will turn off FrdlyTV, and maybe try another.

4. Go for a scenic drive. When weather allows, go for a winter road trip. Minnesota is packed with scenic drives throughout the state. Pack a thermos of hot cider and take a slow drive to ooh and ahhh over Christmas lights close to home. Or take a daytime drive over the river and through the woods into the countryside.

3. Journal about this time in your life. None of us has ever experienced a holiday season like this one (and hopefully will not again). Why not write a few words about what you are thinking and feeling? It will be interesting to look back on next Christmas.

Many of us are feeling lonely and disconnected. Make an effort to reach out to people, by phone, email or text. Don’t forget about people in nursing facilities who may not be allowed visitors because of COVID-19. If you are feeling like your own circle is pretty small, you might try a free conversation app like Lyf.

Lyf is a free online virtual support group. You can join an existing discussion or start your own, where you can control the membership and privacy of the group. For those struggling with COVID-19-related anxiety and depression, or needing questions answered, Lyf has a team of licensed psychologists on the platform 24/7 to answer questions and provide feedback for free. The app is available for both iOS and Android.

If you feel like you are in crisis, use this online tool from Mental Health Minnesota to find help in your community, or call 911.

2. Host a holiday party online. I thought this was kind of a silly idea until I got invited to an online cocktail party. The host sent out some conversation starters (different ones to each guest). We were asked to have our favorite beverage on hand. It was so fun to see people from all over the country, catch up, tell jokes, sip wine and laugh. The host threw out more conversation starters if the conversation lagged, which was a great way to get the quieter friends to participate.

There are dozens of conversation starter games to buy. Spark is a lighthearted one, good for different types of groups.

1. Hop on a video call with Santa. Meeting Santa in person this year may not be safe, but household members can still get some quality time with the jolly old elf via video. Santa Club offers a live conversation with Kris Kringle. The cost is $50 for up to three children, and includes a video recording of the session.

Lower cost alternatives include reading a holiday story out loud, like the Night Before Christmas. Or make plans to watch a favorite Christmas movie together, with cozy blankets and plenty of buttery popcorn. For those that want the holiday experience without being bombarded by Christmas, check out this holiday movie list I found, complete with Kwanza, Hanukkah and other non-Christmas themes.

Wishing you and yours the merriest of holidays
This is the year to do things differently, stay safe and have fun doing it. True, nothing is likely going to be like years past. But new traditions start somewhere. This is the year to get creative, stay connected and share the love of the season while valuing life and the health of ourselves and others.

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