COVID-19 Updates

How to add some holiday cheer to your traditions while being safe during a pandemic

December 9, 2020

The holidays are going to be a little (a lot) different this year. The pandemic changes things that used to be normal like knocking on a bunch of strangers’ doors to sing carols or simply gathering in a big group. (At best, these traditions aren’t encouraged right now.)

But before you say, “Bah, humbug,” and try to fast forward into the new year, look for ways to find some fun this holiday season. The pandemic may mean your holidays won’t look exactly the same, but with some creativity you can find new ways to celebrate—and some of your ideas may be so good you’ll make new traditions along the way!

Holiday Care Packages: A good way to show love from a distance is to send a holiday care package to family. A box with festive napkins, some fresh spices, and maybe a sweet treat or two will make anyone feel loved and remembered this year. Picking out items and boxing them up will be a fun activity for little kids and can help them feel connected to the family they can't see. Need a more budget friendly option? Rather than a package, this year especially, a simple card could mean the absolute world to someone you know. Take time to give your loved ones an update on how you’ve been doing and what you’ve been up to in 2020.

Video Call Santa: Getting to meet Santa is a magical experience for many youngsters during the holiday season. Unfortunately, they might not get to see Saint Nick in person this year — but that doesn't mean they can't chat with him on the phone. There are “Video call with Santa” apps that have free pre-recorded call options available like or you could try Macy’s Santaland at Home virtual experience, they are offering a free virtual opportunity to speak with Santa from home this year at

Attend a Socially Distanced Outside Event: Check your local event calendar in Jackson (  and Hillsdale ( to find a list of local holiday happenings. You might be able to visit an outdoor Christmas tree or check out the drive-through light display at Michigan International Speedway this year.

Go Sledding: Now that there is a light dusting of snow on the ground, it’s time for winter fun and festivities. Taking advantage of fresh powder at Lewis Emery Park in Hillsdale County or Cascades Park in Jackson. 

Look at Christmas Lights: Make going out and looking at Christmas lights a new tradition, if you don’t already partake in this fun activity. If the weather is nice, you can go on a walk around the neighborhood to look at everyone's Christmas lights. If it's a bit chillier, go on a drive instead.

Host a Virtual Party: If you can't get together in person, it doesn't mean you can't see your friends and family this holiday season. Send everyone a video chat link and host your party online. Make sure you've got a few games and conversation starters ready too. If you need some extra help, check out the LifeWays blog post on some free video chat tools to consider for your virtual gathering.

Cook a Festive Meal: Dinner is the main event for so many holiday traditions. Just because you have fewer people to feed this year, doesn't mean you shouldn’t give your favorite holiday meals or snacks a try in the kitchen. Try looking up Pinterest recipes or call up a loved one to walk you through how to create those goodies for yourself.

Tacky Sweater Contests: Connect with your family and friends via text or on social media to initiate a tacky sweater contest. If making your own concoctions, try adding felt, buttons, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes to a sweater for a fun event that’s sure to leave everyone in “stitches.” Ask someone to be your judge in advance or have all participants vote on their favorite tacky sweater.

Gift Exchanges: Giving gifts can be a part of many holiday traditions and to save on your budget this year, consider a holiday gift exchange. Each person draws one name to buy presents for rather than buying for everyone. You also could consider trying a “Secret Santa” style game where small gifts are sent leading up to the holidays. 

Bake Treats for Friends and Neighbors: Bake your favorite holiday goodies and deliver them to neighbors and local friends this year. Consider reaching out to local shelters or food banks and asking what treats you could help provide for the holidays to bring some warmth and cheer.

Bundle Up, Grab a Thermos of Hot Tea or Coffee and Go For a Walk: The winter season doesn’t have to mean the fun outdoors has to end, put on your hat, gloves, and coat and head outside for some fresh air. In Hillsdale, consider the peaceful trails at Lewis Emery County Park, Stocks Park, or Cold Spring Park. In Jackson, consider one of the three main trails like Falling Waters Trail, the Dahlem Center trails, or MacCready Reserve.

Build Memorable Experiences Together Virtually: With some adjustments, most offline activities can be done via video chat. Here are some fun ideas to get you started:

  • Reading books together
  • Board games (Tip: If you have two sets, you can play many board games virtually!)
  • Singing songs
  • Sharing photos
  • Recreating photos (For a fun educational project, look up people recreating famous paintings using objects found at home on the internet)
  • Dance party
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Drawing together (Pick a topic like dinosaurs or flowers)
  • Marshmallow-and-toothpick building challenges
  • DIY crafts
  • Play-doh
  • Legos or other building toys
  • Talking about family history
  • Trading recipes

Whatever you decide to do this year, we hope these ideas will fill your holiday season with merriment. And remember, it is ok to seek help if you need it. If the holiday blues seem to linger or become more intense, an underlying mental health issue seems to be worsening, or you just don’t feel like yourself, it’s okay to lean on others. As with a physical illness, such as diabetes or heart disease, mental health issues deserve treatment, too. 

Remember that each of these free mental health resources are available to you.

LifeWays 24/7 Access Crisis Line is here for you at 1 (800) 284-8288. LifeWays is here for you this holiday season and beyond.

211 is an essential service available 24/7 that connects people to expert social services support in their local area. You can call “2-1-1” or text your zip code to 898-211 or visit
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free, confidential support to anyone in emotional distress, including from suicidal thoughts. They offer both phone calls and online chatting with trained crisis counselors. Call 1 (800) 273-8255, or visit

Crisis Text Line is available for any crisis. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds, all from a secure online platform. Text “4HELP” to 741741



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