Pandemic Holiday

Hello, my name is Leanne and I am a Christmas dork!

There is no shame in my game. I am all about Hallmark movies and watching the overworked executive who hates Christmas get stranded in her small town, learn the true meaning of the holiday, and ditch her corporate lawyer boyfriend for her high school crush. Bonus points if he whittles or rescues small animals or reads to children in his spare time. I am here for all of it, no matter how many times I watch the same plot. I have been listening to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra since Halloween ended, and yesterday (yes, BEFORE Thanksgiving!), I pulled out the Christmas decorations.

This year especially, we needed the Christmas cheer. With Thanksgiving gatherings strongly discouraged by the CDC, we are looking at celebrating alone for the first time. Aldi delivery was overly efficient, so we now have a 20+ pound turkey, 10 pounds of potatoes, 4 pounds of carrots and other copious amounts of food [Recipes are always welcome!].

But we are trying to make a point in 2020 to focus on what we CAN do, rather than what we CAN’T do. It’s not always easy, but after spending a day railing at “all the people who refused to listen to recommendations all year long so now we are stuck having to cancel or alter all of our plans,” here are some “pandemic friendly” holiday ideas we came up with to make the 2020 season special [Please note that as Christmas is the tradition we observe in our home, most of our family activities will center around that holiday. I would love it if readers who observe other traditions at this time of year would chime in with some of their traditions and activities!]:

*I have 22 Christmas storybooks waiting for me at the library (yay for curbside pick-up – and don’t worry, local friends – there are TONS more for you! Our library has a ginormous holiday collection!). We will add those to our collection of kids’ Christmas books and wrap each one of them up. Each evening beginning in December, our boys (ages 4 and 5) will take turns unwrapping one, and that is the story we will read together at bedtime. I grabbed a variety – some about Jesus, some about Santa, some just about snowmen or fuzzy animals enjoying the season. Christmas Eve, they will unwrap their traditional “Christmas jammies and a book” gift and those books will be theirs to keep.

(If you are looking for a Christmas book to buy for the kids in your life, check out Matthew Paul Turner’s “All the Colors of Christmas.” I cannot say enough good things about his children’s books. Words full of love and grace that say exactly what every Christian parent wants their kids to know about their love and God’s love for them. He also intentionally works to make sure his illustrators represent kids of all colors, which is super important to me as the parent of two biracial kids!).

*Shepherd on the Search – it’s a variation of “Elf on a Shelf” that incorporates the fun and magic of Christmas with teaching kids about Advent as well. If you observe Christmas in a secular fashion, Elf on a Shelf is also a fun activity. There is tons out there on Pinterest and Google if you are not feeling particularly creative with ideas for the whole month!

*Christmas Lights!!! The pride and joy of Duluth, MN is Bentleyville, a walk-through Christmas display that draws crowds from all over the state (and beyond!). This year, it has been transformed into a drive-through display due to the pandemic, and the city has challenged its residents to bling up their houses as well. I already picked up four Christmas-themed travel mugs at the Dollar Tree for us to fill with hot cocoa as we drive around and look at it all. Still deciding on a treat that won’t have us still cleaning out the car in May (popcorn + preschoolers + the dark do not mix!!).

*Teaching generosity. The above mentioned light display also includes a toy and non-perishable food drive for the Salvation Army. We plan on talking to our boys about how Christmas is about giving and sharing, and how some families don’t have enough money to buy their kids Christmas gifts, and then inviting them to pick out a toy that they think another boy their age might enjoy.

*Arts and crafts (both culinary and visual!)!! We will be picking some cookie recipes to make, and dropping off plates of treats to friends – in a covert, Ninja-like social distant manner, of course! We also have a great salt dough ornament recipe that we made last year with our arts and crafts group (We miss you all!!) that I will post at the bottom. Living near a wooded area in town with next door neighbors who have an apple tree, we have a lot of deer, squirrels and bunnies that stop by looking for treats. So we will decorate the backyard with dried fruit garland and/or frozen treats for our furry friends.

I am sure I have more that I am not thinking of, because, as I mentioned, we are Christmas dorks!! We are determined to make this season memorable for us and our kids, even if it’s not quite the same as other years. What will you do to celebrate the 2020 holiday season?

Salt Dough Ornaments

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 1 ¼ cups cool water
  • Pot
  • Spoon for mixing
  • Parchment paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie cutters
  • Cookie presses
  • Leaves, plants, nature finds
  • Stamps
  1. Pour corn starch, baking soda and water into a medium sized pot, and stir all ingredients together until they are well mixed. The consistency should be runny.
  2. The next couple of steps can be completed by parents or older children with supervision. Once ingredients are mixed together, place the pot on the stove over medium heat and stir continuously. The mixture will begin to thicken. Make sure to keep stirring so that the dough thickens evenly and doesn’t burn.
  3. As soon as the mixture becomes solid and there is no liquid left, remove from heat. At this point, you should have a ball of soft and pliable dough.
  4. The dough will be very hot and will need to be handled carefully. Remove dough from pot with a large spoon and place it in a large bowl.
  5. Cover the bowl with damp paper towels and allow the dough to cool until it is cool enough to handle. It is very important to use the damp paper towels as this will help keep your dough from drying out.
  6. Once your dough has cooled enough to handle, take some and knead it. Your dough will become nice and smooth. Roll it into a ball and place it on a hard, even surface covered with parchment paper. Roll your dough out to approximately ¼ inch thickness. If your dough sticks to your rolling pin, you can sprinkle a little corn starch on it.
  7. It’s time to use your cookie cutters or cookie presses to cut out your desired shapes!

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