Modern Life

(Still) home for the holidays: 7 ideas for a magical, meaningful season

The holidays will feel different this year, but with a little creativity, you can still make them fun and festive for the whole family.

By Deborah Lynn Blumberg — November 19, 2020

Watching my 7-year-old daughter, Sadie, bake pies with her grandmother, aka “Gaga”, in her cozy Connecticut kitchen is one of my favorite holiday moments. In an oversized apron, Sadie stays up late with Gaga to knead dough and make fillings for our family’s apple, chocolate pecan, and cherry pies while the other adults drink festive cocktails and play “Clue” in the living room.

This year though, we’ve decided not to make our annual trip east to visit family. Like many Americans, to help curb the spread of COVID-19, we’re staying home for the holidays. Sixty percent of Americans say they won’t be traveling this year to see friends and family, and nearly half are canceling their annual holiday get-togethers. But even though many of us won’t physically be with extended family this year, we can still connect in meaningful ways and create lasting holiday memories.

On Etsy, I bought custom, matching purple aprons embroidered with a pie for Sadie, her younger sister, Lilah, their cousins in California, and Gaga. Then, using Canva, I designed an oversized chocolate pecan pie recipe card, which I’ll laminate and send to each child. The week of Thanksgiving, Gaga will lead a virtual, nighttime pie-baking class for her granddaughters.

Despite the pandemic, with a little creativity, it’s still possible to have a magical and meaningful holiday season while sticking close to home. Here are a few ideas to help make staying home for the holidays feel as “normal” as possible, and special in their own way.

Go all out on handcrafted decorations

Consider making a big deal out of holiday décor this year, with decorations you and your family can make together. Download and print free templates from HP to create invitations to real or virtual holiday dinners, place cards, or table runners. For Thanksgiving, print out and color festive paper turkeys, napkin holders, fortune tellers, and gratitude cards to reflect on and share what you’re thankful for this year. For the winter holidays, you can make elegant wreaths, folded dreidels, origami ornaments, dessert toppers, and even a festive paper accordian

Activities for holidays at home with family

Trisha Krauss

This holiday season will be unlike any other, but families can still connect in meaningful ways and create lasting holiday memories.

Create and share a cookbook of family favorites

Can’t cook with family and enjoy your favorite holiday dishes this year? Collect everyone’s signature holiday recipe — the ones they always make for family gatherings — start a family recipe chain letter by mail or over email, and make them yourself. Or, use an online service like Shutterfly (an HP partner printing on HP's digital presses) or Blurb to create a custom cookbook and share copies with the whole family. Include holiday memories and stories about each dish to create what’s sure to become a cherished keepsake. Once all the recipes are made, you can create a slideshow with music using a service like Slidely and share the dishes with the entire family.

Surprise loved ones with custom holiday care packages

Sabrina Valentino, of Philadelphia, will miss traveling to see her nieces this year: “It’s killing me that I won’t see them this Christmas,” she says. To make sure they can still share some holiday fun, she’s putting together her own custom care package, mailing the girls matching Christmas pajamas they can wear for a virtual holiday singalong. Care packages are a great way to let family members know you’re thinking about them, and you don’t have to assemble them yourself. Small Packages lets you choose a theme for a curated care package and then decide how much you want to spend. The $50 “I Miss You” box includes chocolate-covered cracker cookies, a stationery set, a coffee blend from a women-owned roaster, and a laugh-out-loud novel. With Knack, you choose packages with themes like Gaming the System, Chill Mode, and Popcorn and Movie Night or assemble your own custom box.

Holiday activities to do at home during quarantine with family

Trisha Krauss

Families have spent more time than ever together during quarantine, but now they can take advantage of the holiday spirit to do creative activities.

Design and send special holiday cards

Perhaps now more than ever, people will appreciate receiving printed holiday cards they can hold, display, and keep. Choose from a wide selection of printable templates from HP to make a holiday pop-up card, or print and send a “Grateful for You” postcard to let someone know you’re thinking of them. In the Bay Area, Sue Chan wanted to be sensitive to the difficult year, so she printed holiday cards with “peace” instead of saying “joy” or “merry.” “My kids did have fun moments and little adventures this year,” she says, “and I want to capture that and share with family. Also, it’s so awesome to get snail mail.”

Connect from afar over movies and music

Use a service like Netflix Party, Amazon Prime Video Watch Party, or Disney Plus GroupWatch to watch your favorite holiday movies together, from the comfort of your own couches. Munch on the same movie snacks while you watch — gingerbread cookies you bake and decorate, or a festive signature holiday drink. Each family could also buy the same new cozy blanket to curl up with on the couch — or, send matching blankets as gifts. You can also ask each family member to share their favorite holiday song and create a family holiday playlist on Spotify so everyone can enjoy the same tunes while cooking or decorating. 

Even though many of us won’t physically be with extended family this year, we can still connect in meaningful ways.

Give the present of your presence

Photos aren’t the same as seeing each other in person, but they can be the next best thing. Use a site like Snapfish to make a puzzle out of a funny or memorable photo of your family from the holiday season and send it to other family members to assemble as they celebrate. To re-create the feel of being together, Liz Parker Gagne in Holden, Massachusetts, used Contouree to design a small custom holiday photo cutout of herself, her husband, and son with the words “Together at heart this Thanksgiving” printed underneath. “We’re sending them to family on Thanksgiving so they can put ‘us’ at their table this year even though we won’t be there,” she says.

Get creative with holiday Zoom calls

Stage a virtual family holiday fashion show featuring ugly holiday sweaters, take turns reading from a favorite holiday story, or organize a far-flung family talent show. In Durham, North Carolina, JC Swansey and her family typically have a talent show featuring the family’s 12 cousins the Friday night after Thanksgiving. The little ones recite their ABCs or show off somersaults while older kids perform skits or original Thanksgiving poems. “Everyone else is going to Florida as usual, but we’re staying home, and we’ll Skype,” she says. “Either we’ll do the talent show virtually, or my kids will just perform for us.” You can also download a cozy winter or holiday scene for your Zoom background.

While the holidays this year might mean less togetherness than usual, that doesn’t have to put a damper on your family’s holiday spirit. With quality time at home, reimagining old traditions and starting new ones, you can still make the holidays special in 2020 and create moments that matter.

“Our Thanksgiving reunion is the high point of our year,” says Swansey. "But we’re thankful that our immediate family will celebrate together, and that we can meet online with our extended family.”


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