Create some holiday magic in the time of COVID and spark family memories your kids will cherish.
There’s no doubt that the winter holidays are going to look a little different this year. But if crowded malls, long lines and the pressure to buy and see it all never really appealed to you, this just might be the year to slow down and explore the truer meaning of the holidays while making some long-lasting family memories. Here are just a few magical ways to celebrate the winter season while social distancing during these COVID days.
Harvest Your Own Tree
Oregon has no shortage of U-cut Christmas tree farms. This year, with Santa self-quarantining, it might be fun to check out a new-to-you farm such as Loch Lolly Christmas Forest in North Plains, Plumper Pumpkin Patch and Tree Farm in Portland, or Sauvie Island Farms just 10 miles from downtown Portland. For families with older kids who are up for an adventure, you can get a permit from the U.S. Forest Service and harvest a tree from the wild for just $5.
Where to See Holiday Lights
The Oregon Zoo’s holiday tradition of more than 1.5 million colored lights will be back on November 22 with a new drive-through experience. All tickets must be purchased in advance. Tickets are available online seven days in advance. Check the Oregon Zoo website for details on the walk-through nights after the “freeze” has been lifted.
The Sunshine Division’s Winter Wonderland, “the largest holiday light show west of the Mississippi,” will return on November 27. Visitors can expect to see more than 250 different light displays spanning the length of Portland International Raceway from the comfort of their own cars.
Let Your Kids Shop for Kids in Need
The holiday season can be an especially difficult time for kids in foster care. Making a monetary donation to a foster support group is always welcome, but many also accept donations of new, or like-new, clothes, toys, books and other childhood essentials. Let your kids help select items to give so they feel involved in the gifting process. With Love, a local organization that supports Oregon’s foster community, even has an Amazon gift registry, which lets you shop and have the items delivered, contact-free.
Hanukah in a Box
Kids love getting mail. And a package with their name on it is even better. Days United, a subscription-box company that helps families celebrate cultural traditions, makes it super-easy to fill the eight days of Hanukah with fun activities and experiences for the whole family. Expect a colorful guide filled with holiday traditions, crafts, songs, recipes and more. Available as a single box for $49.90 or a subscription of four or eight boxes per year.
Where to Find Portland’s Best Hot Chocolate
Here are three fun places to try and why, each offering contactless order and pickup. Check out Soro Soro Coffee & Dessert for their perfectly executed hot chocolate in original and chocolate-banana flavors, but don’t miss ordering a few of their adorable individual desserts, often featuring googly eyes or sweet animal faces. Whipped-cream lovers will appreciate the generous swirls that top each hot chocolate order at Moonstruck Chocolate shops. Be sure to stock up on their mixes to enjoy at home. If you’re feeling adventurous, try their horchata, mint or golden milk flavors. If you’ve got a kid who can never finish a mug of hot cocoa, the House Xocolata drinking and dipping chocolate at 180 Xurros just might be a game changer. Order with fresh xurros and let the kiddos dunk away, coffee-and-doughnuts-style.
Make an Ice Igloo With Sugar Cubes
Gingerbread houses are fun, but if you’re looking for more ways to keep your little builders busy, make an ice igloo with nothing more than sugar cubes and glue. Depending on your audience, call it a Minecraft fortress, Elsa’s castle or Pingu’s igloo. Dust your final creations with powdered sugar if you like, and add some toy figures to create your own snow-covered wonderland display.
Surprise Your Family With DIY Crackers
Christmas crackers — not the snacking kind, but the surprise-holding kind — are a fun way to add a pop of fun at the Christmas table. Pull the ends apart, and the crackers make a cracking sound before revealing their contents. Popular in England, traditional crackers contain a joke or a riddle, a paper crown, and some sweets and trinkets. There are many companies that sell ready-made crackers, but it’s not hard to make your own. DIY means you can customize the contents for each family member. Visit oldenglishcrackers.com to purchase all the supplies and watch a video tutorial.
The Nutcracker at No Cost
If you’re one of the families who make it a tradition to attend a stage production of The Nutcracker each year, don’t let the lack of in-person performances deter you from enjoying the music and magic of George Balanchine’s famous ballet. Full-length productions, from the New York City Ballet and others, exist on YouTube and can be viewed for absolutely free with no traveling involved.
Learn (Like, Really Learn) All the Lyrics to Those Classic Christmas Carols
If you’re like me and mumble your way through anything besides Jingle Bells, maybe it’s time to finally learn the lyrics to all those classic Christmas songs. Search “Christmas Carols with Lyrics” on YouTube and you’ll be rewarded with karaoke-style singalong videos that make it fun for the whole family to get in the holiday spirit through song.
Decorate for Kwanzaa
During the seven days of Kwanzaa (December 26 to January 1), the African-American celebration of life and family, decorate your home with the colors red, black and green. Reflect on each of the seven guiding principles (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith) and help the kids craft colorful paper garlands, woven placemats and beaded necklaces for each family member to wear during the Karamu celebration feast on New Year’s Eve.
Be Your Own Events Calendar
Now that you have all these ideas for how to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime season, create and decorate a large wall calendar from Thanksgiving to the New Year listing your very official “events” so the kids have something to look forward to each week and you have time to plan (and rest) in between.