I’ve been worried about what Christmas would look like this year. My extended family is on the East Coast, and I am in no way comfortable with flying back right now. But despite 2020’s efforts with a devastating pandemic, I refuse to let COVID diminish the light of Christmas and our celebration of Christ’s birth. The Christmas season is the most important season of the year for my family. While holiday traditions are meant to be preserved, we will adapt to the current situation and we make some changes this year.
My extended family Christmas tradition is known as “Progressive Dinner”. It’s a day-long, Christmas celebration packed into one course-by-course meal, eaten at multiple houses. Think: traveling house party with Christmas presents involved. This is a big event involving six extended families who take turns hosting. Typically, we start at one house for brunch, go one to the next house to eat appetizers, move to another house for soup and salad, always to Grammy’s and Pop Pop’s for the main course, and end with dessert at the final destination. While at each house, we exchange gifts with members of that family.
Of course, this would be the year that is my family’s turn to host Christmas. Determined to make it a great Christmas no matter what, we’ve put our heads together to plan “A Very COVID Christmas Celebration”. This will be a virtual event joining together all 36 of our extended family members, across the U.S. In November, my family and I had a couple planning meetings via video chat. We discussed logistics, potential activities, and a schedule. Can you tell we are a family of detailed planners?
Even though things will look different this year, I’m excited to make the most of this unconventional, Christmas get-together. Obviously, we will all be eating at our own houses. We have scheduled different times for opening gifts from each family. Over the course of the meal, we have five activity categories planned: games, music, contests, sharing, and breakout rooms.
- Each family member is assigned a number.
- Each family member finds a item $10 or less on Amazon.
- Christmas host will match pictures with numbers.
- Order your gift and send to the person you’re paired with.
- Family members will be divided into teams.
- Prizes awarded via mail.
We are a very musical family and Christmas is our favorite time to use those gifts. We typically sing carols and hymns while my Grammy plays the piano. My husband says it is the most Griswold thing about my family.
- Talent show of pre-recorded, song and/or dance performances
- Christmas caroling as a family
- Singing Happy Birthday to Jesus (each family makes a dessert to stick a candle in)
- Build your own gingerbread house.
- Ugly sweater or Christmas PJs.
- Any family member shares a reflection of life during this pandemic.
- Bible verses of encouragement are shared.
- Each family is asked to submit pictures from previous Christmases, for a slideshow of past progressive dinners.
- Allotted time for smaller groups to catch up.
- There will be time for the grandkids with Grammy and Pop Pop, sibling time for the adults, and cousin time.
- Take a picture of the item, and send it to the Christmas host.
A tiny bit of silver lining is knowing this is not my kids’ first virtual Christmas experience, albeit not as concentrated as this year. Every other year, we rotate between celebrating Christmas with my family and celebrating Christmas with my husband’s family. That’s the nature of the game when you have family out-of-state. On the years we don’t travel to the East Coast for Christmas with my family, we mail gifts, brunch virtually, and open gifts via video chat. For those reasons, I think that gathering online for Christmas this year might be less disappointing for my kids than others.
I feel for the families who are going the virtual Christmas route for the very first time. Just know that your kids will appreciate any effort to make it a special one and remind them that it won’t always be like this. In teaching resiliency, I am using this year as an example that we can do our best to adapt in challenging circumstances and make some temporary changes to make the most with what we have. The most important thing for me is teaching my kids the reason for the season, and thankfully that stays the same, no matter what 2020 throws at us.