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Water Cooler: Quarantine-friendly holiday activities

Driving around Spokane looking at Christmas lights is a safe way to enjoy the holiday season.  (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review)
Driving around Spokane looking at Christmas lights is a safe way to enjoy the holiday season. (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review)

If you’re one of those people who start celebrating Christmas the minute the Thanksgiving turkey dinner is packed up into Tupperware, you can never have too many ways to stuff festive activities into the next 28 days. With social distancing restrictions limiting many of the usual ways to celebrate, quarantine challenges us yet again to be innovative. Instead of the hustle and bustle, this year’s holiday season will put a lot more emphasis on ways to share simple and meaningful moments together at home. These quarantine-inspired ideas may even lead to new family traditions for years to come.

Capture the year with a handprint. Use air dry clay to create handprint ornaments or use finger paint to make handprint cards. In a year that emphasizes opting for elbow bumps instead of handshakes, a handprint can mean a lot as an indirect but still tangible way to send love to friends and family.

Create a DIY holiday village. The Christmas tradition of creating miniature-scale villages dates back to the 18th century. The Moravian church would create elaborate miniature landscapes of houses, animals, working flour mills, electric trains and even running water as waterfalls and rivers. After World War II, this type of decoration became popular because several Japanese companies began producing affordable cardboard and paper houses and buildings, with colored cellophane windows illuminated by Christmas lights and mica-dusted roofs to emulate a sparkling frost. In the 1970s, it became more popular to invest in a collection of porcelain and ceramic Christmas villages.

Opt for a DIY village, using paper, cardstock or cardboard to hark back to the original versions while providing the option to customize the look and theme. These villages can be applied to any holiday, like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ōmisoka, Boxing Day, Yule, Pancha Ganapati, Soyal or Solstice. You can get creative with what buildings, trees, colors and lighting is in your miniature village, and even make paper cut outs of family and friends. You can create three-dimensional structures, or keep it simple with 2-D and stand them up against a support, like a piece of wood or cardboard, with a string of Christmas lights running behind it.

Create your own advent calendar. Traditional advent calendars include a small gift or treat for each day, but you can also create one that reveals a holiday activity to do, a thoughtful sentiment to reflect on, acts of kindness suggestions, or an ornament to hang each day. The design can be your very own. Use twine and clothes pins to hang an envelope for every day, use a small Christmas tree, houseplant or vase of branches to hang day markers from or use a wreath numbered with the days.

Start off the new year with a gratitude jar. Throughout the month, have your family add a note about a daily moment of gratitude to the jar at dinnertime or other part of the day when you are together. Read them together on New Year’s Eve as a way to start 2021 with lots of love and thoughtfulness.

Drive around to see the holiday lights. It turns out this is a classic holiday activity that is inherently socially distanced. This is a great way to get out of the house to enjoy the holidays while staying safe.

Decorate the house with DIY crafts. With all this downtime, you don’t need the speed of Santa’s elves to deck the house with homemade garlands and paper snowflakes. Use popcorn, cranberries, dehydrated orange slices, cinnamon sticks, pine cones, and cuts of greenery from evergreen trees around your home to make your own garlands. Cranberries will only last a few days, but can be preserved throughout the holidays if sprayed with an acrylic sealant and left to dry for 12 hours.

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