We can all feel it – even though the holidays are upon us, it is understandable that travel stress and economic uncertainty have disrupted traditional celebrations. Zooms and Skypes can only replace a part of what we’re missing, but what can be done? I’ve never experienced anything like this either, but here are 10 ideas on how to add a little light to this unprecedented moment in time.

  1. Get outside – There really is scientific benefit in getting outside and feeling the sunlight. It improves sleep, reduces stress and actually helps keep you from gaining weight (not a bad thing when culinary temptations abound). But even more importantly, it strengthens the immune system and helps prevent depression. If you have a fire pit, light it up and send the photos to your jealous friends in Minnesota.
  2. Take a drive and see the lights – This is a free activity (except for gas), and it can be really fun. If in your normal early evening travels you see an impressive display, check out the neighborhood (birds of a feather, right?). Or, check online, since some areas post where to see the best shows. The Woodlands offers this link, and here are some ideas for Houston. There are also a number of paid alternatives as well, like The Light Park. Jump in the car with some hot chocolate and popcorn and go on a light hunt!
  3. An oldie but goodie (Secret Santa) – It’s almost mid-December, but if the economic slowdown has impacted you, Secret Santa might help. Pick a family member in secret and everyone gets to buy or create a gift for a different person. No one will know what’s coming, and possibly this anticipation will at least add some excitement to an otherwise gray period.
  4. Build a gingerbread house – These are very inexpensive, and really nice kits can be found at stores like T.J. Maxx and Kroger’s. Everyone can join in and help build one, or maybe you make it a competition and have the kids against the parents, or some other combination? Either way, it’s a great way to do something constructive (that you get to eat later).
  5. Play Christmas charades – This can be fun anytime, but especially now when a lot of normal activities are shut down, have reduced capacity, or just don’t feel safe to do. You can buy an “official” Christmas charades game at (say it with me) Amazon, or you can easily cut up some paper and write different Christmas topics to act out. This latter homemade version might turn out to be the most fun!
  6. Donate items – Here’s a way to give back to the community at a time when the community really needs some giving back. Why not do your New Year’s or spring cleaning now? If you are like me, the amount of useful items you will uncover will be quite a shock. And I guarantee that Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Interfaith and others will be so grateful.
  7. Have an ugly sweater contest – Ok, so why would anyone want to make an ugly sweater on purpose? Because it’s an indoor, low-cost activity where everyone can participate. Pull out some old shirts, sweaters and/or pajamas (that you found while doing idea 6 above), and then draw, cut up, stitch and create! The winner gets a prize of their choosing (or whatever you decide is an appropriate prize). The prize doesn’t have to be an item – how about a coupon book waiving (for example) dishwashing duty for the week?
  8. Make holiday cards – If you believe the news, it might be too late to make actual cards at this point in the month. But fear not – the internet to the rescue! Hallmark, American Greetings, Blue Mountain and more all offer e-cards that can be created and sent in minutes. Want to send a video message instead? Elfyourself, Jibjab and many others can make you a star (at least among your family and friends).
  9. Add decorations to your home or yard – While you may already be happy with the looks of your yard, why not step it up? If there are any extra lights and ornaments lying around, why not decorate a second tree (or a third)? Or, check your yard for a tree, a bush, or shrub that might make a holiday statement and decorate it. If you don’t have any yard forest to spare, decorate for a neighbor instead (probably should ask first to avoid grinch-like encounters).
  10. Surprise the neighbors – In the old days (last year and all previous years), it was a simple matter. Bake some sugar cookies, sprinkle them with green and red sugar, wrap in colored cellophane (from the Dollar Store!), tie with ribbon and deliver to your neighbors. Now, anything homemade is potentially toxic, so you have to be a bit more creative. Check out the seasonal sections at Wal-Mart or Target for inexpensive items (like cocoa bombs) and make like Santa.

These are all easy, free or inexpensive activities you can do with your families, and all are Dr. Fauci-approved. It is important to seek or create something positive in the midst of everything negative. I have found that by spreading joy I am joyful. I believe you will feel the same way.