The closer and closer we get to the Christmas holiday, the more you hear folks discussing the best way to celebrate this COVID Christmas. Assure your grandchildren that though the holiday may look a bit different this year, they will not miss the celebration.

It is hard to substitute something new for a tried and true tradition. However, if the grandparents can have a positive attitude, grandchildren will follow along and consider 2020 Christmas a fun adventure.

Here are 9 creative ideas to stay close to your grandchildren during this Christmas of distancing.

1. Secret Gag Gifts

 We heard an announcement from Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, that the royal Christmas would be different, breaking a 33-year-old tradition. For years the family and extended family has gathered at Windsor Castle. This year, however, because of COVID-19, the family will stay away, all for various reasons but mostly to protect the Queen.

For years every member of the royal family has had a secret family member for which to bring a gag gift, something that would make them all laugh.

Sometime during the week of Christmas, the giver wraps the gift and sneaks down to the dining room and places it on the table. Then Christmas Eve the family gathers to open presents and enjoy a jovial evening.

I don’t know how the Queen’s family will carry this on this year, but the practice of secret gifts could be adapted to families who must celebrate apart. Just start early enough to mail the gift to its recipient, or arrange with a different family member to get it to your assigned person. Then gather on an internet platform to open gifts and laugh together.

2. Virtual Charades

Another of the royals’ traditions is that the Queen really enjoys a game of charades on Christmas Eve. This, too, could be played by multiple families who are spread out all over the world.

Let one person organize the game and create the phrases to be identified. Use the chat feature of an internet platform to let them know their subject to act out. This is a great game for all ages.

3. 12 Days of Christmas

This would be a fun year to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. Just what does that mean? For the 12 days of Christmas, you give a small gift beginning with one gift on the first day ending with 12 gifts on the last day. The gifts may be purchased or handmade or maybe even just a written note or two.

Grandparents, this is a great opportunity to help your grandchildren pass the time until Christmas day, even if you don’t live in the same town. You could collect your gifts ahead of time, wrap them, put a number on them, and mail them in one big box to the parents.

Ask the parents to find a good place to serve as the “mailbox” and make sure they are delivered. If you prefer, you could mail them to the children separately. The biggest flaw in this plan is that holiday delivery may interfere with the presents arriving on the right day.

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of assembling and wrapping presents, you may want to call your grandchildren daily and have jokes ready for them each day. You could do one on the first day, two on the second, and so forth. Just make sure your jokes are appropriate for the ages of the grandchildren.

4. Record Reactions to Gifts

Nothing is more fun than watching someone open a gift you have chosen just for him or her. When you can’t be together in person, make a video of each recipient opening gifts and share them with the giver.

Not only can they experience the joy their gift brings, but it also gives the recipient the opportunity to thank the giver in a timely manner. If you prefer, you could set a time with everyone in the family and virtually share a gift opening session. Be sure writing thank you notes is part of the evening.

Christmas sheet music with decorations, Christmas carols to give worship

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/RamilF

5. An Interactive Nativity Story

Gather virtually around the manger scene. Let each person take one character from the scene and tell the family and share:

1. Why he chose that person
2. Why the person wanted to go see Jesus
3. What he had to do to make it possible to make the trip
4. What is the most special thing about Jesus in the manger

You will probably find that everyone has a favorite person to talk about and different reasons for choosing that person.

In our nativity my favorite person is the man who has a basket over his arm, his hat in the other hand and that arm up across his forehead like he has a headache. We call him “Man with a Headache!”

I think he had so many things to attend to at home to be able to make the trip that it gave him a headache. He had to make sure the animals would be fed, the children had what they needed, and that his wife understood how to keep things going in his absence. Even though she really wanted him to go see Jesus, she probably had a headache, too!

6. Read a Bedtime Story to Your Grandchildren

This could be done virtually as well or if you prefer to record it, Mom and Dad can play it at bedtime. Having Grandma and Grandpa “there” at bedtime will be a special treat for the children. There are many wonderful Christmas books to choose from or you could read them part of the Christmas story every night and discuss it.

Close by singing a song together and praying for your grandchildren.

7. Recite a Christmas Story Together

Depending on the ages of your family members, have each member memorize a line from the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke. Have all family  Then on Christmas Eve, Grandpa and Grandma can lead as everyone recites it together.

Not only will this increase your faith from hearing the Word about Jesus, it will help your family bond over the magic of Christmas.

8. Puzzle Competition

Send each family in your extended group the same puzzle. Instruct them exactly when to start the puzzle, not before.

Write down the exact time the puzzle is complete and send to the grandparents. Have a prize for the family who wins.

9. Guess Which Present Is for Which Family Member

This year may be the year we have to mail or drop off presents even for those who live in town. Think creatively how you can make it fun despite your absence.

Before mailing your Christmas presents, choose a specific wrapping paper for each recipient and leave off the gift tags. Those who receive the gifts must decide which gift is for which person. For example, if you have a football player in the family, find some Christmas football paper.

If someone plays a musical instrument, you can probably find that paper too. Almost every family has Disney fans or those who love Superheroes.

Many options exist for gathering “together” while we have to be apart. If you must social distance this year, be encouraged in knowing we won’t have to do this forever. Hopefully, next year this will be forgotten as we joyfully prepare large family gatherings.

The most important thing we can remember during this unprecedented Christmas season is the One whose birth we are celebrating. No matter whether we are alone in our homes, with just our immediate families, or gathered with a good friend or two, you can celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Take time to sing carols and praise songs. Lead your grandchildren in singing a happy birthday song to Jesus. Maybe help them bake Jesus a cake and set Him a place at the table. 

Most of all, take time to tell Him that you love Him and thank Him for the sacrifice He made for you. Acknowledge your trust in Him and promise to make it part of your practice in the new year to tell others about Him.

Let your Christmas gift to Him be your diligence in spreading the word about God’s saving grace to others. Fill your home and your hearts with His love and enjoy the spirit of Christmas this month and all year long.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/YakobchukOlena

Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Her passion is helping others discover the joy of writing and learn to use their writing to make a difference. Linda recently released Articles, Articles, Articles! and is the author of over a thousand magazine articles and 19 books including the new Quick Guides for Personalities. She loves every opportunity to share her testimony, especially through her writing. Linda’s favorite activity (other than eating folded potato chips) is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material!