Even with social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols in place, it is still possible to create a memorable holiday season with traditions and memories that will extend beyond 2020, according to Kaci Daniel from Virginia Cooperative Extension, which brings the resources of Virginia's land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth.

Daniels shares the following family-friendly ideas for making holiday traditions special this year.

  • Make your own wrapping paper. Buy plain white freezer paper and decorate with markers and crayons, or stamps, fruits and veggie stamps, etc. 

  • Get outdoors, especially at night. Cozy up in blankets, study the stars, play flashlight tag, and roast marshmallows around a firepit if your outdoor space allows. 

  • Research customs of various cultures and practice those traditions. Explore different countries, religions, and don't forget the rich Appalachian culture in Virginia. 

  • Start a fitness routine together - yoga, walking, aerobics, hiking. Everyone waits until the new year, but get a head start. It also is great for your mental health. 

  • "Gift" what you already have. For young children, the anticipation of a wrapped package is gift enough. Collect children's books from around the house, wrap them, and then unwrap one each night and read it as a family. 

  • Have fun with "white elephant" gift exchanges. Pick something from your house and exchange with neighbors or family. Go for funny, absurd, or just regifting something that you're not using and think someone else might. 

  • Create a paper chain countdown to a special day. It could be a religious holiday, the new year, or something different. Break off one link of the chain each day and build excitement. 

  • A lot of families have an Elf on the Shelf, but you don't need that toy to enjoy mischief and merriment. Play a "what's different?" game by moving or changing one thing in the house each day and let family members try to guess. See how observant they can be. All ages can play, even families that don't have children. 

  • Focus on healthy eating habits, such as following the “My Plate” guidelines each day. Can you consume enough fruits and vegetables? Or try to "eat a rainbow" every day and see how many different colors you can include in your diet.
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