There’s no place like home for the holidays

As a favourite Christmas carol reminds us, ‘there’s no place like home for the holidays’ and though our new normal might disrupt time-honoured family traditions, we can still have a holly jolly Christmas, Happy Hannukah or happy Kwanza and maybe even create new traditions.

I’ve pulled together some ideas that I hope you and your loved ones will enjoy:

1. Chop down a fresh Christmas tree. Travel the rural roads just north of Bowmanville to Powell’s Tree Farm, where you can harvest your own or select from pre-cut trees, including Scotch pine, spruce, Balsam fir and Fraser fir. At Prestonvale Tree Farms in Courtice, you can harvest your tree from a selection of Fraser firs, Balsam firs, spruce and pines.

2. Enjoy a Christmas movie marathon. Spend the day in your pyjamas as your family rediscovers classics like It’s a Wonderful Life or newer classics like Elf. Don’t forget the popcorn and other treats!

3. Take in the holiday lights. Take a walk around your neighbourhood or hit the road to take in beautiful light displays. Nothing screams “Christmas Cheer” like the scenic drive down Old Scugog Rd in Bowmanville *insert hot chocolate in hand*

4. Take a hike. Clarington has an abundance of scenic trails and hiking spots that are perfect for a day out in the fresh air. The parks and trails in Oshawa are also a great place to explore the outdoors.

5. Explore Durham Region. Check out 2020 Holiday Events in Durham Region – Region of Durham for a list of activities you can enjoy close to home. The Pickering Museum Village, for example, invites you to discover the seasonal beliefs of the First Nations Little Spirit Moon, early Scottish and Welsh settlers, and the Victorians who brought us many of the traditions we celebrate at Christmas. Book your 50-minute tour at What’s On – City of Pickering.

6. Decorate cookies. Pull out the aprons! Baking cookies will make your home smell delicious and you can enjoy the fruits of your labour throughout the holidays. Make sure you have some fun cookie cutters, frostings and decorations on hand. Consider putting together an assortment of your creations and deliver them to someone you wish you could spend time with over the holidays.

7. Give to those less fortunate. There are many ways to support our community. Durham Regional Police Service – Durham Region Police Service is holding its 32nd Annual Food and Toy Drive and is reminding the community that the pandemic has brought a greater need to our community. Feed the Need in Durham – All In! #feedingdurham is encouraging members of the community to give the gift of security this year so it can help local food banks.

8. Host a virtual gingerbread house competition. Challenge family and friends to build a gingerbread house and to post pictures of their creations on social media. Invite participants to vote on their favourites.

9. Shop local. The Clarington Board of Trade is among those encouraging us to find unique gifts for everyone on our lists by shopping locally. Not only will doing so strengthen the economic base of our community, it will also help your neighbours. Visit www.cbot.ca/shopclarington/. The Oshawa Loves Local campaign, meanwhile, highlights small community-owned and family-led businesses that would appreciate your support.

10. Host an outdoor hot chocolate party. Arrange a small outdoor gathering with extended family, perhaps after tobogganing, skating, hiking or other socially-distanced activity. A fire pit would add warmth and ambience to the get-together.

11. Get creative. The Visual Arts Centre of Clarington is hosting Creations from the Couch: Winter Edition that invites kids and their parents a virtual worry-free option to stay at home and explore a variety of activities ranging from watercolour to sculpture. Learn more at www.vac.ca/winterbreakcamps.html. The City of Oshawa’s Virtual Bright and Merry Market offers online activities for your family, including puzzles, craft video, colouring page, word search and bingo. Click on the community calendar at www.oshawa.ca/festivals-and-events.asp to learn more.

12. Make ornaments. Many people will remember 2020 with three little words borrowed from the Grinch: ‘stink, stank, stunk.’ Commemorate the year by making an ornament to hang on your tree and make another for someone special.

13. Have a virtual ugly sweater party. Don’t let those ugly sweaters go to waste – a virtual party allows everyone to show off their most questionable holiday attire. Don’t forget to vote for the ugliest sweater! Another idea for a virtual party: Christmas karaoke or a cocktail party.

14. Video chat to open gifts. No matter the distance, you can still gather your family around the Christmas tree to open gifts this year, even if it’s virtually. Set up a video chat using Zoom or Facebook Messenger and share the excitement face-to-face.

15. Put together a puzzle. The popularity of jigsaw puzzles has surged during the pandemic and for good reason: they can be put together by a single person or an entire family. Create a designated puzzle table and challenge everyone to put it together over the holidays. Your family likes a bit of competition? Schedule a board games and/or charades night.

16. Welcome the new year. Can’t wait to bid farewell to 2020? You’re not alone! The City of Oshawa invites you to ring out the old and ring out the new virtually at www.oshawa.ca/oshawacelebrates. Enjoy an hour-long performance video of balloon making, a magician, fire juggler and animals, as well as crafts, jigsaw puzzles and other activities.

However you and your loved ones choose to spend the holidays, I encourage you to stay safe by following pandemic prevention measures and hope you create many wonderful memories that you will cherish for years to come!

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