Start these COVID-friendly holiday traditions that give back

thank you cards in a jar
December 17, 2021
by Paul Morello

Sharing a turkey around a virtual table. Singing carols to grandparents on FaceTime. Exchanging gifts through the mail. While many of these things are likely in our past, the holidays may still be a bit different this year because of the pandemic and circulating variants. So, your traditions might look a bit different, too. But, one tradition that doesn’t need to go away is helping your struggling neighbors during the holidays. It just may require a bit more creativity. 

So, bring your holiday (and creative) spirit because we’ve got COVID-friendly ways to give back that you can do at home or safely in-person.

1. Start a family “thankful” jar

‘Tis the season to be thankful. What better way to get your family thinking about all the things they’re grateful for than by writing them down!

Put an old mason jar (or any washed-out jar) on your counter with little paper squares and a pen. Leading up to your holiday get-together, ask your family members to write down something they’re thankful for and put it in the jar at least once a day.

On the holiday, pull all the notes out of the jar and read them together. To make the tradition even more meaningful, pledge to give a dollar (or a quarter, or whatever works for your family) to your local food bank or pantry for each note in the jar.

Like this idea and want to take it a step further? Check out how to start a gratitude journal!

2. Up the ante at your holiday game night with a fundraiser

Instead of collecting cans to drop off at a food bank this year, consider adding a virtual fundraiser to your holiday game night. Nothing brings out the holiday spirit more than a virtual food drive… and beating your friends and family at Monopoly!

There are a lot of creative ways to make this tradition fun! Try offering special privileges (like a free card, more time to write answers, or an additional dice roll, etc.) to players who donate to your fundraiser. Or, for one game, let everyone know that whoever loses (or wins!) must contribute to the virtual food drive. Keep this new tradition going next year and stoke the competitive spirit in your guests by giving the person who wins the most games or donates the most a traveling trophy to take home for the year!

Ready to take your virtual food drive from game night to your holiday meal? We’ve got tips to make your fundraiser successful.

3. Bake (and share) cookie recipes for a good cause

While many traditional holiday cookie exchanges won’t be happening this year because of the pandemic, why not start a new cookie-centric tradition this year? Instead of getting together in person and sharing cookies, set up a Zoom get-together with friends or family. 

Ask everyone to bring their two favorite cookie recipes. Go around the room and let everyone explain why they love their recipes. Afterward, instead of sharing the recipes, “sell” them by having everyone donate to their local food bank or pantry in exchange for their recipe. Then, set up a second Zoom, bake the cookies, and report back to the group!

4. Thank a food bank hero

This holiday (and throughout the year), food banks and their amazing, dedicated teams are there to bring hope to people who need a little extra help. Send those food bank heroes a little holiday cheer by telling them how much you appreciate their work. It's easy! Just sign this digital card to share some love with them. 

5. Volunteer safely during Thanksgiving or Christmas

Thanksgiving and Christmas are very busy times for food banks and very popular times to volunteer. During the pandemic, food banks and food pantries are taking extra precautions to keep volunteers and visitors safe. If you want to volunteer this holiday, there are still plenty of options to choose from, as long as you sign up early. Be sure to check with your local food bank to see where they need help, prepare to bundle up and bring the whole family! 

Before you go, let your family and friends know you're helping out by signing our pledge to volunteer. Then, use our handy guide to learn everything you need to know about volunteering at a pantry this holiday.

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