Start these 5 COVID-friendly holiday traditions that give back

December 7, 2020
by Paul Morello

Sharing a turkey around a virtual table. Singing carols to grandparents on FaceTime. Exchanging gifts through the mail. Because of the pandemic, the holidays this year are going to be different than anything else we’ve ever experienced, and our traditions might look a little 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 Thanksgiving, ask your family members to write down something they’re thankful for and put it in the jar at least once a day.

On Thanksgiving, 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 Thanksgiving 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. Send words of encouragement to families struggling this holiday

Sometimes, the simplest way we can touch the lives of our neighbors struggling with hunger is the most important. This holiday, use our easy form to write a note of encouragement to families who need a little extra help affording a Thanksgiving meal. Your card will be delivered to people picking up holiday food. Ask the whole family to participate by writing the note together. Your words will help provide a smile – and hope – for our neighbors this holiday. 

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. This may mean that some of the programs you might be used to volunteering at such as holiday soup kitchen meals or turkey distributions may not be happening, or may look a little different this year. 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, use our handy guide to learn everything you need to know about volunteering at a pantry this holiday.