10 Festive Winter Holiday Activities

mug of hot chocolate with cookies on a soft blanket in front of white lights

Winter festivities are a cornerstone of many people’s cultures and community connections. In Canada, these may include Hanukkah, Christmas, Tet, Diwali, Winter Solstice and so many more. Some folks can’t get out to participate in events or with their faith communities, and new traditions are being developed to help seniors and people with disabilities celebrate the season. We are offering 10 festive activities to engage housebound folks over the holiday season.

#1 Start a Letter Exchange

Pair seniors and disabled adults with children for a letter exchange. This may include grandparents, aunts and uncles with the next generation or a group of older people with children from a local school or place of worship. Send letters (anonymously through the organizer) about their childhood holiday traditions. Children will be fascinated to learn what older people experienced and adults will learn about today’s traditions.

#2 Make Decorations

Invite children to meet with older adults in an activity centre or place of worship to make old-fashioned decorations. If that isn’t possible, arrange groups of children to create decorations for seniors and deliver them to their long-term care or housing facility.

#3 Host an Online Party

With one or more persons onsite with the isolated person to run Zoom or Skype, family and friends from anywhere in the world can log in to celebrate together. You can pre-arrange a game, send a recipe for a signature cocktail (virgin or spirited), or do readings from spiritual texts, poems or stories. This would be a wonderful way to celebrate the 8 days of Hanukkah or to share a reading of “The Night Before Christmas.”

#4 Help with Greeting Cards

Sometimes the logistics of writing holiday cards is the hardest part. Equip the person with greeting cards, envelopes, stamps and an address book to make the task easier. For those who are so inclined, you may also bring supplies to make their own cards, but only if they ask as it might be a daunting task. 

#5 Bring a Jigsaw Puzzle

Putting together a puzzle can be very calming and relaxing. Whether you choose a winter theme or a puzzle with other graphics, be conscious of the recipient’s cognition. Puzzles are great for the mind, but for seniors or those living with dementia, look for specialized products that won’t cause anxiety or frustration. Holiday trivia and guessing holiday songs from a few select lyrics is also fun and stimulating.

#6 Decorate Cookies

In a group setting, gather everyone around for cookie decorating. For housebound people, drop off some cookies and icing in sandwich bags, all ready to pipe. You can decorate with red, black and green for Kwanzaa or blue and gold menorahs for Hanukkah. 

#7 Host a Movie Night

Not everyone can watch a movie in the same room, but thanks to technology you can watch together. Wearing cozy pajamas and with popcorn at hand, watch a movie together on Netflix Party or the Gaze Movie Sharing app to watch a movie together and discuss it after. For those who don’t have a streaming service, let your senior pick the movie from those available on YouTube or the library download catalogue. You can talk about it later on a phone call.

#8 Experience Culture and the Arts – Virtually

Sign your senior up for a virtual tour of another city, a museum, or other cultural centre. For theatre and dance lovers, buy tickets for virtual performances of plays at the National Theatre ($18 for one month subscription) or dance performances. An internet search reveals lots of programming, much of it free.

#9 Tour Christmas Lights

Whether taking a family member in your car or a group in a facility bus, a tour of the Christmas lights cheers up almost any winter night. Map out a route of where the best displays are to keep the tour fun and interesting, with stops for photos if your passengers desire. You finish the night up with tea or hot chocolate and seasonal treats.

#10 Participate in Community Work

Giving back to the community is a wonderful way to feel part of something bigger than yourself. Many older adults who are homebound or have mobility limits miss their charitable works. Staying engaged helps nurture one’s sense of purpose and achievement.

There are many programs in B.C. communities that would love the help. Consider knitting or crocheting beanies for newborns or toques and scarves for people experiencing homelessness. Quilters can contribute their goods to shelters, premature babies’ hospital units and survivors of domestic violence. No skills in that department, but wish you did? Here’s a no-sew fleece blanket that makes up quickly and easily. Most thrift stores sell inexpensive materials, removing the barrier of cost.

Finding the Right Amount of Joy 

Most of us are barraged with messages about the joy of the season. Yet for people who have experienced loss or personal trauma, are estranged from their cultures or families and those in recovery, the festive season brings mixed memories. Older adults may also be experiencing dementia or other health-related issues. As we attempt to bring joy to others, it’s important to know how much is just right.

Whatever the situation, whatever the personal traditions, we hope these ideas bring just a little joy to the homebound people in your care.


Explore our website to learn more about BC CRN or connect with your local CRN for more information or resources. 



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