A Challenging December

Jan Millward acknowledges that this Christmas season will be different from any other that you’ve faced. But reminds us all that having fun is still possible, and that the true spirit of Christmas – friendship, warmth and generosity – can still be very much a part of your celebrations.

“Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.”

Ruth Carter Stapleton

Under normal circumstances, your Christmas activity diary right now would be bursting with plays, parties and visiting carol singers. And, while this one looks to be a very different affair, it doesn’t mean it can’t be celebrated and enjoyed in style.

Vintage Christmas

For something that all your residents can give their valuable input to, have a go at theming your Christmas preparations around the 1950s/60s. Take some time at the start of the season, and throughout, to reminisce about Christmases past, stockings filled with tangerines and pennies, silver threepenny bits in the Christmas pud and presents on Christmas Day. Fill the room with Christmas smells such as cloves, cinnamon and pine.

For food and drink, make a fruity punch, have Cherry B, Babycham and snowball drinks and of course sherry, and incorporate them into a wine and cheese tasting session. Make vintage party food, such as pineapple and cheese hedgehogs, vol-au-vents with different fillings, jelly and ice cream, and a sherry trifle!

Have a go at making some no-cook sweets and giving them as presents, and also set aside some time to ice a Christmas cake and make mince pies. (Recipe for mincemeat here.)

You can also get crafty making gift wrap using plain brown paper and potato prints of holly leaves and berries, as well as making folded Christmas trees out of old books, pomanders out of oranges and cloves, paper chains and Chinese lanterns, and your own cards and gift tags.

For table decorations, fold napkins into festive shapes, make simple table decorations in old teacups (fill the cup with Oasis and decorate with fir and pine cones). Make sure everyone who can’t get out has one for their room. Make simple crackers using kitchen-roll inners and wrapping paper.

Listen to, or watch, plenty of carol services. You could make it a candlelit one with LED lights, especially if you are watching the traditional carol service by candlelight on the TV – we love this one from Trinity College last year.

For fun and games, do the Christmas classic – charades – as well as organising an in-house whist drive (instructions here), Christmas-prize bingo, ‘The Price is Right’ and a Christmas quiz.

Enjoy the gift of giving, and winning, with a festive raffle – ask families for donations of small gifts and give all your residents some tickets. Make sure Father Christmas pays a visit too – this year, you may have to ask a member of staff to step in.

Put on a staff talent show or pantomime (oh yes you can!). Dress up in Christmas hats and have fun. You may be surprised how good you are! Or organise a simple traditional nativity and let your residents do the readings and take part where appropriate, or get all the care home staff involved to present it to residents. Here is a simple script to use. Dress up if you can too.

And finally, for something to involve the whole care home, how about a Christmas-tree festival?

Challenge residents, families and visitors to make and decorate a mini tree, no more than two-foot high. Get them to personalise it or choose a theme for them to follow, and, when the trees are completed, display them around the care home for a couple of weeks. Get your residents to judge them, awarding a prize to the top three.