As always, there are a number of special days to keep an eye out for this month. Find our tips and activity ideas below. If you’re already a subscriber of ours, don’t forget that you can access ready-to-use session plans linked to this month’s Featured Events in your Activities Booklet. Enjoy!
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12th December – Frank Sinatra’s Birthday
What a gift it is to be able to celebrate this musical legend in the magical month of December! He is famous for singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Let it Snow. Today provides the perfect excuse to celebrate his wonderful talent.
Frank Sinatra is often referred to as the best singer of the 20th century. He is best known for easy-listening swing and jazz, as well as being an actor and member of the 1960s Rat Pack (alongside Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Junior, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop).
- You may have a local entertainer who can sing Frank Sinatra songs. Alternatively, find a CD of his greatest hits, or stream them via Spotify or YouTube. Print off lyrics and hold a singalong session!
- Bring your singalong session to life with feather boas and pom-poms. Encourage dancing if your residents are able.
- Frank Sinatra was very proud of his Italian heritage (he was born in America to Italian migrants). You could prepare and eat mini pizzas in his honour! Use ready-made pizza bases, and provide bowls of tomato sauce, mozzarella and various pizza toppings such as pepperoni, sweetcorn, sliced onions, olives, ham and pineapple. Encourage residents to choose their own toppings. Serve with Frank Sinatra’s favourite wine – anything from Italy!
Hanukkah: 18th December
Hanukkah is known as the Jewish festival of light. It runs from 18th December and ends on the evening of Monday 26th December.
Hanukkah commemorates the time when a group of Jews known as the Maccabees rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. They were given oil for their lamp, which was supposed to only last one day, but it lasted for eight. This was considered a miracle and since then has determined the length of the celebration. Traditionally, Hanukkah is marked by lighting a menorah lamp. A candle is lit on each of the eight nights, with the ninth candle used to light the others. The menorah is placed in windows for people to see and to celebrate the light.
- It may not be possible to light candles in your place of work due to fire regulations. Instead print out a picture of a menorah on black card to look like a silhouette. Cut out the shape and attach it to a window. On each day of the festival, add an orange cellophane flame shape to each candle. This should pick up the light from the window, resulting in a flame effect.
- Make contact with your local rabbi to enquire if anyone can visit your care setting to talk about the festival and help with celebrations.
- Check your residents’ life histories. Do any belong to the Jewish faith? If so, involve them as much as possible in the celebrations.
- Make latkes (traditional potato pancakes) and serve with soured cream dip.
20th December – anniversary of Cardiff becoming the capital city of Wales
Historically, Wales did not have an official capital city. In 1955, the minister for Welsh affairs proclaimed Cardiff to be the capital city of the country.
Aim to theme today’s activities around Welsh culture and traditions. As always, ensure that you speak to any residents, staff or volunteers that have links to Wales – they may have suggestions of activity ideas or resources, or may be keen to share their own experiences and knowledge with your residents in 1:1 or group discussions.
- Cut some large Welsh love spoons out of thick card and decorate.
- Involve residents in the preparation of vegetables for leek and potato soup.
- Invite residents to request music from their favourite Welsh singers – Charlotte Church, Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey are enough to get any party rocking!
21st December – Winter Solstice
Today marks the shortest day of the year. Many people gather at Stonehenge today to watch the sun rise.
- Make your own version of Stonehenge using everyday objects you have available – Jenga blocks, dominoes, even Bourbon biscuits! Encourage residents to get creative. You could display an image of Stonehenge on a large screen for residents to refer to.
- Research winter solstice traditions in other countries or cultures. You may have residents who will remember certain solstice customs. In Japan, for instance, they bathe with citrus extracts to refresh body and spirit. You could take inspiration from this and incorporate citrus scents into your sensory sessions, or use citrus water for all residents to enjoy washing their hands in before mealtimes.
- In Iran, a winter solstice feast is held. Legend has it that if you eat fruits that grow in the summertime, they will protect you from illness during the winter months. A great excuse for a tasty treat – you could try making a hot, fruity punch or a strudel using frozen summer fruits.
24th December – Christmas Eve
You probably have a busy day planned for tomorrow, so organise one craft activity for those who want to be ‘doing’ something specific. Making table decorations today is a lovely way to ensure that you have something pretty (and fresh) to garnish your tables with tomorrow.
You will need
- Saucers, plant-pot stands or tea cups for the arrangements themselves – keep them fairly small so that there is still plenty of room on the tables
- Greenery such as fir, bay, holly and ivy, or lower branches of your real Christmas tree
- Berries – fake or real, so long as they are not poisonous
- Gypsophilia, which can be purchased relatively cheaply from most supermarkets or florists
- Other decorations such as fir cones, dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks and teasel heads
- Spray-on snow and gold or silver spray paint
What to do
- Soak the oasis in a bucket of water, then cut to size.
- Lay out greenery and decorations and let your residents make their own arragements. Generally it works best if you put the greenery in first, but let your residents work as independently as possible.
- Spray the decorations with fake snow or glitter spray, if your resident wishes.
- Place arrangements on dining tables, or on the windowsill or bedside table of residents who will be spending Christmas Day in their bedroom.
- Ensure your arrangements are regularly watered and deadheaded.
25th December – Christmas Day
Congratulations! The run-up to Christmas is the busiest time in most activity coordinators’ calendars. You have made it!
Care settings will vary as to how much activity provision there is on Christmas Day. Often residents will go out for the day or family will visit, so it can be tricky to provide structured activities that work for everyone.
Make a conscious effort to spend time with residents who don’t have anyone coming in to visit them – they may feel quite lonely at this time of year.
- Find someone who is willing to dress up as Father Christmas. One of the staff members should dress up as an elf and accompany Father Christmas as he makes his way around your care setting, visiting residents and handing them a small gift or stocking, depending on what your care home has arranged.
- Incorporate a religious service into your plan for today – some residents may wish to attend a local church service in person, others may prefer to watch a televised service. You could reach out to your local priest or clergyman to ask them to pay a visit.
- Fill your care setting with Christmas music, from popular Christmas songs to traditional carols. Arrange a group singalong session in the afternoon.
- Play pass the parcel. Use a small gift in the centre, wrapped in multiple layers of wrapping paper, with a chocolate coin between each layer.
26th December – Boxing Day
Boxing Day often feels a bit flat – all the Christmas festivities, carol singing, crafts and entertainment is over for another year! Often, being a bank holiday, you will want to avoid hiring paid entertainers. There are plenty of appropriate activities you can hold today, and it’s also a wonderful day to take a step back and reminisce.
- Hold a reminiscence discussion session. Discuss Boxing Day traditions – watching live sport such as football and horse racing, or going for dips in the sea! Discuss the original meaning behind Boxing Day (when servants received gifts from the manor and workmen went around collecting their Christmas tips). Discuss presents – what your residents remember receiving and giving as gifts.
- Organise an afternoon session of playing cards and games. Ask your residents which games they enjoy – whist, rummy or pontoon?
- Invite your residents’ grandchildren and great-grandchildren in to show off their new toys!
- Help residents to make and write thank-you cards.
- Boxing Day is also the feast of St Stephen. Print off the lyrics to the song Good King Wenceslas, as this refers to Saint Stephen. Use these lyrics in a singalong session.
- Involve residents in making sandwiches with cold turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Your chef may also be able to provide you with enough ‘leftover’ ingredients to make bubble and squeak.
31st December – New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve in a care setting needs to be bright and fun. Some residents may feel they have little to look forward to, so may seem a little low. Be aware of this and respond accordingly.
Many care homes will celebrate New Year at 11am! This is the time that Australia and New Zealand will be celebrating, and it is far more sociable to celebrate with them at this time of day than wait until midnight!
- Pour out a glass of non-alcoholic fizz, and raise a toast to the year ahead. Ensure someone takes a photo of this moment!
- Make and hang wishes of things that each resident would like to do, be involved in or achieve in 2023, or simply something they are generally looking forward to. Hang these wishes in residents’ bedrooms.
- Start a year book consisting of everything that you have planned for the new year. Call it Our Year 2023 or something similar. Invite residents to think of things to contribute to the book – some may have a poem they wish to choose each month, others may wish to decorate the cover or neatly write the contents page. Use the year book as a focus in occasional craft sessions and discussion groups each month. Keep it updated, add pictures and words every time there is something special occurring. It becomes a great reminiscence tool and is useful for visitors to look through.
We hope you find these suggestions useful. We always love to see and hear what our readers have been up to – please email photos and stories to for your chance to be featured in our Reader’s Corner!