Spending time with family has been a little bit different this year, right? Many of us have found that with less distractions, we're slowing down and finding simple things to spark our curiosity and creativity. There's been renewed interest in puzzles, board games, cooking and exercise. And, many of us have taken working from home as an opportunity to adopt a pet.

But what would the holidays look like? How would we stay connected? And how could we keep the joy in this season? These are the questions we asked each other during video calls, emails and group messages back in August when we realized that social distancing, travel bans and masks probably weren’t going away this winter.

We started sharing our holiday traditions, recipes, activities and ideas for including friends and family in our celebrations despite distant locations. Many of our co-workers with family in the military were already doing things like this, so we asked them for their ideas, too. And we compiled their stories and activities into what we're calling our Family Fun Book.

Inside, you’ll find activities guaranteed to make memories, unique gift ideas, recipes and the stories that inspired the ideas and traditions. Each activity includes step-by-step instructions and information about the Navy Federal Credit Union employee who contributed the story.

My favorite comes from Justin, whose tradition was to let his young daughter pick out gifts for the whole family at the Dollar Store. While he thought the gifts were totally random, she knew exactly why she chose each gift. One year his brother-in-law received a pack of toothbrushes because "he is always showering and so clean."

We've included some activities that would be perfect for Thanksgiving, too! In Dress and Bless a Turkey, Alexa talks about her family's dinner tradition. Everyone shares what they're grateful for by writing on the feathers of their turkey centerpiece. Before eating, each person reads the messages aloud and tries to guess who wrote the note.

Nadia gets the kids involved in food preparation by letting each of her sons choose and make their favorite side dish. Then, they create a video cooking show to share with family on social media. She says the boys really “ham it up” (get it, ham it up?) by being overly dramatic and dressing in chef hats and aprons. Nadia also mentioned that someone always makes a key lime pie. (Sounds good to me!)

How about a Cake Decorating Extravaganza? Beth's family hosts a cake decorating contest where family teams compete for the title of best-decorated cake. Since her family is spread out across the globe, they host the judging via a video call. The oldest person on the call is the tiebreaker. But really, everyone's a winner because as Beth says, "Cake."

We're hoping our Family Fun Book full of activities will give you lots of things to do throughout the holidays. And who knows, maybe you, too, will be inspired to share your traditions or come up with new ways to connect with friends and family near and far. Here’s to putting a little more happy in all of our holidays this year!

Sheryl Simeck works in Navy Federal's marketing department. A self-proclaimed "word nerd," she especially loves writing content that helps members understand how budgeting, planning and a little discipline can help them reach their financial goals. She lives in Virginia with her husband and a huge stash of yarn.


This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.