We Wish you a Merry Lockdown and a Frugal New Year

How to enjoy Christmas on a small budget and no relatives round. With some imagination and a little organisation, you can have a festive Christmas.

We claim Christmas is about religion, children, family and being charitable. In reality, Christmas has become about, expensive presents, feasts and heavy drinking.

This year, many people won’t have as much money as they normally do, or they’ll be worried about spending in case they lose their job in the new year. So perhaps this is the reset we all needed – even if we didn’t realise we needed it.

  1. Father Christmas doesn’t buy tonnes of huge presents to put under the Christmas tree – come on, be realistic, he couldn’t fit them all on his sledge. He fills one stocking (a sock, not something you could fit a small elephant in) with cheap little presents: comic, pack of cards, chocolate bar, multi-bic, cheap nail varnish, orange, walnut, bath bomb, sticky goo, etc.
  2. YOU buy the bigger presents that go under the tree. Then not only do you get the credit and your children learn to appreciate you instead of the big guy getting all the credit, but in the case of a family financial crisis, the children don’t think Father Christmas is cross with them this year.
  3. Instead of pictures of your child next to a ridiculously large pile of presents, post a picture of your child’s grinning, chocolate smeared face, appreciating the presents regardless of value. We have to stop competing with money and enjoy the moment instead.
  4. All those nights you would have been out partying? Sit together as a family with your children and make your own Christmas cards and presents for the closest family members. I know I appreciate my grandchildren’s hideous drawings of me and their clumsy attempts at creating bookmarks, because I know that they loved making them and they were thinking of me when they made them. I’d rather have a badly decorated £2 flowerpot than some £50 designer pot every time.
  5. The Christmas meal. Why do we go so over the top? We can never eat it all and even with turkey soups and turkey curries for days after, most of it still goes in the bin. So, let’s just make a Sunday dinner and add stuffing, cranberry sauce and a cracker. (A Christmas cracker – although if you want to have a cheese cracker with your Christmas dinner that’s your choice!)

Now what really contributes to the Christmas fun, is squeezing 101 family members around the tiny kitchen table. Unfortunately, we can’t do that this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still interact. There’s plenty of time to learn how to use Zoom (I’m sure other brands are available). And it’s free. So here are half a dozen great family-friendly, Zoom-friendly, Christmas party games to start you off:

Charades: This is a mime game. If ever a game translated to Zoom, this was it!
Rules: Whoever wants to host goes first. They think of the title of a book, play or film and mime which it is. If it’s a book they mime opening a book, if it’s a film they mime holding an old fashioned TV camera with one hand whilst winding with the other hand, if it’s a play they draw the shape of the opening curtains. Then they hold the amount of fingers up for the amount of words in the title. Once everyone has shouted out the amount of words, they then hold up the finger to show which word they are going to mime first, so if they’re starting with the second word they hold up two fingers. To show how many syllables the word has they tap that amount of fingers on their arm. They can also mime one syllable at a time if they like by tapping which syllable on their arm. After that, when everyone knows whether it’s a book, film or play, how many words it has, which word they’re miming, how many syllables it has and which syllable they’re miming (if they chose to split the syllables up) they, mime that word (or part word). If someone get’s it right the mimer normally touches their nose and points to the person who got it right, but for Zoom, they’ll just need to shout the person’s name who got it right. When someone eventually guesses the full title, they win and it is their turn to be the mimer.

Bingo: (It’s a good idea to warn everyone to prepare this the day before). Everyone needs a pen and paper. They make a grid of 2 down by 8 across. They put in 16 different numbers between 1 and 99 of their choice. At the beginning of the game, everyone must hold up their card so everyone can see it – this avoids the temptation to have a blank card and write the numbers in as they’re called. Maybe you’ll trust your family? Maybe not! The host uses any random number generator site and shares their screen so everyone can see it. They can also have great fun giving the full Bingo calls: Legs Eleven, two little ducks Twenty Two, etcetera. You can have prizes for a line and prizes for a full house.

Quiz: (This definitely needs to be prepared in advance by whoever wants to host the game). Make sure there are questions that each generation can do well in, for example a nursery rhyme round for very young children, social media questions for teenagers and for the oldies perhaps music questions that relate to their youth. When it comes to the answers, be generous with close answers 😊 You can style your quiz however you like, but here are some ideas:
Books category: the opening lines from famous books (Amazon’s look-inside feature will help you here).
Music category: Name that song (just play a small section) or guess the year that … song was No1 in the charts, etc. (Make sure you have a broad mix so every generation has a chance to win.)
History category: Dates of coronations or wars or how long a war lasted. For example, do you know how long the One Hundred Day War really lasted? (I’ll give you a clue – it wasn’t 100 days!)
Geography category: What is the capital city of… or name a country that has a live volcano, or questions around rivers, etcetera.
Animal category: What is the collective noun for… What is a baby … called? Name an animal beginning with the letter …
Personal category: you can have some great fun with this. Questions such as “which family member did a cartwheel whist eating popcorn and had to go to A&E go get it removed from their nose?” (That was my daughter by the way!) Keep it fun and light – don’t shame or humiliate anyone.

Silliest Face: No explanation needed! The children will be brilliant at this, but watch out for those weird aunties!

Fastest Finger First: A quick fire round of questions. (Prep needed.) The game host asks a question and the contestants type the answer into the chat. Whoever answers correctly first wins. These are usually general knowledge questions. The host should be aware of the age and ability of the contestants.

Truth, Truth, Lie: Again, let people plan in advance. Each person takes turns telling two truths and one lie about themselves. The contestants guess which is the lie and type A B or C into the chat. One point to each correct guess.

Plan your Zoom games in advance, not only will the fun run more smoothly, but it will add a bit of excitement to the days leading up to Christmas day too. Share out the hosting by allocating a different game for each household to host. Make sure everyone knows how to use Zoom and has their wifi sorted – the silver surfers might need some over the phone instruction.

As you cannot hand out a physical prize, they can take the form of promises instead, such as a hot chocolate with the full works at your local café when you’re allowed out, or the host of each competition can send a certificate to the winner in the post. It’s all up to you. The main thing is, you will have had fun with your family on Christmas day! 😊

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