Activity Ideas

Holiday Activity Ideas for Senior Living Communities

October 27, 2023

Looking to infuse your senior living community with the warmth and joy of the holiday season? Our holiday activity ideas are here to help! From crafting Hanukkah paper dreidel garlands to baking homemade sufganiyot, creating beeswax Hanukkah candles, and hosting Christmas-themed "Minute to Win It" parties, we have a range of activities that cater to diverse holiday traditions and bring residents together for some festive fun. Whether you're celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa, these creative and engaging activities will make this holiday season a memorable and heartwarming experience for everyone in your community.

  1. Craft Hanukkah Paper Dreidel Garlands

Crafting paper dreidels that can be strung together as garland decorations is a simple way to help those who celebrate Hanukkah feel more included during this holiday season. In last year's holiday blog, we explained how to play the dreidel game, a popular Hanukkah tradition. Crafting and decorating with dreidel decorations is a great way to infuse the spirit of Hanukkah throughout your home. Create these paper ornaments using only paper, staples, and ribbon. Start by cutting blue and white paper into one-inch wide strips with lengths of five, six, and seven inches. For each ornament, use two seven-inch strips, two six-inch strips, and one five-inch strip. Stack the strips together, aligning their top edges, and staple them about an inch down, leaving room for a hole-punched ribbon handle. On the other end, bring together all the different-length strips to form the ornament's shape and secure them with another staple. Hang these garlands around your home to make your Jewish residents feel at home during the holiday season.

Image via Paging Super Mom

  1. Celebrate Hanukkah with Homemade Sufganiyot

Sufganiyot, a cross between beignets and jelly donuts, are fluffy donuts enjoyed during Hanukkah. They carry a unique significance during this holiday when foods fried in oil symbolize the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days instead of one in the Hanukkah story. These donuts are typically filled with jelly or jam.

If you're feeling brave, consider hosting a baking session to make these tasty treats traditionally by deep-frying them in oil. To make this activity more accessible, you can bake mini-donuts using an electric mini-dessert maker or a donut baking tray. For an extra simple approach, use pancake or biscuit mix as your donut base and top the finished treats with jam after cooking.

Image via Eating Well
  1. Create Homemade Hanukkah Candles with Beeswax Sheets.

In last year's holiday blog, we discussed the significance of lighting the Hanukkah menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum used during the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Eight of the branches represent the holiday's eight nights, with one more light being lit each night until all eight are illuminated on the final night.

This year, consider making the tradition of lighting the menorah even more special by hosting a crafting session, where residents can create their own Hanukkah candles from beeswax sheets. You can buy these sheets and candle wicks online or at a craft store. Here's a simple step-by-step guide for the project:

- Cut the beeswax sheets to 1-½” x 4” and trim the wick to about 4-1/4”.

- Lay the wick across the beeswax, leaving ¼” sticking out.

- Warm the wax with a blow dryer (medium heat) for 10 seconds.

- Start rolling the wax around the wick, pressing the edges together as you go. Quickly use the blow dryer again to seal the last roll, ensuring the edges stick together.

You can also encourage residents to get creative with any leftover beeswax sheets by crafting Hanukkah shapes with cookie cutters and attaching them to wider candles using a blow dryer. This project not only yields beautiful Hanukkah candles but also provides an enjoyable sensory experience, thanks to the pleasant scent and feel of the beeswax sheets.

Image via Breaking Matzo
  1. Host a Christmas-themed Minute to Win It Party

Host a Christmas-themed “Minute to Win It” party where fun and teamwork take center stage. You can adjust the time limits based on your group's pace and take breaks for snacks and socializing. Here are some quick Christmas-themed party games you can include in your event:

- Snow Shovel with Spoons and Cotton Balls: Encourage residents to use a spoon for transferring cotton balls from one bowl to another, mimicking snow shoveling—the resident who moves the cotton balls the quickest wins.

- Christmas Tree Cup Stack: Invite residents to arrange red and green plastic cups into the shape of a Christmas tree, then carefully unstack them. The resident who stacks and unstacks the cups the fastest is the winner.

- Jingle Bell Shaking Guessing Game: Have residents shake containers filled with jingle bells and make their best guess about how many are inside. Arrange containers with different bell quantities and challenge them to arrange them in the correct order as quickly as possible.

- Partner Gift Wrap: Form teams with residents and ask them to wrap a gift using only one hand each. Don't forget to add a bow and a gift tag. The team that wraps the gift the fastest wins.

- Snowman Stack with Marshmallows: Encourage residents to stack three marshmallows to create a snowman shape. The goal is to build as many snowmen as possible within your chosen time.

- Reindeer Antlers with Balloons and Pantyhose: Invite residents to work in teams to stuff inflated balloons into pantyhose, creating reindeer antlers. Place them on one team member's head to win the game.

These games are perfect for bringing residents together, sharing laughter, and getting into the holiday spirit. 

Image via Happiness is Homemade

  1. Play Hallmark Christmas Movie Bingo

Get ready to enjoy some holiday fun with Christmas Hallmark Movie Bingo. It's a great activity for residents to liven up their movie nights. Simply create bingo cards with clichés commonly found in Hallmark Christmas movies, like a mistletoe kiss, a demanding boss focused on money, a canceled flight, or a vehicle breakdown. As residents watch the movie, they can mark off each square when they spot these familiar moments on the screen. It's a perfect way to add a bit of excitement to holiday movie marathons and engage in some friendly competition!

Image via Jessica Jones Design

  1. Make Potted Pinecone Christmas Trees

Residents can immerse themselves in the holiday spirit by creating potted pinecone Christmas trees. Have residents start by painting a pinecone green and then embellishing it with sequins and a sprinkle of glitter. Afterward, they can attach a yellow cardstock star to the top and securely fasten a mini flower pot to the base using hot glue or E6000 glue for added stability. To bring a warm, twinkling touch, residents can wrap battery-operated lights around the pinecone and tie a ribbon around the pot for an extra festive finish. This creative project is perfect for residents who want to infuse their living spaces with handmade charm.

Image via Crafty Morning

  1. Organize a West African Drumming Workshop

In last year's blog, we explored Kwanzaa, a non-religious celebration emphasizing traditional African values. The holiday spans a week, starting on December 26th, with each day dedicated to one of seven themes, encouraging unity, self-determination, and community engagement among residents. On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, December 31, observers celebrate Kuumba (creativity). In line with this, arrange a West African Drumming Workshop with a local expert. This engaging session can allow residents to explore the vibrant rhythms of West African music while connecting with those in the community. Drumming, deeply rooted in African culture, adds a unique and enriching experience to your Kwanzaa celebration, celebrating creativity and African heritage.

Image via African Beat

  1. DIY Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar

Originating in West Africa, Benne Cakes, often served at Kwanzaa celebrations, are perfect to make with your residents this holiday season. 'Benne' means 'sesame,' and sesame seeds are the star flavor in these crunchy cakes, similar to English cookies or wafers. To make, toast sesame seeds until they're lightly browned. Then, prepare the dough with brown sugar, butter, egg, vanilla extract, lemon juice, flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Incorporate the toasted sesame seeds, shape the dough into cookies, and bake at 325°F (approximately 163°C) for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Once finished, you'll have a wonderful treat to share with your community this holiday season.

Image via Kwanzaa Culinarians

  1. Arrange a Karamu Feast

Hosting a Karamu Feast for your residents is a wonderful way to embrace this tradition. Kwanzaa dinners typically feature a rich tapestry of African-American dishes with influences from Southern, Caribbean, and African cuisines. For main courses, consider offerings like okra gumbo or a hearty African stew. Roast beef, lamb kabobs, or jerk chicken and pork are also excellent choices. Complement your main dish with beloved sides such as corn casserole, red beans and rice, sweet potato soufflé, and fried okra. When it's time for dessert, treat everyone to zucchini bread, sweet potato pie, and Benne cakes. And don't forget to offer Ginger Beer, a staple beverage in West Africa. Hosting this Karamu feast is not only a delicious experience for residents but also creates a profound sense of cultural immersion that your community will cherish.

Source: Hallmark 

Did these activity ideas spark your creativity? Don’t miss our previous blogs (like this one!) with other holiday ideas! 

Katie Stewart

Katie is a member of Welbi’s Customer Experience team! She has a background in communications and recreation and is passionate about older adults, exercise, coffee and people.

Holly Mathias

Holly is a member of Welbi’s Marketing team! She has a background in communications and marketing, and is a compassionate individual who loves team work, story telling, and wellness.

Wendy Riopelle

Wendy is a student in the Honours BA in English program at the University of Ottawa, where she has won numerous awards for her writing.

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