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Christmas amid a pandemic

By Veronica Burniston
Freelance Writer

As the saying goes: it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Johnson County. Christmas lights sparkle in the night as wreaths decorate doors and windows, and Christmas trees are strapped atop cars and SUVs. Although the increased risk of COVID remains, the Christmas spirit carries on in many Americans’ hearts. As with other holidays this year, the CDC recommends “celebrating virtually” with loved ones or only gathering with those already within your household.

On its website, the CDC continues to stress as little travel as possible: “Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.” With less travel, fewer interactions with loved ones, and growing excitement for the upcoming holiday, what “safe” activities can families do together this year to encourage the Christmas cheer? Here are a handful of fun ideas to get the creative juices flowing this holiday season:

• Pinecone Creations
Gather pinecones from the backyard or surrounding woods. Paint them beautiful colors, such as red, green, gold, and silver. Once the pinecones have dried, hang them with twine on your tree, around doorways and windows, anywhere that needs a little extra touch of Christmas spirit. 

• Personalized Stockings
Visit the fabric section in Walmart, Hobby Lobby, or Jo Anns and pick out some fabric, matching thread, and sewing needles. Take a look at the Better Homes & Gardens’ website at for some great handmade Christmas stocking tutorials.

• Christmas Scavenger Hunt
Hide a number of Christmas items around the house, anything from jingle bells to ornaments to candy canes. Provide a small prize for the kids when they find all of them. Prizes could be as simple as a holiday coloring book or a chocolate Santa.

• Winter Walks
After a dusting of snow, take a walk through the yard or nearby woods, searching for animal tracks. Try to identify as many tracks as possible – is it a deer hoof, a dog’s paw, a rabbit’s gallop, a raccoon’s print? Searching and identifying snow tracks is a fun way to learn what animals live nearby.

• Snuggle up and read
One of the easiest ways to get in the Christmas spirit with loved ones is to snuggle up with a warm blanket, several cups of hot peppermint cocoa and read a wonderful book together about winter, Christmas, and baby Jesus in the manger. Enjoy a good children’s book like Jan Brett’s The Three Snow Bears and Home for Christmas, or Lester Laminack’s Snow Day! Don’t forget Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol or The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore.

No matter the pandemic fears, let all Americans strive to keep the joyous wonder of Christmas alive for generations to come. For more information on the CDC’s holiday recommendations, visit


Each Christmas season Meg Dickens and her mother Deborah of Gentry Creek look forward to creating holiday treats to share with friends and family. These special recipes have been handed down from grandmother to mom and now Meg will be able to pass them on. The Dickens will spend a couple fun afternoons in the kitchen rekindling this Christmas tradition.

Peanut Butter Pinwheels Candy

1 box confectioners’ sugar
(plus a little extra)

1 stick softened butter

3 tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

8 oz. jar peanut butter

Mix ingredients except peanut butter together. Mixture should be stiff and dough like. Divide dough into four balls. Add different food colorings to each ball – 2-3 drops – mix.

Roll each ball out to pie crust thinness between two sheets of wax paper. Use extra powdered sugar to keep dough from becoming sticky.

Melt peanut butter in microwave (or double boiler) to just runny – not real hot.

Spread a layer over rolled sugar dough. Roll dough up into a log. Refrigerate for about an hour and slice into 1/4 in pinwheels. Keep refrigerated.