It’s the most wonderful time of the year, at least, that's what Andy Williams would like us to believe.  However, given this particular year, it is easy to feel a bit like a Scrooge.  Understandably, as the final months of 2020 settle upon us, many would simply prefer to pull the cover over our heads and not come out until 2021.  There must be some way to bring a little bit of cheer back into the season.  Who will stand up, and become the holiday hero that we so desperately need? Are there safe ways for your HOA to inspire a little winter magic and bring the community together, despite all that is happening around us?  

Light displays                                                                                                         Chances are that many residents of your community are already planning on creating beautiful holiday displays this season. Chances are also good that among this holly, jolly lot are a few Griswold-esque overachievers who plan to light up the night sky with their expression of holiday cheer.  Ask residents who plan on taking this extra hit to their electric bill to provide their address to the association’s board, so that a map can be created and shared with neighbors via the community website or social media sites.  Community members can walk or drive from home to home to enjoy the sights and cast their votes for the most awe-inspiring array.  Not only does this encourage residents to participate in friendly competition, but gets them outside, exploring their community and appreciating the effort of their neighbors.  

Santa Walk                                                                                                                   This activity could give your board president the opportunity to show their true dedication to the position.  While this is one of the simplest activities to organize and implement, it could have a major impact on the holiday spirits of your residents, especially the youngest of them.  The only things that you will require are a Santa costume and  a volunteer (willing or reluctant, either will do).  Plan a route through your neighborhood and communicate this path, as well as scheduled times to the members of your community.  As your stand-in Santa  (and perhaps an elf or two) strolls along the sidewalks, residents can wave from their windows or yards, being sure to maintain an appropriate distance.  This is an incredibly simple act, but one that is sure to expand even the smallest of grinch-like hearts.  For both kids, and kids at heart, catching a glimpse of the fat man is a much treasured memory.

Cookie Exchange (Kind of)                                                                                             So many of our time-honored holiday traditions center around food, especially that of the sweeter variety.  The epitome of these tasty traditions being the much revered Christmas cookie.  There is something so comforting and nostalgic about these magical morsels.  Few things can send you sailing back, directly into childhood and holidays long past, like the smell of cookies baking in the kitchen.  

In recent years, the notion of gathering to swap cookies with friends, family, coworkers and even strangers (hey, if they have cookies we’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt) has soared in popularity, making the “cookie exchange” a must-attend holiday gathering.  But, given the fact that we remain in the throes of a global pandemic, the idea of exchanging anything with anybody is not entirely advisable.  But, we will not surrender so easily.  We will not let 2020 take away our right to gorge ourselves on sprinkle-covered snowmen and snickerdoodles.  Rather than an exchange of the actual cookie, residents can submit their favorite cookie recipe (so long as great aunt Irma isn’t protecting it with her life), and have it posted on the community's website.  What a wonderful way to steal collect dozens of treasured family recipes.  

Charity Drive                                                                                                               This year has been difficult for everyone, but it has been devastating for some.  Given all that has happened in the past eight months, it is easy for us to begin to feel sorry for ourselves.  However, it is this time of year when we must reflect on all of the good things that we do have, and reach out, in an attempt to make things just a bit better for those around us.  What better way to do so, and bring the members of your community together, than to organize a neighborhood-wide charitable event.  The options are plentiful, ranging from fundraising, to canned food drives, to coat and toy collection.  Odds are good that someone in your community has experience with, or is already working with a charitable organization.  Reach out through the community website, or social media pages to gather ideas and contact information. Decide on your plan and communicate this to your community.  This would be a wonderful time to ask members to create a committee (meeting virtually, presumably), allowing them to connect with each other and take an active role in the association (bonus).  In doing this as a neighborhood, you will be able to make a greater impact, while strengthening the bonds of your community.  

Holiday Coloring Contest for Kids                                                                       This one allows the littles to take center stage in the holiday hoopla.  Winter themed coloring sheets can be printed from the association’s website, or made available at a community clubhouse (if you have that sort of thing) and then photos of the completed pages can be submitted digitally (or physically returned) and then proudly displayed on the association's website.  Consider prizes that could be provided to all participants and winners. Of given age groups.  

With Tidings of Comfort and Joy                                                                       This year has been undeniably, difficult, anxiety-riddled and at times heart-wrenching.  If there was ever a time when we needed to come together, to show support for one another it is now.  Many will be spending the holidays without the family and the traditions that define the season.  So, let us all look to find simple ways to make the days just a bit brighter, the nights a bit merrier, and the season just a bit happier for those around us.