With COVID-19 numbers surging in the U.S. and Canada at this writing, the options for winter break 2020 fun seem limited.
The temptation to sit in front of a screen, be it on a phone or a computer, becomes stronger. Whether it’s binge-watching a show, endlessly scrolling through Twitter, or texting family and friends memes and bantering, this is worrisome.
Over 70 percent of American parents are concerned that their children have too much screen time since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year. And adults are hardly immune.
Below are some spiritual, social, and skill-building activities for a more interesting and memorable quarantined winter break insha Allah.
The shorter days of winter make it easier to catch up on missed fasts from Ramadans past. Fast and recreate a Ramadan meal at Iftar time, featuring dates and traditional winter fare, like soups and s’mores. If you have older children, have them help prepare the Iftar meals or take over them completely.
If you live alone, find a family member or friend you can fast and break fast virtually with.
2. Tahajjud and/or Qiyaam
Fajr begins later in winter, and the nights are long. This makes it easier to wake up for Tahajjud, as well as a longer night to offer Qiyaam, continuous prayer during nighttime. Don’t pass up this opportunity to begin or increase these excellent ways to become closer to God.
3. Family/friends Quran challenge
Memorize a new Surah for every week of winter break as a family or with a group of friends. Learn their translation as well. Encourage each other by texting daily reminders to memorize. Whoever memorizes the most gets a prize.
4.Build a Masjid in your home
Designate a part of your home, no matter how small, as your prayer area. Decorate it with Islamic art and calligraphy, bookshelves filled with copies of the Quran and Islamic books, and beautiful prayer rugs.
5. Story time
Every few nights, over hot chocolate, cookies, and dimmed lights, have family members share a story on an Islamic theme. Ideas include being hopeful, gratefulness, Jesus in Islam, and death. You can do this in-person or virtually.
6. Raise money online for your local Masjid
The pandemic has hit our Masjids very hard, as donations are often given in person, especially during Ramadan - when many Masjids were in lockdown. During winter break, fundraise online for your local mosque. Share the link for online donations. See if there is some way to host your own online fundraising drive.
7. Raise money online for your local food bank
Feeding America projects that more than 50 million Americans will have faced hunger in 2020. Before the pandemic, that number was about 35 million. This translates to 1 in 6 people, including 1 in 4 children, experiencing food insecurity this year. Host a virtual food drive, either for Feeding America, or your local food pantry.
8.Make Juma Joyful
Each Friday that you are home during winter break, fulfill the Sunnahs of Juma (taking a bath, cutting nails, reading Surah al-Kahf), and watch an online Khutba. Make sure to pray four Rakat for Dhuhr, not two, as this is not considered Juma prayer. But it will give you that ambience of this blessed day.
1. Call or Facetime Someone Older or Someone Who Lives Alone
The call doesn’t have to be long. Just check in, share something funny or interesting, but most importantly, listen.
2. Pen pals
Revive the lost art of snail mail letter writing by finding a family member or friend willing to exchange letters the old-fashioned way.
3. Write that "heartfelt letter", preferably by hand
In his book “Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...and it's all small stuff”, Dr. Richard Carlson encourages readers to write a heartfelt letter to those in your life who have influenced you positively. The letter is an expression of appreciation and thanks. Draft a letter (preferably by hand versus email, and no tweets or Facebook wall posts allowed) doing exactly that.
4. Online Henna Party
Share designs and ideas while you gather virtually to apply henna with friends.
5. Play online games with friends
Scrabble and Pictionary aren’t the only options - but they’re good ones. Choose a game from which you can learn something new.
6. Sledding, snowballing, snowshoeing
If you can do this while safely maintaining six feet or more of distance between others outside of your immediate family, and remaining masked, then make sure to go sledding, have those snowball fights, build those snow people, and learn how to snowshoe once there’s enough white stuff to do it.
7. Record family members’ history - and share it with StoryCorps
During winter break, record interviews with parents and grandparents about their lives as American Muslims. Find out what they did to build their faith growing up as Muslims in America. If they are immigrants, how did they maintain their Islam here and adjust to change? What did they do for Eid? What was the Masjid like? If there wasn’t a mosque in their community, how did they worship in congregation? What did they do for fun? Once you’ve recorded it, arrange to share these inspiring stories with StoryCorps. You can also use the app.
1. Take an online CPR class.
"And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people...." (Quran 5:32). What could be a more useful skill than one that helps preserve life itself?
2. Teach/learn how to cook
After watching TV, cooking has been the second most popular activity during the pandemic. If you live on your own, this is an excellent time to try something new or learn the basics.
If you have kids, each week of winter break, teach your children a recipe and let them prepare the meal themselves (either under your supervision or the supervision of a responsible older sibling).
You can also involve grandparents, who can share family recipes and help make them virtually.
3. Learn etiquette online
Good manners aren’t just part of being a good Muslim. They affect our personal relationships and even our job prospects. Find an etiquette class that can help you brush up on this.
4. Pursue your passion or a new hobby
If you always wanted to try something new or to brush up on an existing skill, there is bound to be a video or online class you can find to learn more. It can be a class of a few weeks or just a one-day workshop. Invest in yourself by taking one of these.
If there isn’t, create your own class and load it up.