This story originally appeared in the November-December 2012 issue of Scouting magazine.
It happens every year: Just about the time new den leaders figure out how to lead a den and pack programming falls into a comfortable rhythm, Thanksgiving Day arrives. And not far behind it come Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day. By the time school resumes in January, many Cub Scouters feel as if they’re starting from scratch.
But you don’t have to lose momentum between December and January. With careful planning, you can use the winter holidays to accelerate your program, not slow it down. Here’s how.
Don’t Tilt at Windmills
First, acknowledge that non-Scouting commitments will take precedence in December, says Tom Yuschok, a longtime Cub Scouter who also served as vice president of district operations in the Central Florida Council.
“You have to accept that there’s a time when everybody’s going to be with family and on break,” he says. “There’s not going to be a lot of activity. Let that happen.”
If You Can’t Beat ’Em …
That doesn’t mean you should wave a flag of surrender or become a Cub Scout Scrooge. Michelle Gee, a Cub Scout leader in Omaha, Neb., for more than two decades, recommends adding holiday flair to your December pack meeting.
“Make it a Hawaiian night and have the kids wear their flip-flops,” she says. “Have Santa come in a Hawaiian shirt. Do something fun. It gets them excited.”
When Gee served as Cubmaster, she held some December pack meetings at a local assisted-living facility.
“We would bring goodies and make some punch there so the facility didn’t have to do anything,” she says. “We’d just hang out with the elderly people, and they just loved that.”
Also, your pack can participate in a communitywide event like a parade. That’s what Yuschok’s pack — Pack 74 in Ormond Beach, Fla., — does every couple of years. They decorate a float the morning of the city’s parade and ride in the parade that evening.
“We tried to do the holiday parade every year, and we had a couple of years where we didn’t have a lot of participation,” he says. “If we do it every other year, there’s some excitement around that.”
Connect the Dates
Whatever you do in December, make a connection to what’s planned for January. Many packs hand out Pinewood Derby car kits as holiday gifts at their December pack meetings. Yuschok’s pack goes a step further: It holds an early January pack meeting where Cub Scouts can get their Pinewood Derby cars roughed out.
“We have a couple of parents who bring in band saws,” Yuschok says. “If the boys have planned out the general shape of their car, they can come in and get them cut. We get almost everybody in the pack at that meeting.”
Coordinate and Communicate
Scheduling special activities, changing dates and moving meetings requires plenty of advanced planning. This extra planning also makes scheduling and recruiting easier. You won’t have much luck calling dads with band saws on New Year’s Eve to recruit them for your Jan. 3 pack meeting.
“You can do it that way, but, oh, it’s painful. And you usually don’t get as good a result,” Yuschok says.
Communication becomes especially critical when dates and locations are different from the usual. You can’t rely as much on announcements at den and pack meetings, because attendance might be spotty. So be sure to spread the word through your website, email newsletter and phone tree.
Doing that — as well as making sure holiday activities are on the pack calendar from the start — will help ensure that Cub Scouts have a great holiday season and get primed for an even greater spring and summer.
Update: Follow the Restart Scouting Checklist
Before organizing any Scouting activity this holiday season, review the Restart Scouting Checklist. Check your local and state guidance on preventing COVID-19 exposure, and identify any potential participants who fall under the CDC’s group of higher-risk individuals. Click here for more information.