The days surrounding Christmas can be a magical time, but there are ways to make it even better while cutting down on the associated stress. You don’t have to buy the most expensive gifts to make someone happy—there are other ways to put smiles on faces and make lasting memories.
Whether you’re enjoying the outdoors or spending quality time with family, or trying something completely new, the holidays are a perfect time to experience something truly special. Here are 15 tips to help this Christmas make a lasting impression…
1. Go Fetch a Real Tree
Many people end up at a tree farm or a store to choose a tree that’s already been cut down for them, and that’s all fine and dandy. However, imagine gathering up the family and trekking into the wild to find that perfect specimen, while also bonding and enjoying nature.
Real trees are much more environmentally friendly than artificial trees, according to the Mother Nature Network. That’s because most “fake” trees are made in China and shipped around the world, resulting in massive carbon emissions. Just a disclaimer: if you’re chopping your own tree, make sure you’re not on private property and not breaking any local laws (you may need a permit).
2. Go For a Sleigh Ride
If you’re into dashing through the snow, then why not round up some family and hop into a sleigh? There are a number of epic sleigh ride experiences you can have across the U.S., including at the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming.
The refuge website explains that a horse-drawn winter sleigh ride affords riders “a unique wildlife viewing experience and an incredible opportunity for photography.” It’s also a pretty cool way to spend some quality time with loved ones cuddled under a blanket.
3. Skate Outdoors
You know that dusty old pair of skates sitting in the attic or garage? Time to dust them off, get them sharpened, and find an outdoor rink. If you’ve got a little one, now is the time to get them fitted with some skates and enjoy some outdoor fun with them.
If no one in the neighborhood has built a rink for public use, then you could find a frozen pond or lake to glide across. Take special care that the ice conditions are favorable for skating; the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources advises you should stay off ice that’s only 2-inches thick or less (it should be at least 4-inches to walk on). Bring an ice auger or drill and a tape measure.
4. Create Handmade Gifts
Gifts don’t have to come with a price tag attached (make sure you take those off before wrapping). The holidays are a great time to create unique gifts with the help of younger family, and the recipient will likely appreciate it more than a pair of socks.
Think about a hobby you enjoy, such as knitting, painting, photography or woodworking—then take it to the next level by creating something truly unique. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money in materials, but it is important to have fun and put a personal touch on it. The social media website Pinterest literally has thousands of handmade gift ideas…
5. Build or Visit an Ice Sculpture
You’ve built that basic snowman, but now it’s time to take it up a notch. If the temperature is consistently below freezing, then ice art is an option. You don’t have to be a master sculptor and handy with a chainsaw; there are kid-friendly options that don’t require sharp objects.
Instructables.com suggests using balloons to make ice sculptures. Grab an assortment of balloons including snake balloons, then put a couple of grains of sand into each one (this will help the balloons freeze) and fill them with water. The time to “sculpt” them is obviously before they freeze—try wrapping them around an object, arranging an interesting pattern, or other creative options. Peel the balloons off after they’re frozen solid.
If you’re not up for the challenge of making your own, research if there are any sculptures around town to go look at. It would be fun for the whole family!
6. Join a Christmas Choir
If you’re so excited about the holidays that you find yourself singing, why not put that enthusiasm into a choir? You don’t have to be a trained singer to belt out some holiday classics (and if you’re really a bad singer, don’t worry, the people around you will probably make you sound better).
Churches across the country invite people to join their Christmas choirs—you’ll probably just have to commit to practicing a few hours each week with the group, but you don’t usually have to be affiliated with the church in any way to take part. The practice usually culminates into a public performance.
7. Mail a Letter to Santa
Are the kids excited for Santa to come? This is bound to get them even more excited and may ease their excitement for a few days as they wait for his response. Sit down with the kids and have them write out a personal letter to santa. They’ll have so much fun with it. They can write down a wish list or just send out some season greetings. Follow this link to learn more about the USP’s Letters to Santa program.
8. Go Sledding
Some of my best memories as a child were heading out with my brothers and sisters after a fresh snowfall to go sledding. Generations of people have enjoyed sledding, and it still holds up as one of the most fun activities of winter! In addition to being loads of fun, this is one activity that also gets kids outside and moving around.
9. Make a Gingerbread House
Who doesn’t enjoy a gingerbread house? If you’re feeling up to it, you could even build a gingerbread village! The best part is that you get to reap the benefits of this activity when it’s done by snacking on it.
While it might seem intimidating, building a gingerbread house is super easy. Nowadays, all it involves is buying a box kit that contains all of the necessary ingredients. Then take a walk down the candy aisle at the grocery store and pick out some decorative candies. Then get to work! This is a great family friendly activity for kids that will keep them occupied for an afternoon or evening. Hey, it might even turn into a new family Christmas tradition!
10. Go Volunteer
We often lose sight about what Christmas is all about. While a big part of this holiday revolves around Santa (for those who have small children) and exchanging gifts, but it’s also about spreading holiday cheer, particularly to those who need it the most.
Do some research and find a local organization that needs volunteers this holiday season. It could be at a shelter, soup kitchen, donation center, or toy drive. Most cities have lots of amazing charities and not-for-profits operating around town and always looking for an extra set of hands. Go with a friend, loved one, or the whole family. It would be a great chance to teach your children that Christmas is about more than just gifts.
11. Watch Christmas Movies
Every Christmas I like to rewatch some of my favorite holiday movies like Home Alone, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and Elf. There are tons of traditional classics to choose from, and new ones released every year! You’ll really get into the Christmas spirit once you’re cozied up on the couch in some flannel pajamas, a fresh batch of popcorn, the tree lit, and a holiday-themed movie on screen.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could turn the night into the movie-themed game night with friends of family. You could build your own game or hop online to look for some ideas. There are tons available!
12. Do Some Christmas Baking
One of the best things about the holiday season is all the delicious food! For those who are into baking and cooking, the holidays are a great time to spread some cheer with sweets and treats. Plus, there’s nothing better than the smell of freshly baked cookies.
If you have small children, invite them into the kitchen to help bake some treats. An easy one to try would be to make some Christmas cookies. Have them help decorate the cookies and then they can take them into school and share with their classmates! They’ll be eager to brag to their friends about how they helped decorate and bake them.
13. Go Look at Some Christmas Lights
Depending on where you live, another great activity around Christmas is to take a drive (or walk) around to look at the Christmas lights. Most communities will do some kind of public display for local residents to walk or drive through, so bundle the kids up, grab some hot chocolate and go for a walk to see the lights. For some lucky residents, you might even have a neighbor who puts on a good show with their own Christmas lights!
Some cities and small towns also do a tree lighting ceremony. If your area doesn’t have one, look into any neighboring towns. It’s worth the trek!
14. Build a Snowman
This activity is dependent on where you live because you need a good snowfall for this one. When and if you do get some snow, bundle the kids up and head outside to build a snowman. While they might need some assistance lifting the snowballs on top of each other, they’ll have tons of fun decorating their creations.
You’ll need a few household items such as some bottle caps for buttons (or something similar), a carrot for the nose, buttons for the eyes, and then use branches as arms! If you’re really feeling creative, dig up an old scarf and hat to keep frosty warm!
15. Host a Holiday Party
Kick off the holiday season with a party! There are no shortage of parties this time of year, but that’s what the holidays are all about. Getting together with friends and family, so why not be the ones to host this year?
To make the party extra festive, ask all your guests to show up in an ugly Christmas sweater. You could also host a Christmas karaoke and sing along to your favorite Christmas songs! This is an activity that can also be family friendly. A great time for adults and kids.