What do you do to make the holidays special in your home? The Christmas season may seem merry with presents under the tree and decorations in the house and yard, but there are many ways to make Christmas special. Take this holiday season and slow down to truly appreciate your friends and loved ones by spending some quality time with them.
Take a Christmas Light Tour
No matter where you live, someone nearby probably goes all out on the annual Christmas lights display. Put some cocoa in your thermos, bundle up the family, and spend an evening driving around looking at the amazing Christmas lights displays.
If you happen to live near one of these landmarks, you're in for a treat because the following are some of the best Christmas lights on display in the United States. If you're close enough, it is worth the trip to go see these displays:
- Hyatt Extreme Christmas in Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC
- Rockefeller Center in New York City
- Cruise of Lights in Huntington Beach, CA
Finding Local Displays
Check sites like Christmas Light Finder or Bronner's Christmas Wonderland to find listings in your local area. In addition, your local radio station and newspaper will generally feature some of the more outstanding houses in the area. Keep in mind too that your area's famous landmarks are likely to be decked out as well.
Christmas crafting has been a popular family activity for a long time. Whether you're crafting ornaments for the tree, baking in the kitchen or making homemade gifts, it's the gathering together of generations that helps make homemade Christmas activities so special.
You might think that sitting down during the busy Christmas season to make a bunch of ornaments is the last thing you want to do, but crafting with your kids or friends is a great way to bond, and create something meaningful. Ornaments do not have to be complicated.
For super easy ornaments, use clear, acrylic, fillable ornaments and fill them with tinsel, white iridescent tinsel, or curled curling ribbon in Christmas colors. Attach a ribbon for hanging. If you're up for something more crafty, try these beaded Christmas ornaments.
Build a Gingerbread House
The whole family can build a gingerbread house. Make a sketch, create a template, bake the gingerbread, then find all the wonderful treats for decorations.
If you are not feeling brave enough to tackle a whole gingerbread house from scratch, you can either buy a pre-made kit from suppliers like Wilton, or you can make do by using graham crackers and canned frosting in lieu of gingerbread. Your house won't be as big, but then again, neither will the mess.
Holiday treats do not have to be expensive or difficult to make. Whip up some homemade candy or cookies to share with family and friends. Consider making a big batch of one goody and then attending a cookie swap so you can get several varieties in exchange for your labor. If you're looking for cookies to make with your kids try a batch of regular sugar cookies, and sprinkle them with colored Christmas sugar.
Deck the Halls
Dine in Style
Whether you dig out Grandma's special holiday china settings, or just use festive colors in paper plates and utensils, setting an elegant table for your holiday meal puts everyone in the mood to celebrate. Light some candles, use a table runner and other linens, and add a festive centerpiece.
Decorate Your Tree
Everyone has different methods for decorating the tree. Some people want it to be a spectacular themed display; others might use ornaments the kids have made over the years. When decorating the tree, share the stories behind the ornaments or why you picked them. "Do you remember this one? You made it in Mrs. Weaver's 1st grade class." or "I chose this star because I liked the way it twinkled." These tales will live on for years afterward.
For many families, the holiday celebrating starts the day before Christmas with a large feast and midnight mass. Create your own special memories the day before Christmas with these fun ideas.
Pajamas and a Story
Cozy up in your favorite pajamas, sit on pillows by the tree, and read special Christmas stories. There are many wonderful books highlighting this time of year, including:
Warm up some cider or hot cocoa to share, and enjoy some read aloud time. You'll find that even older kids and teens will enjoy this tradition.
Christmas Talent Night
Usher in Christmas with some fun and laughter. Before the big night, write out several ideas on small strips of paper that people will have to perform. Have family members choose one piece of paper and then perform their talent for the rest of the group. Have the audience rate the acts on a scale of one to ten. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Create a medley of your favorite childhood Christmas songs, and hum them.
- Act out Santa's day on the 23rd of December.
- Explain to the group how to take care of reindeer for optimum flying. Be creative and feel free to use audience members as reindeer props.
- Act out Santa's day on the 26th of December.
- Play a popular Christmas carol on a pair of spoons. See if the group can guess what is being played.
Many families like to join together for a Christmas Eve church service. It's okay if you're not a regular attendee. Typical of Christmas Eve is the midnight candle-lit service held in many churches of different faiths. If you have little ones, you may want to bring LED candles so that they can participate without getting burned.
Share the Christmas Love
Some things are just better shared with neighbors and friends or in a group. Include other people in some of your family's traditions, and you will find yourself reaping the benefits ten-fold.
Gather folks together for caroling. It may feel a bit corny at first, but once you get started, you'll find it to be a joyous event. If you can't quite get into going door to door, call a local nursing home and see if you can carol there. The residents will love your presence.
Join the family together and help out at a homeless shelter, or volunteer to take meals to homebound individuals. If you live in your small town, consider baking treats for your local fire and police stations. There's no better way to put your blessings in perspective than to visit with those less fortunate.
Even if you are tight on cash, you can still help your favorite charities by giving of yourself. Donate your time or unused items to a worthwhile Christmas charity effort. Consider Toys for Tots, Project Angel Tree or another local charity.
Celebrate Christmas from the Heart
Remember that Christmas not only doesn't come from a store - it doesn't come with rules. In addition to honoring your fondest memories of Christmases past, you can create new traditions by doing the things you and your family will cherish most, without breaking your budget.