Your family probably has a set of Christmas activities that you do each year without really thinking about it. Our December calendars fill up so quickly with all the things we’ve always done and all the things we’ve been invited to. But, I’m all about taking back control over your holiday! Don’t let the school, your social circle, your extended family, or your own expectations and lack of intention fill your holiday with activities that aren’t meaningful and joy-bringing.
You’re the one that gets to choose the activities your family participates in! You and the rest of your immediate family–this isn’t about being a holiday dictator! You don’t have to do what you’ve always done! If you want to add some fresh activities to your holiday calendar, here is a list of twenty Christmas activity ideas to choose from. There are some tried-and-true items on the list, but I’ve included many ideas that are outside the norm. This is an elf-on-the-Shelf-free-zone, so don’t expect any of that!
Christmas Activity Ideas
1. Host a costume party: Didn’t get enough of costumes at Halloween? If an ugly sweater party is fun, a costume party can amp up that fun-factor. Require Christmas or holiday-themed costumes and create your own picture “booth” to capture all the costume craziness.
2. Create ornaments: Each year, choose a DIY ornament to make as a family. Make enough for each family member, but also to give as gifts to family, friends, and other community members. Or, paint the same type of ornaments each year and watch how they change as kids grow up or adults improve skills.
3. Attend a tree-lighting ceremony: Often towns or nearby cities will start the season with an official tree lighting. It can be a fun way to officially kick off the holidays. Meet some friends or family for dinner and make an evening of it.
4. Do a Christmas light scavenger hunt drive: If your family is tired of a typical light drive, but you don’t want to give up the tradition, give it a new life by adding a scavenger hunt or bingo game to the process. Buy everyone hot chocolate and offer prizes for completed hunts and bingo cards. Looking for a manger scene, Rudolph, and a Christmas Snoopy blow-up will keep kids occupied and engaged.
5. Go to the zoo: City zoos will often decorate with lights and host special events, so check out your local zoo, museums, or parks for a unique way to celebrate those spaces. Our must-do Christmas activity is a trip to a Nashville-area park that strings thousands of lights, has S’more bonfires, caroling, and a huge Poinsettia tree. It’s truly magical.
6. Hold a family bedroom decorating event: Give each person in your family an equal set of decor and craft items and let each person decorate their bedroom (or a bathroom, a corner of the playroom, or porch). if you’re a competitive family, make it a contest and award prizes.
7. Participate in National Ugly Sweater Day: If you love the ugly sweater craze, don’t miss being able to celebrate this (dubious) national day as a family. Find out more at National Ugly Sweater Day
8. Host a family Christmas shopping scramble: Has family gift-giving become complicated within your own immediate family? Choose names, load everyone up, drive to a store that will have something for everyone (hello Target and WalMart—let’s keep this simple), hand them the same amount of cash, give them a 30-minute time limit and let them loose. There. Shopping is done. You’re welcome!
9. Camp out under the Christmas tree: Pull out the sleeping bags, blankets, hot chocolate and Christmas storybooks and sleep under the lights of your tree. Watch a movie, eat popcorn, play games and enjoy an evening together and that tree you worked so hard on.
10. Attend (or host) a concert or sing along: Kick the season off with a holiday concert or caroling party. For years my son’s holiday piano recital was at the beginning of December and was a lovely start to our season. If you don’t have a piano student in the house, find a local concert or host a candlelight evening with everyone singing Christmas carols.
11. Read together each night: Collect a series of short stories, children’s books, or poems and have an evening reading time every night. This doesn’t have to be about reading to toddlers, you could do a series of Advent devotions, Christmas jokes, or share online articles you find fun or interesting.
12. Decorate Gingerbread houses: For years we made gingerbread houses each holiday season and it was one of the things my son loved to do. We decided, actually I decided, early on that it wasn’t worth my time to make real gingerbread, but you might find that fun. Do it at least once. It will make you appreciate the $10 kits from JoAnns more. One of our favorite parts of this activity was the ceremonial destruction each New Year’s Eve. Fireworks, stomping, and throwing over the edge of a big hill all work.
13. Attend a local Parade or festival: Local community events, holiday markets, parades, or festivals can all be fun excuses to gather up family and friends for a holiday outing.
14. Do an advent calendar: This can be as easy as picking one up from the store, or DIY one with mini ornaments, favorite candy, jokes of the day, silly activities (can you roll your tongue or do a handstand?) or scripture verses.
15. Buy Christmas pajamas: My mom always purchased the kids coordinating pajamas and allowed them to open them on Christmas Eve. It became a fun thing they all looked forward to and allowed for some adorable photos. It also meant that everyone appeared appropriately attired the next morning opening gifts. We didn’t go as far as including the adults (because let’s face it, my family will never be the kind to appear in a catalog) and as the kids became pre-teens we closed this chapter.
16. Host a friend or neighborhood get together: Do you need one more event on your social calendar? Maybe not, but the holidays are a beautiful time to gather with friends and family and we often let work celebrations, kid’s school concerts, and family visits fill our calendar without intentionally making room for the community we do life with. Host a “Casual After-Shopping Crash” where there’s no holiday agenda but relaxation. Do an adult-only wrapping extravaganza. Put all the kids in one home, hire a few sitters and get together and wrap gifts. Host an outdoor holiday bonfire or movie night if you live in a part of the country where the weather allows. There are a million options, but creating time to spend with friends can become your favorite part of the season.
17. Plan a movie date at the theater: There are always big movie releases in the holiday season. Take the family or meet up with others and enjoy a theater date. If you need to biggie-size the event, dress up or down (go formal or go sweats), wear costumes (it sounds from this article like I’m a costume junkie, but I’m really not), or combine the outing with another activity like Christmas light Bingo (#2 above).
18. Exchange letters: Have each member of the family write letters to the other members and open them on Christmas Eve. We don’t write anymore and this can create a really meaningful experience. Include what you’ve appreciated for that person, what you love about them, their gifts, their contribution to the family, your favorite memories, or your wishes for them in the new year. Keep the letters in a special place and create a scrapbook for each child to gift them with on the first Christmas after they leave home.
19. Have a holiday picnic: If the weather is nice, choose a favorite park or outside, choose holiday-themed food, and a music playlist. If you have snow, make it a snack instead of a whole meal. Let the kids build a snow fort or igloo to host the event.
20. Create a holiday treasure hunt: Invite the neighbors or participate as a family and have a holiday-themed treasure hunt throughout the house, neighborhood, or local park. Once your kids are old enough, turn the tables and let them create the hunt for the adults to experience.
When you open yourself up to non-traditional activities, the possibilities for your holiday celebrations become endless. Don’t overdo it though! It’s easy to let too much activity create an exhausting season. If you want to create a holiday that’s honoring to God, gives life to your family and doesn’t leave you frazzled and overwhelmed, sign up for my free mini-course: 5 Steps to a Stress-Free Christmas.