Festive Free and Budget-Conscious Activities Help Us Get in the Christmas Spirit
Every year since we married, we’ve made a tradition of celebrating during the whole 24 days before Christmas (and sometimes after Christmas too). Participating in fun and festive activities really helps us get into the Christmas spirit. Since money is limited, we strive to think of as many free or inexpensive activities as we can so that we do not ‘go broke’ before Christmas. We’ve gotten pretty creative in the past!
I’ve gathered our ideas to share with you so that you may start your own 25 days of Christmas tradition or get some new activity ideas. We are Christians, but we do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday but rather as a family holiday. Therefore, we don’t include any worship services or pageants. If you’d like to learn more about what and how the Bible tells us to memorialize concerning Christ, I’d be happy to help you out. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 is a great place to start!)
Two of our activities are, of course, our Christmas Eve family dinner and Christmas Day.
I do hope you enjoy these ideas and have a “Merry Christmas!“
As it is the season of giving, give some of your time to help others.
We try to incorporate service-oriented activities into our 25 Days list, such as making fruit baskets at church for older members of the congregation and community and shopping for our adopt-a-child with my mother-in-law. Visiting and helping elderly family and friends, those in the hospital, and neighbors in need are also great ideas. The spirit of Christmas is all about giving of yourself. It need not be something expensive. Even your time is valuable to those who need a kind word or visit. Of course, this isn’t something reserved for the month of December.
Send Christmas Cards – Spread cheer!
We send cards to distant family to keep in touch, and our congregation hangs bags for each family to receive cards. We enjoy signing cards and popping them in the bags.
It’s so much fun to receive Christmas cards too. We hang them up around one of our wider doorways.
Watch Christmas Movies and Shows – Free on TV or Initial Purchase Fee only
We spread our Christmas movie watching throughout the month. We are limited only by the movies we own or can find on major (non-cable) stations or on the internet. Many classic movies are available at low prices and can be enjoyed afresh each year. We prefer the cartoon and animated classics, but you could throw in classic live action or new movies. I personally like the cheesy Hallmark romantic Christmas movies too, but my husband isn’t as much of a fan of including those in our 25 days. If a new Christmas/winter movie is coming to theaters, you could make a special trip to watch it as well.
Great Timeless Christmas Movies
- Charlie Brown Christmas
- It’s Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown
- Frosty the Snowman
- Frosty Returns
- Mickey’s Christmas Carol
- Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- I want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown
- Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales
- Santa Claus is Coming to Town
- Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Visit a Local Highly Decorated Site – Free or Fee
If you live near enough to a hotel, historic home, or other site which gets all decked out for the holidays, make a visit just to see the decorations. We enjoy visiting the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, TN, which has for many years been decorated each Christmas in fantastic displays of lights, huge festive trees, and more. It is free to wander around the hotel, and as the Opry Mills Mall is just next door, we combine our visit with shopping and free parking. Another great idea is to drive around your area looking at Christmas lights and displays.
Make homemade ornaments or decorations from things around the house. My non-crafter husband and I make time one night each December to make ornaments and other Christmas crafts. We use items we have around the house and stuff in my craft stash. I have many Christmas ornament how-to’s on this page. If you can, try to use as many things as possible from your recycling or would-be trash, like paper towel tubes, plastic containers, and paper scraps. Dry pasta is another fun option.
Make Cookies and/or Candy – Sugar Cookies and Fudge are family favorites!
Every year we make these drop sugar cookies. We like to add sprinkles before baking. We also enjoy making other cookies, such as my double dark chocolate-pecan cookies and my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe. Our peanut butter fudge recipe is from a friend and is like my husband’s grandmother’s, so it is special. I always make the chocolate fudge recipe on the back of the Jiffy Puff marshmallow cream container. Many Christmas treats are easy and inexpensive to make, and you can give them away as gifts to loved ones or those without family.
Play Board or Card Games While Listening to Christmas Music and Drinking Hot Chocolate
It is always fun at this time of year to sit down to a good-natured board or card game such as Phase 10, Scrabble, Monopoly, or Munchkin. We like to combine our game with background music and hot chocolate. You could even do a puzzle together.
Cook a Red and Green Meal – Get creative!
In past years, we’ve made tomato-meat pasta sauce and served it over spinach pasta. Just think of naturally colored red and green foods: tomatoes, greens, green beans, red-skinned potatoes, peas, red and green apples, etc.
Go Christmas Shopping – Make gift-buying an event
Although we don’t have much Christmas shopping to do each year, we make this one of our activities. We might even enjoy a small treat while we are out shopping. To make this a whole family activity, you would need to be buying for those outside of your party (like extended family) or split into teams and make it a contest of sorts.
Visit Local Shopping Events – Shop Local and Handmade!
Most areas have some sort of Christmas shopping event, and many of them are free. These are great events at which to get high-quality handmade gifts for family and friends. These events are fun and festive! Or, if you own a handmade business like I do, set up a booth at an event. Perhaps, you will make some holiday cash.
If you and your spouse play Minecraft together, build a Christmas Village!
Minecraft is a fun sandbox-style computer game which my husband used to be really in to. I enjoy it from time to time as well. One year, we built a Christmas Village on our island, a one-evening activity which turned into about a week-long build.
These are activities we do outside of our “25 Days of Christmas,” but you may wish to add them into yours. Others are those which I would like to do with our potential future children or random ideas I had.
- Decorate for Christmas. Put up the tree, hang lights, add some extra decorations in and out…it’s up to you!
- Make little gifts for school or bible class students. I’ve been making little crochet Christmas stockings for my husband’s class each year. We fill them with candies. It’s an ambitious project sometimes, but it is so fun!
- Listen to Christmas tunes at home and on the go. A local radio station plays Christmas music all throughout December, and there’s also Pandora Internet Radio, which is a free and customizable service. Feel free to sing along!
- Attend or host pre-Christmas parties or get-togethers. These can be as simple as a “potluck-style” appetizers dinner or a cookie swap. Ornament swaps are also fun and pretty budget-friendly.
- Pick out a special ornament each year that commemorates a significant event, such as buying a house, having a baby, getting a pet, or whatever else means a lot to your family. Vacations are also a great way to get a really special commemorative ornament.
- Enjoy the smells of Christmastime by filling a pot with water, orange peels, apple peels, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a few cloves. Keep it on the lowest temperature setting on your stove (only when you’re home and awake, of course). Eat the oranges and apples, of course.
- Read Christmas stories aloud with kids.
- Make handmade gifts with the kids for grandparents, aunts, uncles, or older friends.
- Have smaller trees for the kids to decorate with their own style. They could even make handmade ornaments and decorations for their trees.
- If you prefer a real tree, make it an event to pick out the perfect tree. Be sure to include music and apple cider or hot chocolate in your plans.
- Simply relax. The holidays can be so stressful. Make a point to spend one evening as a family relaxing…no TV and no working. Just sip something warm (hot chocolate, apple cider), turn on the tunes, and snuggle under blankets. Just chit-chat and enjoy each other’s company. This is ideal if you have some type of fireplace. (Ahhh…a dream for us!)
- Listen to older family members tell stories of Christmases past. Be prepared for the ‘big fish’ stories and laugh away!
- Be festively contagious. Make a point to smile more than normal, especially to those who appear to be in a bad mood. Say “Merry Christmas” often.
- Wear “tacky” or “not-so-tacky” Christmas clothing and jewelry during December. Show your spirit on your sleeve or ears or toes…
- Swap stories with your spouse about your favorite Christmases as a child. Show photos if you have them. It is fine to bring up the same stories each year; just give them a new twist or angle! (Don’t tell a fib just to impress them though.)
- Look through photos of Christmases past. See how much everyone have grown and changed. Share favorite memories.
- Plan your Christmas meal with your family. This could be a fun evening event with reminiscing, looking through cookbooks, and doling out tasks. Look for some new recipes, too!
- Have family Christmas pictures taken, either professionally or by a friend for free (or a sugary bribe). Nowadays, you can get pictures easily printed onto Christmas cards and other gifts on sites like Shutterfly.
What are your family’s Christmas traditions?