I am the kind of person who has already started listening to Christmas music. Secretly, in my car, of course – but nonetheless. I love this time of year. I love all things seasonal and special – I love the traditions that go hand-in-hand with Christmas and the holiday season. I’m one of those. Sorry, not sorry.
Now that I have a kid, I really get to celebrate to my full potential. Last year, inspired by one zillion Pinterest posts peddling the idea, I made our family an Advent Calendar. It created some excitement and added some intention to the days leading up to Christmas and really, it didn’t take a whole lot of planning on my part. Here’s what I did:
I made a list of 25 activities/ideas/ways for us to enjoy the season together, as a family. Here’s how I came up with my list:
- I thought of our favorite activities, movies, books, etc. I wrote them down to include in our list.
- I searched “Holiday Activities in the Denver Area.” I looked at different community centers near us to see if they had anything going on. I took special note of the free dates and bought tickets when needed.
- I considered some options for service. How can we spend some days of our Advent time blessing others?
- I searched Amazon for some inexpensive books/movies I could gift throughout the month, that we could then read/watch together. I wrapped and placed these under the tree the night before so the card could say “find a gift under the tree!”
Now, how to display. I chose to hang numbered envelopes in the shape of a tree on a wall in a central part of our home. I didn’t put all of the activities in there right away, either. There were some that had set dates to go with them, and those I put in ahead of time. Otherwise, I kept a stack of my predetermined activities and each night before we went to bed I would decide what should come the next day. This gave me the option to adjust for things that came up, such as snow storms or days I really didn’t feel like doing a craft. [Yeah, that happens.]
Should you feel like doing something like this, or just want some ideas for fun activities to do on a whim, here’s my list for the holidays this year, in no particular order:
- Decorate for Christmas! Tree trimming, etc. [This is always day 1… if not before!]
- Adopt a family or child [Tennyson Center for Children, Denver Children’s Home, Hope House of Colorado, Catholic Charities, Joshua Station]
- Movie Night! Watch Elf with popcorn & hot cocoa. [Feel free to repeat this one, subbing in your fave movies, as your holiday exhaustion sets in…]
- Find a gift under the tree! [Wrap one of those Christmas books you found on Amazon!]
- Highlands Ranch Holiday Celebration at the Highlands Ranch Mansion [Find things like this close to you! Such as Winterfest at Old South Pearl Street.]
- Send special Christmas Cards to grandparents [great grandparents too!]
- Write a letter to Santa!
- Decorate Christmas Cookies!
- Visit Santa!! [We’ve had fun at Cherry Creek and Park Meadows malls]
- Read the Christmas Story together!
- Plan a play date with a friend/cousin! [We had so much fun with this last year – hit up the Target dollar section for some treats, planned an activity/movie, and had our cousins over for a holiday sleepover.]
- Christmas shopping! [We make a list ahead of time for parents/cousins/grandparents we’re buying for and, bonus, making it an activity made me a little less grumpy about going to the mall.]
- Ice Skating! [Southwest Rink at Skyline Park, The Rink at Belmar, South Suburban Family Sports Ice Arena]
- Find a gift under the tree! [Wrap one of those movies from your childhood you’re secretly dying to watch with your little ones…]
- Ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad [I am DETERMINED to make this happen this year!]
- Go for a drive and look at Christmas lights!
- Find a showing of the Nutcracker or other holiday shows at local community theaters! [Parker Arts, Lone Tree PAC, Town Hall Arts Center]
- Catch a Christmas movie at Alamo Drafthouse [Elf, Home Alone, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Little Women are all on the calendar!]
- Paint pottery as gifts! Coffee mugs for grandparents! Unicorns for cousins! [Arts on Fire, Color Me Mine, Ceramics in the City]
- Find a new ornament hidden on the tree!
- Ask your kids how THEY would like to bless someone this year – either through service, kind words, a gift, feeding the hungry, or volunteering their time. Present some ideas, but let your kids choose how they serve.
- Visit Denver Botanic Gardens Trail of Lights (Chatfield) or Blossoms of Light (York Street) or Denver Zoo Lights
- Bake some treats and deliver them to the neighbors! [We’re a fan of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies in our house]
- Watch Home Alone in our PJ’s while we finish our wrapping!
- Christmas Morning! [This generates enough excitement to be a stand-alone date in our home!]
Now, there are some of you who are going to think this seems excessive – and you may not be wrong. If we actually did all the above activities, it’d be an actual Christmas miracle. There are lots of activities listed to choose from – but this can be a very simple and very inexpensive undertaking if you put a little creative thought into it.
Excessive or not, here’s what I’ll say about it: when we instituted this last year, it was such a gift. It helped us to be more intentional about enjoying this special season with our kiddo. It helped us to shift our focus from gifts to remembering what a gift it can be to serve, and to remember those less fortunate than us. Sure, by Christmas morning you’ll be a little tired, but it’ll be the good kind of tired, where you feel like you’ve done something worth your time.
What activities would you add to our list? What are some ways your family enjoys the holiday season together?