It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
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It’s not just a cheesy line from an old school Christmas song. There are so many things that MAKE the holiday season the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s more than those kids jingle belling. It’s spending more time than usual with family and friends, exchanging gifts, the magic of falling snow, the coziness of snuggling up with a blanket and hot cocoa when it’s freezing outside. And, if you’re a Christian, celebrating Jesus’ birth.
The excuse for hang-outs.
Like I said, the MOST wonderful time of the year. Y’all KNOW we love a chance to throw epic get-togethers or go way overboard on creating magical experiences for our kids.
We love all the opportunities this time of year to get creative, invent new traditions and make some magic. With a little planning ahead, you can do all this for free or cheap.
Read on for our must-dos to take full advantage of the holiday season. Especially if you’re on a budget.
Top 10 Holiday Bucket List Items.
Bucket list item #1: host a cookie swap.
Invite your best friends to get together.
Everyone brings a tin of their favorite holiday cookies to give away and leaves with their tin filled with cookies from everyone else’s stash. It’s the perfect way to try a wide variety of cookies without having to cook a wide variety of entire batches of cookies.
It’s like getting a bunch of non-verbal recommendations for your friends’ favorite cookies. Make this recipe if you want to try something new and suuuuuper extra. Extra delish that is.
Bucket list item #2: Christmas lights excursion.
This is one of those magical memories I have from childhood. All of us piling into the minivan together in our Christmas jammies and driving through the most magical light displays.
If you’re in Georgia, here is a website that lists several of the best holiday light displays around.
Want to stick closer to home and/or save yourself some cash? As an alternative to the official light displays, consider the option of driving or taking a stroll through neighborhoods near where you live known for their epic holiday lights.
Bring along some hot cocoa or warm apple cider for the family to enjoy in these sweet travel mugs:
Bucket list item #3: wear matching family PJs.
Matching family Christmas PJs are all the rage right now and for good reason. They are so cute – the designs on Christmas PJs have improved so much over the years.
Get more use out of your matching family Christmas jammies by wearing them leading up to Christmas and not just on Christmas Eve / Day. You know you need a family photo in your matching jammies too!
Bucket list item #4: read Christmas books together.
Whatever your family looks like, whether you have kids of your own or you spend time with your parents / grandparents and you are the “kid”, reading Christmas stories together as a family is always a special memory you will treasure for years to come.
See #9 below for a fun idea using books for an advent calendar.
Bucket list item #5: host a “watch Elf & wrap presents party”.
Everyone has presents to wrap, right?
Maybe you love the task of wrapping present upon present for all your distant family members, but I tend to think tasks like this that seem to drag on forever are better done with friends.
Have your guests bring their own scissors, tape and wrapping paper. You supply the movie (any Christmas movie you like – our favorite is Elf).
Bucket list item #6: host a s’mores & hot chocolate party.
I don’t know if this one needs any elaboration.
What is more cozy and delicious when the weather turns cold than a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a toasted marshmallow. Guests can roast marshmallows around your outdoor fire pit, at your indoor fireplace or even over your gas stovetop.
Make a giant crockpot of hot chocolate, set out the s’more supplies and marshmallow roasting sticks and you have an InstaParty. Go one step further and set up a whole hot chocolate and s’mores bar. Here are some of our favorite ideas:
Bucket list item #7: host a white elephant party.
White Elephant is our favorite classic holiday season game.
Never played before? It’s pretty simple. Read the official rules here: https://www.whiteelephantrules.com.
Simply put: each guest brings a gift, already wrapped. The host sets a low spending limit (like $5-10 max) or requires guests to bring only something they have in their home. (We like the found / free option because it forces creativity. It helps you get rid of something you have no use for, BUT someone else may love. The game always provides lots of laughs.)
Guests draw numbers and pick and open presents one at a time with the option to open a new gift or steal one. It can get really competitive!
Bucket list item #8: give back.
At a time of the year when we all have so much – bounty, presents and feasts, it’s so important to remember what is really important: serving others.
Especially if you have kiddos, start them young, teaching them the importance of giving back.
While growing up, my parents always hosted a huge Christmas party, inviting friends from school, work, church, family, neighbors and basically everyone we knew.
We provided the hot chocolate, cider and platters upon platters of cookies and asked guests to come mingle and meet new friends. Their admission? A donation to local food pantry.
The next day, our family brought the donation into the food pantry and served together for a couple hours helping sort inventory and stock the shelves. Here are a few other ideas for ways to give back together with family or friends:
Bucket list item #9: advent calendar.
One of the best parts of the month of December is the anticipation that continues building all the way up to Christmas.
Counting down the days until Christmas is a long-standing tradition that kids (and adults with kid-like tendencies) love. An advent calendar can be as simple as crossing each day off of a big wall calendar, but these days there are so many different types of advent calendars to match your specific tastes.
There are the classic versions where each day you eat a piece of candy to count down to Dec 25th. There are advent calendars where each day you get a different little bag of coffee and tea. There are versions with sample sizes of beauty products. And versions with tiny bottles of wine.
If you have kids, a really sweet trend that we just love is to wrap a bunch of Christmas books, and let the kids open one each night until Christmas. After opening the book, snuggle up as a family and read it together.
On the surface this seems like a really expensive and time consuming option, but consider this: you don’t need to run out and buy all new Christmas books. You can use what you have, buy a few new ones you’ll want to read again and again (see our list of favorite Christmas books above under #4), and check the rest out from your local library (just make sure you know the due date and somehow label which packages contain library books so your children open those first).
Wrap the books in these sweet reusable gift bags. Use these to wrap Christmas presents as Christmas approaches and use year after year to rewrap the Christmas books.
This advent book is awesome. This would be a great book to open on Dec 1. Then you could use it as an advent calendar also:
Here are some more advent calendars to inspire you:
Bucket list item #10: matching PJs + snuggle + a Christmas movie or two.
Here are some of our top picks:
Make lasting memories.
The magic of the Holiday season for us isn’t about the Christmas presents or the amount of money spent. These free or cheap ideas have the potential to create some of the sweetest family traditions and make lasting memories with your community. That is priceless.
Mother-blogger (watch your mouth). Frugal Foodie. Never measured an ingredient in her life. Modern Minimalist. Hospitalitizer. The plan executor. The design eye. The sweet & salty, sugar & spice, fire & ice, no fuss, no frills, put your big girl panties on and take it like a woman. Achiever. Winner. The inclusivist. Your fierce advocate. Best friend to many. True to all.
This content was originally published here.