The holidays always seem to arrive way too quickly, and usually by the time I even think about decorating with boughs of holly it has turned into ‘oh crap’ I forgot to buy Aunt Mary her annual set of dish towels and then also frantically calling the local bakery for my contribution to the cookie exchange. Ugh!
How about this year all of us overworked, frazzled procrastinators have a fun plan to keep us on track? A Christmas Bucket List filled with fun things to do can be that plan. Start this holiday bucket list in early December and it will not only keep you on a better schedule for the season, but the activities will also get you in the spirit of Christmas.
Christmas Bucket List: Fun Holiday Activities, Christmassy Ideas & Festive Things to Do
1. ✧ Mail a Letter to Santa
Get some fancy paper and sparkly pens to write a letter to Santa. His mailing address is hard to forget: Santa, North Pole. If you actually want a response from Saint Nicholas, here’s some instructions from USPS on how to properly write and receive a letter from Santa.
2. ✦ Attend a Tree Lighting Ceremony
Many cities or landmarks will have a ceremony honoring the lighting of their tree. It’s a night where crowds of people load up on hot cocoa, dress in their warmest attire and gather around the tree waiting for the flip of the switch.
3. ✧ Get Your Picture with Santa
Whether you have a child or are a child at heart (like me!), go to the local mall and get a cute snap of you with good ole Saint Nic. If you don’t want the typical holiday photo, check out these funny ideas: 30 Times People Put A Funny Twist On Pics With Santa In Malls.
4. ✧ Go to a Local Christmas Festival
Whether is be a festival of trees, parade of lights or a welcoming of Santa coming to town, attend a local festival in your city. My town has a wonderful silent auction event where local business owners decorate and donate a tree for a good cause. Then the city people can come and drink hot cider while perusing the dozens of trees (and hopefully outbidding each other!).
5. ✦ Leave Cookies for Santa Claus
Last, but not least for your Christmas bucket list, on December 24th leave cookies for Santa Claus…even if you don’t believe in him anymore. You can eat them in the morning!
6. ✦ Chop Down Your Own Christmas Tree
Although in the recent years it has become more common to replace a traditional Christmas tree with the plastic kind, nothing beats the Christmassy feeling and scent of having a real, lush tree in your living room for the season. Sure, you can always go shopping for one, but an actual festive holiday dream come true would be to chop your own perfect tree! As the US alone has over 15,000 tree farms to choose from, you’re bound to find a great one. Plus, at most places there are other Christmas activities for kids and families to enjoy.
7. ✦ Make a Homemade Gift
There is always something special about giving and receiving a homemade gift (it’s a fun thing to do in any season!). It could be a glass frame with pressed wild flowers or pretty smelling soap or infused vodka—the possibilities are endless! I’m really loving these flavored salts with these cute glass jars.
Stuck for ideas? Here are dozens of cool DIY Christmassy things to do for gifts:
8. ✧ Connect With an Out of Town Friend
The holiday season is the perfect time catch up with an old friend that you haven’t connected with in a while. So, give them a quick call or text and set up a time to get together.
9. ✧ Make a Garland for the Tree
Once you’ve chopped your chosen tree, how about trying your hand at making a festive garland to wrap around it? The Internet is full of directions for how to make a garland as well as ideas for what kind of garland to make. Everything from candy cane garlands to delightfully smelling ones made with dried citrus. I’m loving the cute Anthropoligie inspired Pom-pom Garland.
10. ✦ Make an Ornament
Put on your creative activity hat for this Christmas bucket list idea and make your own holiday ornaments for your tree or someone elses. Most craft stores carry clear bulbs (or you can buy them here) that can be filled with an array of festive things or get even more crafty with these 30 DIY Christmas ornaments. If you are not so crafty, StayGlam has got you covered with their easy DIY ornaments.
11. ✦ Create Handmade Christmas Cards
With a collection of papers, ribbons, glue and some decorative pieces you can create some pretty festive Christmas cards that will WOW your family and friends. Country Living has some super cute DIY card ideas (the mini wreath cards are my favorite!).
12. ✧ Roast Chestnuts on an Open Fire
One of my favorite things to do while in Zurich in the winter was hitting up the roasted chestnut stands scattered along the streets. It made me want to start the tradition of making them at home for the holidays. So why not buy yourself a chestnut roaster and follow this How To Roast Chestnuts on an Open Fire article.
13. ✧ Make a Christmas Tune Playlist
Christmas music has come a long way over the years—it seems like every major artist has a song or album. Use spotify to create your perfect playlist!
Having a hard time thinking of songs? Esquire has made it easy with the 30 Best Christmas Songs of All Time.
14. ✦ Make Paper Snowflakes
Making paper snowflakes is one of those activities for the whole family. You can make some to hang on the tree, decorate presents with others and even stick a few on the windows of your home for the neighbors to see. If you’ve never made one before, here’s an easy Snowflake How-to.
15. ✦ Sip on Hot Chocolate by the Fire
There’s nothing quite like sipping some hot cocoa while watching a fire blazing. It’s the perfect way to write your Christmas list! You can make yourself a simple Old-Fashioned Hot Chocolate or spruce it up by whipping up a Red Velvet Hot Chocolate. You can keep your cocoa warm all day in Yeti’s insulated mug or use one of buck & co’s signature bucket list mugs (they make great gifts too!).
16. ✦ Donate a Toy
Christmas is all about giving, and giving a gift to a child in need is one of the most rewarding things to do this holiday—a heartwarming addition to your Christmas bucket list! Each year I typically collect toys at my Italian restaurant to donate to Toys for Tots, but there are many other places in need too. Try your local homeless shelter, children’s hospital or fire department. Plus, many shops and businesses will have Christmas Angel trees, where the ornaments hung are wishes from kids in need.
Don’t know what the hottest toys are this season? Here’s Amazon’s list of the Top 100 Toys.
17. ✧ Volunteer
During the holiday season there are always people in need of some extra Christmas cheer. Spread some joy by helping in some way. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen or bring joy to a children’s hospital. Pick a cause close to your heart and spend the day giving. Find opportunities near you on the United Way or Volunteer Match website.
18. ✦ Go Ice Skating
During the Christmas season, outdoor ice skating rinks start popping up—even in places that have no snow! Put on a pair of blades and glide around the rink. Follow it up with a cup of hot cocoa or apple cider.
19. ✦ Watch a Holiday Movie Favorite
Slip into your comfiest pjs (you know, that fuzzy onesie with the feet), make some popcorn and watch a holiday movie that will get you into the spirit. You can even go one step further and make it a movie marathon. Some of my favorites are:
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- A Christmas Story
- Miracle on 34th Street
20. ✦ Make a Wreath for Your Front Door
Give your guests a warm welcome by placing a beautiful crafted wreath on your front door. You can choose one of the 65 DIY Christmas Wreaths from Country Living (I adore this Birch-Bark Leaf one!).
21. ✧ Hide or Find the Elf on a Shelf
At the beginning of the holiday season, this cute elf is placed all around the home acting as Santa’s eyes and ears, making sure all the children are behaving. Each night after the children have gone to bed he goes back to the North Pole to report to Santa. He returns to the home in the morning, but always to a different location. If you have kids (or even want to play along with your housemate), it’s fun to hide and find him. It’s one of those activities for all ages!
Make sure to get yours well in advance! You can order Elf on a Shelf here.
22. ✦ Hang Stockings
Stockings are such an excellent, and essential, Christmas decoration! Usually they create a cozy atmosphere with their cute appearance, and in addition they’re a wonderful spot to hide those tiny Christmas presents in. Esty has some of the cutest ones on the internet, but if you have never tried making your own stocking, this could be the year to get crafty with it. Here you can find some ideas for DIY Christmas stockings – there’s several in there I’d love to make myself, like the chunky knit or sweater stocking ones!
23. ✦ Attend Midnight Christmas Eve Service at Church
Officially referred to as ‘Midnight Mass’, the service held on Christmas Eve, starting approximately an hour before midnight, is seen as a tradition among Christians. It is held and celebrated as a form of dedicating the holiday season to God. Even if you aren’t religious, it can be a beautiful way to add some holiday spirit into your celebrations, and some of your family members might find it to be surprisingly meaningful to attend, including yourself. After all, it is a season of peace and love.
24. ✧ Go Christmas Caroling
Get a group of friends together, practice some Christmas carols (Rudolph the red now reindeer is one of my favorites!) and then walk around the neighborhood spreading the spirit through song.
Don’t know what to sing? Here at some top Christmas carols with the lyrics.
25. ✦ See the Nutcracker Ballet
Whether it’s just on a small local stage or a big city production, a quintessential thing to do during the holidays is to escape into a dreamland with the exquisite ballet performance of the Nutcracker. This classic Christmas story is centered around a young girl’s Christmas Eve celebration and is a must thing to do at least once in your lifetime!
26. ✧ Read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is the classic poem that should have a place in every Christmas lovers home. You can get your own copy here.
27. ✦ Build a Snowman or Make a Snowman Angel
Escape to a winter wonderland to make a snow angel or build a good old fashioned Frosty. Have fun plopping yourself right into the snow, waving your arms and legs to create the perfect angel or stacking big balls on top of each other for a jolly snowman (don’t forget the carrot nose, hat and stick arms!). Bucket list bonus if you do both!
For help read The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Snowman and just for fun here’s 31 Epic Snowman Designs. For a super easy option just buy a kit.
28. ✦ Get Dressed Up and Attend a Holiday Party
Christmas isn’t only the time of the year to get jolly, it’s the time of year when there are holiday parties everywhere! Your company will most likely arrange one, but you can also find excellent ones at some restaurants, bars and clubs, as well as ones hosted by a variety of Meetup groups. The best part is that some parties will involve dressing up to your finest digs, while other parties will follow the “ugly Christmas sweater” route.
29. ✧ Donate Your Unused Mittens and Jackets
Baby it’s cold outside! And there are some unfortunate people who need a warm jacket or a pair of cozy gloves to get them through the frigid winter season. Take up a collection from friends, family and neighbors and then bring them to the local homeless shelter.
30. ✦ Spend an Evening Wrapping Presents
Wrapping presents is one of my favorite holiday activities! I save all the gifts until just a few days before Xmas then spend the night listening to holiday music and covering them all in pretty paper. Here are 39 Gift Wrapping Ideas to get your creative juices flowing—my favorite is the Reindeer Thumbprint Paper!
31. ✧ Build a Gingerbread House
There nothing that says Christmas quite like the house filled with the smell of gingerbread and a table ready for home construction. Try this recipe or for something way easier, just buy a gingerbread house kit.
Read more: 60 or the Best Gingerbread House Ideas
32. ✧ Make an Advent Calendar
An advent calendar is used to count the days until Christmas. The typical ones are filled with chocolate and hanging out at the grocery store checkout line (like this one). But, with a little creativity you can create your own using matchboxes, clothespins or just about anything else you can possibly think of!
Need Ideas? See Buzzfeed’s 33 Clever And Adorable DIY Advent Calendars and Apartment Therapy’s 35 DIY Advent Calendars to Make Now So You’re Ready for December
33. ✦ Drink Eggnog
Drinking eggnog is quite a tradition during the holiday season, so why not partake for your Christmas bucket list? Typically the drink is made with sugar, milk, cream, whipped eggs, spices and a touch of alcohol (though the ones you buy at the grocery store might be sans the liquor—insert sad face).
If you want to make your own, try this recipe by Alton Brown. Not a huge eggnog fan? How about just adding a little eggnog flavor to your coffee with this eggnog Torani syrup.
34. ✦ Do a Random Act of Kindness
Random acts of kindness are some of the most fulfilling and sweetest things you could ever do, especially when it is done for a complete stranger. Donate food, pay the bridge tool for the person behind you or feed someone’s parking meter—the possibilities are endless. If you have trouble thinking of ideas, read my post for plenty of options: 75 Random Acts of Kindness Ideas: Examples of Kind Things to Do.
35. ✦ Spend the Day Baking Christmas Cookies
Who doesn’t like a home filled with the smells of fresh-baked cookies? It doesn’t matter whether it’s snickerdoodles, crinkles or simple sugar cookies, spend an entire day just baking. Afterwards, you can even organize a cookie exchange with friends and family.
For some delicious cookie ideas see the 36 of the Best Christmas Cookie Recipes. Don’t forget the cookie sheets! The Rachael Ray Yum-o! Nonstick Pans are amazing, or at least get yourself some silicone baking mats that make the process so much easier!
36. ✦ Take a Family Christmas Photo
One of the more standard Christmas activities, but totally a fun one, is to take a Chirstmassy photo together with the whole family. It will make for such sweet memories in the future. You might even be inclined to make it a yearly tradition to have multiple photo memories to reminisce and compare over. To make it really memorable, get everyone dressed up, maybe according to a theme or in ugly Christmas sweaters, and take a fun portrait! You can then use a company like Shutterfly to turn your photo into a cute holiday card.
37. ✦ Look at the Holiday Lights in your Neighborhood
Fill your thermos with hot chocolate, load up the car with your family and give your eyes a special holiday treat by driving through the neighborhoods in search of the best light display. Check with your city, many of them make holiday light maps for you to follow.
38. ✦ Wear a Santa Hat in Public
The shops are full of Santa hats for purchase, so why not buy one for yourself, too? Then wear it in public to show the world just how high in Christmas spirits you are. Don’t worry about people gazing at you, they’ll just be jealous they didn’t think of it first!
39. ✧ Organize a Secret Santa Gift Exchange
Looking for an easy and fun way to exchange gifts with family, friends and coworkers? The a Secret Santa Gift Exchange is the answer. One of my favorite secret Santa gifts are these “If you can read this, bring me some wine” socks (they also have ones for chocolate and coffee!). You can you can buy them here.
40. ✦ Make Your Christmas List
Since we were little kids, there’s always been something we have wanted to receive as a Christmas present. And that doesn’t need to change just because we’re adults! Maybe we don’t have to take it as seriously now as we did when we were 7, but sitting down to write down a wish list for Christmas is a fun and a simple way to get into the holiday mood. Your wish list doesn’t have to be given to someone else, it can be a list of things you want to gift yourself.
41. ✧ Make and Wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater
You may not be considered a diehard Xmas fan until you have sported an ugly Christmas sweater! There are plenty of places online to buy one, but it’d be so much more fun to make your own personalized sweater. Need help? These 51 Ugly Sweater Ideas will definitely be inspiration.
42. ✦ Have a Snowball Fight
With so much fresh snow outside can you restrict yourself to the indoors. Get outside for a good old fashioned snowball fight! Invite some friends, make teams and let’s see who wins the war of snow.
Don’t get out there unarmed, learn How to Make the Perfect Snowball first!
43. ✦ Start a New Tradition
With so much joy, Christmas is the perfect time to start a new tradition that will live on in years to come. It can be anything from a special dish you cook every holiday season to volunteering at the local shelter to Christmas caroling. Anything goes! Every year I decorate and donate a tiny tree—it immediately gets me in the holiday spirit.
44. ✧ Send Soldiers Holiday Cards
Perhaps you personally know someone in the military or maybe you simply want to show your gratitude to those in active service. In either case, sending soldiers some holiday cards is such a beautiful and heartwarming act to do. Especially if you have children you could make and send the holiday cards with, it can be an excellent lesson for them on being grateful. After all, those soldiers will sadly not be able to make it home in time for the holidays, and so deserve to have some extra holiday love sent their way.
45. ✧ Make Salt Dough Ornaments
Making salt dough ornaments is a fun way to get crafty over the holidays, especially if you’ve got kids. The dough itself is easy to make – here’s a recipe for it – and you can let your creative juices freely flow when you use it to create the ornaments. And beyond just making for great decorations around the house and the Christmas tree, it can make for some excellent holiday gifts for your kids to give out to the relatives. You need some cookie cutters for this activity, and Wilton makes a great set of 18 Christmas cookie cutters that’ll have everything you need.
46. ✧ Have a Christmas Craft Day with Your Kids
There are plenty of ideas on this list for crafts that you could do with your kids, and one great idea would be take take all of them and have the ultimate Christmas craft day with your kids! Here are a ton more crafting ideas that you could also enjoy making on that day. Whichever crafts you or your kids choose would be best for you to make, having a family day like this will be fun and memorable.
47. ✦ Hold a Cookie Swap
A cookie swap is just like a potluck, but with people bringing home baked cookies instead of a variety of other dishes. This year, consider hosting your own cookie swap! You can assign your guests with specific type of cookies or cookie categories… or you can just let them choose whatever they feel the most comfortable baking.
48. ✦ Eat a Candy Cane
With a long lasting Christmas tradition, a candy cane is THE sweet treat to have over the holidays. And since during Christmas is absolutely okay to feast up and eat yourself silly, go on and have all the candy canes you can stomach to have until you hit that sugar high. Here you can check out the top candy cane brands at the moment, but also there’s a bunch of different product’s that have the candy cane flavor, like Hershey’s Kisses and Mentos mints.
49. ✦ Visit One of the Best Christmassy Towns
Christmas is one of those great holidays that you can also see take over some towns and cities, turning them into beautiful lighting spectacles full of holiday atmosphere. Not only that, but they typically have some awesome Christmas markets to shop in! In USA, some of the best Christmassy towns are Frankenmuth in Michigan (with Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store), Santa Claus in Indiana (the name says it all), Williamsburg in Virginia (home to the amusement park called Christmas Town), Bernsville in Pennsylvania (thanks to Koziar’s Christmas Village), Durango in Colorado, Red Wing in Minnesota (if you want to attend their Holiday Stroll), and of course New York City.
50. ✦ Take a Christmas Market Cruise Through Europe
This should be at the top of every Christmas lover’s top bucket list as far as travel activities go. It may be something you only get to do once, but it will be absolutely epic and full of memories you’ll never forget about. There are several different options for river cruises that have shopping stops in various towns in Germany and Austria, plus Switzerland and Hungary’s Budapest. I did an amazing Viking River Christmas Market Cruise along the Rhine with stops in France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
51. ✦ Kiss Someone Under the Mistletoe
The holiday season can also be the time for romance. Set up mistletoe in your home and lead your heart’s beloved under it to gain the great excuse of kissing them. An especially neat trick for those of us who maybe have someone in our sights but haven’t gotten to the part of confessing to them yet. Mistletoes can also be a DIY project for you or maybe you’ll find the perfect one at one of the holiday parties you attend.
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