25 Days of Christmas – How We Get Ready for the Big Day!

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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 tight, 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 religious activities.

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!"

All photos are mine. All rights reserved. The intro photo is from the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, TN. They have beautiful Christmas decorations!

As it is the season of giving...

Give some of your time to help others.

Bear Decoration 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!

Hanging Christmas Cards 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.

If a new Christmas/winter movie is coming to theaters, you could make a special trip to watch it as well.

Below is a list of movies we enjoy each year. One we also find entertaining is Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It is one of the cheesiest movies ever made, but it is hilarious in it’s terrible dialogue and corny story. We find it on the internet.

Great Timeless Christmas Movies

4 out of 5 of these are in our cabinet and are enjoyed each year.

Visit a Local Highly-Decorated Site

Free or Fee

Poinsettia Tree 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. (The photo is of the Poinsettia Tree at ‘Opryland Hotel’ as we Tennesseans will always call it.)

Another great idea is to drive around your area looking at Christmas lights and displays.

Get Crafty!

Make homemade ornaments or decorations from things around the house.

Recycled Snowmen Craft 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. Below is an example and how-to of one of our crafts from last year: recycled drink mix container snowmen (pictured).

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.

Visit my blogger friend’s site below for more great Christmas crafts for kids. She is really creative!

Christmas Craft Links

How to Make Snowmen from Recycled Drink Mix Containers
My how-to lens for the Snowman craft.
EasyCraftsForChildren Crafts projects to make with your children, family and friends !!
She has a lot of great Christmas crafts for children.

Make Cookies and/or Candy

Sugar Cookies and Fudge are family favorites!

Double Dark Chocolate-Pecan Cookies Every year we make sugar cookies and fudge. I also enjoy making other cookies, such as my double dark chocolate-pecan cookies (pictured) and cranberry-chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. (See recipes below.)

Sugar cookies, chocolate fudge, and peanut butter fudge are all relatively easy and inexpensive treats to make, AND you can give them away as gifts to loved ones or those without family. We like to make the fudge and candy closer to Christmas day.

See recipe link below for our favorite drop sugar cookies, my double dark chocolate-pecan cookies, my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe, and our peanut butter fudge recipe. I always make the chocolate fudge recipe on the back of the Jiffy Puff marshmallow cream container.

Cookie and Candy Recipes

Easy Sugar Cookies
Our favorite drop sugar cookie recipe. We decorate them with sprinkles before baking.
Double Dark Chocolate-Pecan Cookies
My recipe for rich and decadent chocolate lovers' cookies!
Easy Peanut Butter Fudge
This is our go-to peanut butter fudge recipe.
Oatmeal Craisins® Chocolate Chunk Cookies
My favorite oatmeal, cranberry, chocolate chip cookie recipe. We use dark chocolate chips. (I actually got the recipe in Disney World at EPCOT's Food and Wine Festival in Fall 2012.)
This is NOT a gluten free oatmeal cookie recipe.
Cranberry-Dark Chocolate Chip GF Oat Cookies - 2 Flour Options
If you are looking for a gluten free cookie, these are good using the all-oat flour.

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, or Monopoly. We like to combine our game with background music and hot chocolate.

Our Favorite Board and Card Games

We own and enjoy all of these games, except Disney Trivial Pursuit which we have played and would like to have.

Cook a Red and Green Meal

Get creative!

For the 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

Hot Cocoa Mug 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 (or yourself). 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. Below is the link to my Etsy shop.

Lili & Mum's on Etsy

Lili & Mum's on Etsy
My mom's and my Etsy shop - handmade crochet and sewn items for children, women, and the home.

If you and your spouse play Minecraft together...

build a Christmas Village!

Our Minecraft Town Minecraft is a fun sandbox-style computer game which my husband is really into. I enjoy it from time to time as well. Last year, we built a Christmas Village on our island, a one-evening activity which turned into about a week-long build.

Here are the photos to inspire you:

Our Minecraft Christmas Village

Our Christmas Village

Our Christmas Village

Santa's Runway

One Gateway

Hedge Garden

The Main Street

The Main Street

Patisserie

Patisserie

Florist and Greenhouse

The Greenhouse

Lily's Department Store

Toy Shop

Toy Shop

Candy Cane Lane

Giant Christmas Tree

Giant Christmas Tree

Air photo

Santa's Sleigh

Santa's Sleigh

It's me: ChocolateLily!

Additional Ideas

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 the little crochet christmas stockings (link on the right side of the page) 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.
  • 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. 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 small 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?

If you’ve written a lens about your tradition(s), leave the link, and I will try to check it out too.
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  • skiesgreen Jan 02, 2014 @ 10:59 pm
    Great to see how others do things. Congrats on LOTD. Well done.
  • ChocolateLily Jan 02, 2014 @ 11:14 pm
    Thank you!
  • sierradawn Dec 27, 2013 @ 11:54 pm
    Such a delightful lens! Congrats on your LotD!
  • ChocolateLily Dec 28, 2013 @ 11:07 am
    Thank you!
  • HappyBrain Dec 26, 2013 @ 6:09 am
    I think that low budget Christmas filled with the Christmas spirit are much more soothing and memorable than stressful Christmas, rich on expensive gifts.
  • ChocolateLily Dec 26, 2013 @ 1:39 pm
    I agree!
  • jsr54 Dec 26, 2013 @ 1:30 am
    We are a very musical family so we always sing carols around the piano or have music playing on Christmas Eve and Day - all day long!
  • ChocolateLily Dec 26, 2013 @ 1:39 pm
    Lovely tradition! I hope you can keep it up. Singing traditions seem to be fading away. :)
  • tbonestakes Dec 25, 2013 @ 8:53 pm
    Each Christmas we have a family gathering at a different member of the families home. This includes the homes of my brother and sister and the extended family of my wife who has five sisters and two brothers. So each year brings a new experience at a different home. Makes the Christmas holiday the most looked forward to time of the year. Thanks for your great lens!
  • ChocolateLily Dec 26, 2013 @ 1:38 pm
    Sounds like fun!
  • qiaoeny Dec 25, 2013 @ 12:39 am
    great!Merry Christmas!
  • ChocolateLily Dec 26, 2013 @ 1:37 pm
    Merry Christmas!
  • favored1 Dec 24, 2013 @ 10:20 pm
    Hope you have a very Merry Christmas. Congratulations on LotD.
  • ChocolateLily Dec 26, 2013 @ 1:37 pm
    You too! Thank you!
  • rauspitz Dec 24, 2013 @ 9:05 pm
    Congratulations on getting LotD and have a Very Merry Christmas!

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