Christmas Family Activities Without Spending More Money; Part 1

I love the Christmas season. There are so many things about it that just seems to fill the air with happiness. Christmas lights, home and yard decorations like outdoor nativity scenes, department store decorations, Christmas music playing nearly everywhere you go, the smells of Christmas goodies being baked at home, or at a relatives. Regardless if you live somewhere where there is or isn’t snow, (which can be quite magical by its self,) you can just feel Christmas in the air.

There is, of course, a commercial side to the Christmas season, but there are many things we can do with our family and loved ones to fully embrace and experience the joys of the Christmas season, without spending extra money to do so.

A big part of Christmas is spending more time with family and loved ones. Having meals together, giving each other gifts, going to activities and events together. With so much spending that already goes on during the Christmas season, I wanted to highlight a few specific activities that can bring us closer together during the holidays, without having spending more money.

Watch a Christmas Movie Together

There’s nothing like watching a classic or family favorite Christmas movie together. It brings back good memories, and gives you a chance to share movie traditions with new and young members of the family. In my book, a good Christmas movie needs to cover one or several of the following; Entertaining for all ages, funny, heartwarming, tear jerker, enhances the feelings of togetherness.

There are lots of great movie options, and again this is a great family activity without spending more money. A couple of classics on my list include:

  • A Christmas Story: “Based on the humorous writings of author Jean Shepherd, this beloved holiday movie follows the wintry exploits of youngster Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who spends most of his time dodging a bully (Zack Ward) and dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift, a "Red Ryder air rifle." Frequently at odds with his cranky dad (Darren McGavin) but comforted by his doting mother (Melinda Dillon), Ralphie struggles to make it to Christmas Day with his glasses and his hopes intact.”
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas: “In this live-action adaptation of the beloved children's tale by Dr. Seuss, the reclusive green Grinch (Jim Carrey) decides to ruin Christmas for the cheery citizens of Whoville. Reluctantly joined by his hapless dog, Max, the Grinch comes down from his mountaintop home and sneaks into town to swipe everything holiday-related from the Whos. However, the bitter grump finds a hitch in his plans when he encounters the endearing Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen).”
  • Elf: Buddy (Will Ferrell) was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa's elves. Unable to shake the feeling that he doesn't fit in, the adult Buddy travels to New York, in full elf uniform, in search of his real father. As it happens, this is Walter Hobbs (James Caan), a cynical businessman. After a DNA test proves this, Walter reluctantly attempts to start a relationship with the childlike Buddy with increasingly chaotic results.”
  • The Polar Express: Tom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump"; "Cast Away") reunite for "Polar Express," an inspiring adventure based on the beloved children's book by Chris Van Allsburg. When a doubting young boy takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe.”
  • It's a Wonderful Life: “After George Bailey (James Stewart) wishes he had never been born, an angel (Henry Travers) is sent to earth to make George's wish come true. George starts to realize how many lives he has changed and impacted, and how they would be different if he was never there.”

Singing Christmas Songs Together

Even though Christmas is, for many, a happy and fun time of year. For some, it can bring back sad memories from their past. One of the best medicines to heal old wounds, and create new happy memories is a Christmas sing-a-long.

A Christmas sing-a-long can be of your favorite traditional or modern Christmas songs. Put a song list together, and plan to do your sing along in a setting that will be cozy enough for everyone to enjoy. My favorite setting for this is around a fireplace or an outdoor fire pit, with hot coco in hand, and family and friends in company. I recommend having at least the lyrics, if not the sheet music, printed out in advance so everyone can follow and sing along. Have a stereo available to play the song list you have put together.

Of course, this isn’t an American Idol try out, so it doesn’t matter if everyone is the best singer or the worst singer. A sing-a-long is about togetherness, building bonds, positive feelings, and happy memories.

Exchanging Gifts

Some of the best gifts are ones that are not purchased. Often an item with a story behind it is a lot more meaningful, heartfelt, and appreciated than a store-bought designer label item that will be forgotten by next Christmas. Remember the spirit of Christmas is about giving, not who has the coolest designer “whatever”.

Here are some other ideas to get your wheelhouse of ideas turning.

  • Your favorite book, or one you think would mean something to the recipient, with a personalize hand written note inside the front cover.
  • Gift made by hand, like an ornament with a family picture, or other creative ideas. (Which makes for a fun family project by its self.)
  • Family heirloom that was either handed down to you, or an item that’s meaningful to you that you would like to make a new family heirloom that you pass on.
  • Personal service coupons for doing different acts of service for another person. This is always a fun one for siblings to do for each other, which helps them even appreciate each other more. For example, coupons for doing different chores for a sibling that they can redeem when they want to go to a movie with a date or friends.
  • Personal creative work, like a poem, painting, sculpture, or even some of your favorite quotes put together in a creative way.
See Part 2 for details on Christmas activities like Christmas Church Choir Performances, Outdoor Nativity Scenes, Family Christmas Potluck, and Christmas Service ideas.