Rejoice, it’s finally Christmas! And that means parties and Santa and a possibly fatal dose of “family time.” Around the world, there are shoppers out shopping and caramel corn that needs popping and stockings being hung by chimneys with care.
And while it’s true that nostalgic traditions are a huge part of what makes Christmas that most magical time of the year, why not make this the year you start some new traditions of your own? Here are 25 ideas to help you get started on making this season the brightest (and most creative) one yet.
1. First things first, buy Vince Guaraldi’s jazz classic album A Charlie Brown Christmas and put it on repeat. Never before has a cartoon soundtrack been so classy and so perfect for so many different occasions.
2. Brew up some joy by making a festive “aroma pot” (orange, cinnamon, apple cider, cloves) early one Saturday morning and let it simmer on the stove all day long. Then sit back and let the Ghost of Christmas Delicious fill your entire home with seasonal smells.
3. Surprise a neighbour, colleague or stranger with a freshly baked treat. But no fruitcakes, please.
4. Go ahead and actually read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol this year. Go beyond the Muppets (God bless them) and get to know this oft retold (but too often watered down) story of salvation. And if you’re really brave, try Dickens’ other seasonal classic, The Cricket on the Hearth.
5. Incorporate more candlelight into your home and soak up the chilled-out winter ambiance. Candles somehow make everything prettier.
6. Find a way to smell some good old-fashioned woodsmoke—a campout, bonfire, fireplace or even a metal trashcan full of Home Depot scraps. Just make it happen, whatever it takes.
7. Put on some cozy house slippers and commit to a new winter-friendly (in other words, indoor) hobby: knitting, wood carving, finger painting … you’ll figure it out.
8. Spend the afternoon volunteering at a homeless shelter and rediscover what it really means to be thankful and generous.
9. Tie a little 99 cent Christmas bell to your keychain or front door handle and let the jingling begin (as a bonus, you’ll be winning big time with all the angels hoping for promotion this year).
11. Create a flash mob of generosity. Make some Salvation Army bell ringer’s day by coordinating a group to fill that little red bucket with rapid-fire ascending donations: “here’s a quarter, Merry Christmas!” “Here’s a dollar, Merry Christmas!” “Here’s a check for two hundred dollars, donated from our college Ultimate team, Happy New Year!” Then dare that kindly bell ringer not to be filled with goodwill toward men.
12. Take a long walk out in the cold just to get that good rosy-cheeked feeling. Then see number 10.
13. Plan a “Christmas Remix-Mas” themed talent show / game night with friends or family: featuring charades and the restaging of beloved Christmas movie scenes (“Griswold!”)
14. Savor Peppermint-flavored everything. Especially those beautifully fleeting light-green packaged M&Ms.
15. Learn to play and then fall in love with the riotous Danish Christmas game “Pakkeleg” (think ‘white elephant’ at 100 mph).
16. Go Christmas caroling. In the right setting, and with the right ensemble (and just a dash of Christmas courage) your chorus of festive voices can change someone’s world.
17. Make sure to get outside and play in snow. Don’t forget to catch a snowflake or two on your tongue and ”taste the happy.”
18. Find someplace you can take a carriage ride, then just do it. It’s not cheesy—it’s Christmas.
19. Try your hand at “Guerilla Decorating.” Identify something bland, ugly or Scrooge-ish in your office, city or neighborhood and give it the Buddy the Elf treatment: a little TLC, a smattering of glitter and a strand of twinkling white lights can save any old humbug!
20. Watch a few non-traditional “Christmas movies” that focus on the beauty of redemption. Obviously start with The Royal Tenenbaums.
21. Attend a Christmas concert at a local church or community center. But only if they promise to play the handbells (call ahead and ask about this. Trust me, there is nothing worse than sitting through two hours of amateur choral music and then getting no handbells. The only prescription is more handbells!).
22. Read The Night Before Christmas aloud to a child (but be prepared for him or her to ask you “the big question” about Father Christmas.)
23. Four words: freshly roasted candied almonds.
24. Resurrect Santa for Mom and Dad. Surprise your parents by doing for them what they did for you all those incredible years: make Christmas morning magical. Get up early, spread out gifts, light the fire, brew some coffee and hang those stockings by the chimney with care! This is a guaranteed memory-maker.
25. Lastly (and this is bordering on heretical), try buying no presents this year. I guarantee you that the people you love the most will treasure quality time, homemade gifts and the memories made much more than anything you can get from Amazon Prime. Plus, this way, you can avoid that whole “The Drone Who Stole Christmas” scenario, and replace seasonal materialism with something a little closer to the True Meaning of Christmas.
A special thanks to Ashlyn Sailsbury for help with this list.
Austin Sailsbury lives, writes, and works in Copenhagen, Denmark. You can follow him on twitter @austinsails and at his blog Wayfarers All.