Low-Cost Ways to Create a More Festive Christmas
Christmas Can and Should Be Fun!
Since Christmas comes around just once a year, it’s a wonderful goal to want to make it count. The memories of a fun and merry holiday will be long remembered, even after the work that you put into it have been forgotten. Keep in mind that attitude is everything when you’re doing tasks. If you’re happy and excited about the season, all of the chores that go into making it what it is can be turned into something that bonds you with your family, strengthens traditions, and creates opportunity for laughter.
To make the most of the season, appeal to all of your senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. If you can pull off one or two of the ideas in each of these areas, you will have the Christmas you’re craving.
Here are a few, low-cost ideas for making a more festive Christmas season for you and your family:
1) The sights:
a) Decorate. Since Christmas is almost here, likely you will have lots of decorations up already, but if you haven’t had time, make it a family effort. Spend an evening decorating a tree (even a little one is a great mood lifter) and putting up decorations around the house. If you’re single, invite your friends in to help you with this. Make a little party out of it.
b) See the lights. Take your friends and family on a light tour. Go online to find the best neighborhoods for viewing the lights in your area, pack some cocoa in a thermos, and crank the Christmas tunes on the radio for your outing.
c) Put up lights of your own. Even if you live in an apartment, putting up lights will make you feel good, and will delight your neighbors.
d) Watch Christmas movies and TV specials. Now’s the time to rent your favorites -- or find new ones to view. There are also lots of options on TV. Make a night of it with friends and family to catch up on Christmas classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”
e) Have a family photo shoot. Take one afternoon and do a festive digital family photo shoot. But give it a creative twist. Create a story that you want to tell and show various family members in different poses telling the story. Dress up, do crazy make-up and hair, make it fun and funny for everyone. You will always have the memory of your day by creating an album with the best of the photos. It just might start a tradition.
2) The sounds:
a) Christmas music, Christmas music, Christmas music! There are wonderful radio stations available online that will play Christmas music without commercials. Make Christmas music your soundtrack for the season.
b) A roaring fire. Build a fire to create a toasty room. Sit with your family and watch the fire in silence for a time while you enjoy some Christmas snacks.
c) Sing Christmas Carols. If you have a microphone, enjoy a Christmas carol karaoke night with your family and friends. Or sit around a piano or guitar and sing together. Or get copies of your caroling favorites (check the library) and sing together without any accompaniment other than each other.
d) Make holiday calls on speaker phone. If you have a phone that has this feature, gather you’re family around and make a few important holiday calls to friends and relatives who can’t be with you. Use the speaker phone feature to start the call with a big, all-together message and then go back to one-on-one calling and pass the phone around for individual chats.
e) Read aloud. There are plenty of books and stories worth retelling at Christmas. Gather the family together and read to them. Or read with your friends. You can also plan a night where you ask everyone to bring their favorite short story and have everyone read aloud while you enjoy some treats.
3) The scents:
a) Hot mulled cider. Make a big, double-batch pot of mulled cider on your stove. The aroma of cinnamon has calming properties, mood enhancers, and boosts brain activity. Refrigerate any leftovers in the jug that the cider originally came in. You’ll be ready to warm up a mug in the microwave at a moment’s notice.
b) The scent of pine. Even if you have an artificial tree, buy a real pine wreath and hang it in your home for the wonderful, fresh smell that it will give off. The aroma of pine also has mood-lifting and revitalizing properties.
c) Bake up some love. Something baking in the oven, whether it be Christmas cookies, a loaf of banana nut bread, some cupcakes, or a coffee cake, can make your house smell so wonderful, as well as create an opportunity for family togetherness if you make a point of baking as a family project. Kids love cutting out and decorating Christmas cookies. No matter how little they are, they can participate. Have a camera ready, too!
d) Good, clean fun. It goes without saying that a clean house will lift everybody’s mood. Use natural cleaners in your favorite scents to make sure your house is not only clean, but a healthy place to live. Make cleaning a fun team effort by planning a Christmas Clean-Up Party. Give various chores points based on their level of difficulty. Cleaning the fridge might be a chore worth 20 points. Taking out the trash might be worth two. Write the chore and its point value on small slips of paper and place them in a grab bag. Set a timer and let everyone chose a chore. They can throw it back if they don’t want to do it, but they’re all aiming to get the most points in the time allotted, so doing a hard chore that’s worth a lot of points might be better than doing a lot of little chores. (No points should be awarded if the chore is half done, or done poorly.) The winner gets a wrapped surprise gift.
4) The touch:
a) Mistletoe. You might think it’s silly, but it won’t be when you see the results of what a little touch of mistletoe can do for a family. Make it a rule to give loved ones a hug or kiss whenever they stand under it (or even near it). Place it in high traffic areas for maximum benefit.
b) Games. Put a few simple board games or card games out on your coffee table. Set up chess or checkers, or Chinese checkers, or dominoes, or Uno, so that it will always be ready for anyone who wants to play a game.
c) Comforters. Place a few extra soft comforters and pillows out so that curling up and snuggling is easy to do.
d) Break out your flannel. If you have flannel sheets, now’s the time to put them on everyone’s bed. If you can sew, buy a Christmas-themed set of inexpensive flannel flat sheets and turn them into removable pillow-covers for any decorative pillows you may have on your couch or bed. It’ll up the cozy factor.
e) Got snow? Make a snowman in your front yard and do it up right. Wrap an old scarf around his neck, put a carrot on for a nose, and carrot chunks for eyes and buttons. Gather sticks for the arms. Add a smile, too.
5) The taste:
a) Make turkey. You don’t have to wait for the big day itself to serve up a Christmas turkey. Bake a turkey breast, which cooks a lot faster. Serve a meal with it and then use the leftovers to make easy, homemade soup. For the soup, chop up some onions, carrots and celery (1/2 cup to 1 cup each, depending on what you like). Stir fry them for a few minutes in a tablespoon of oil in a large pot. Add a box of organic chicken broth (or two, depending on how much you want and how much vegetables and turkey you have), throw in about a cup or so of diced leftover turkey and bring the whole thing to a boil. Add spices like ½ teaspoon of thyme and cumin, pepper, a little garlic powder and salt to taste. Add some whole-wheat macaroni to the boiling mixture and, when the macaroni is cooked, you’re ready to eat!
b) Make popcorn and cocoa from scratch. It’s not that hard to make the real deal when it comes to these treats and the effort is so worth it. Make kernel popcorn on a medium-hot stove with a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in a big, deep pan. Test the oil’s readiness with a few kernels of corn before putting in ½ cup of popcorn (or so). Cover the pot. Use oven mitts to hold the top on the pan in place and shake the pan continuously until the corn pops. Have a big bowl handy. When the popping stops (or slows considerably), it’s ready. Pour melted butter over it, add salt, and, voila!, begin munching. Pair it with a cup of cocoa that has been made with real milk and sweetened cocoa powder. Warm ¼ of a mug of milk in the microwave. Add the right amount of cocoa powder for the whole mug. Mix this up thoroughly with a fork until it’s smooth. Pour in the rest of the milk to fill the mug. Warm it in the microwave until it’s hot. Toss a few marshmallows on there and you’re good to go!
c) Peppermint brownies. Add ½ teaspoon of peppermint extract to your favorite brownie recipe. Frost it and then cover the frosting with crushed peppermint sticks.
And, throughout it all, remember to enjoy the journey! Stressed-out family members worrying about the details of getting it all done miss the point of a holiday meant to increase feelings of love and joy. If it doesn’t all get done, so what? Laugh about it. Relax. Do what you can and don’t look back. Time is precious, so make it count.
1) Plan a potluck with friends and family. Invite everyone you love, provide the drinks and the accessories like napkins and forks and things, and then relax!
2) Have a wrapping party. Everyone who can be in the room at the same time should wrap presents together. It’ll be more fun and they can help each other hold the ribbons down while bows are being tied.
3) Have a cookie decorating party. Make sugar cookies and lots of frosting. Lay in a store of decorations. Invite your friends, children, neighbors, whomever you choose and then sit around a big table and turn out cookie masterpieces.
4) Let it snow! Buy some washable, white Tempera paint and some butcher paper. Let everyone cut out snowflakes in their own designs. Use the snowflakes as stencils and paint a random pattern of them on the inside of your windows. It will clean off after the season is over with regular window cleaner.
5) Be a secret Secret Santa. Even if you aren’t officially participating in a Secret Santa exchange, just do it anyway. Make or buy some small treats and surprise whomever you like with little wrapped reminders that they’re loved and thought about by those around them.
Merry Christmas, everybody! May it be festive and joyful, and give you years of good memories to look back on.