Christmas is still a while off. But after two years of somewhat limited holiday celebrating, I am excited about making lots of holiday memories. Every year, I post a Holiday Fun List of activities I’d like to do to make the season feel special. This year’s list is pretty long but that’s because there have been lots of winners in the past that I want to keep incorporating!
Here’s what I’m planning to do this year:
Run a Turkey Trot with my eldest. We’re signed up for a local 5k on Thanksgiving morning. He’s asked that I run at his pace, which I certainly will, but I’ve noted that if he trains in any significant way, this 5’10’’ young man would outpace his mother easily. My time goal…is to have a good time.
Make sure the kids see the Polar Express. I’m not much of a movie person but my church does an annual Polar Express viewing in mid-November that at least some of my kids will attend (likely with my husband, who is a movie person).
Read Christmas books with the 2-year-old. I pulled our collection of Christmas stories out from the closet, and he and I are working through them. I’ll likely try to pull the 7-year-old into this as well. Five kids in we’ve got a lot of stories! There are the classics, like The Grinch, but new ones we’ve added too, like Five Sleeps Till Christmas, which is definitely one of the better entries in the Children’s Books By Celebrities category (I’d add The Book With No Pictures and the Freckleface Strawberry books into that category as well…but those are not holiday books. I digress.). The upside of starting in early November is that we have time to re-read some hits, but if he wants to read Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo some night, it’s all good.
Build the Lego holiday main street. It’s ordered, so now my 13-year-old and 11-year-old and I will need to put it together. I plan to display our various Christmas houses and scenes we’ve built in past years somewhere (somewhere high…as the 2-year-old has been eyeing them…)
Get matching family pajamas. To be sure, we already own three sets of matching jammies from years past. But folks keep growing and since the kids mentioned this as a request, I will make it happen. (We normally order from PajamaGram, though since we own several of their most popular sets, I am open to other retailers.)
Have the kids give presents to each other. A few years ago I thought I would do this as a “secret Santa” type thing, but that brought out all my children’s worst tendencies, and within ten minutes everyone knew who had chosen who and there was screaming. So I’m going to do this as “everyone buys for everyone,” which will be some amount of work, but we will probably give the kids fewer presents from us, so it will all work out. I am also going to experiment with a kid giving night (based on an idea I heard from our Best of Both Worlds Patreon community). My idea is to give each child a charity budget and ask them to select where they’d like it to go. My goal is to do this in one night so we can research and talk about organizations together.
Welcome Sassy the Elf. The Elf on the Shelf has been visiting us since 2013, so I guess he (or possibly she) is not going to stop now. Will Sassy find our new house? Will Sassy confine him/herself to two rooms, as happened in the old house? We shall see. We can rule out the room with the dog as I could see that ending badly. But Sassy was definitely requested, so Sassy will be making an appearance.
Do breakfast with Santa. We used to do this at Longwood Gardens, but they seem to have stopped offering it. I wouldn’t have tried to find a replacement but this activity topped my daughter’s list of requests, so it is happening. She did the research to find a breakfast seating at a store at the mall. All I had to do was buy the tickets. Older kids are great!
See the Nutcracker. I love seeing this ballet, and interestingly enough, it is always my older two boys who agree to go with me. My favorite part is probably the snowflake dance (with boy choir accompaniment).
Go to NYC. We have a holiday party there again this year, and my 15-year-old really wants to go see the city, so we will aim to make a trip.
See holiday trains. We’ll do this several places! I plan to go to the Brandywine River Museum, which always has a large display, and then we’ll stop by Longwood (I got tickets for the weekend after Thanksgiving). We have tickets for a member night at the Morris Arboretum, which also has a great train display, and we plan to go to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (and likely stop by the Choo Choo Barn!) one weekend in December.
See one other light display. There are a few around here — Luminature at the zoo, Tinseltown out in Oaks — but this might actually be an early January activity as they tend to stay up through the twelve days of Christmas. I mean, why not? Everyone’s festive before Christmas. It’s the dreary winter days after when you need the lights. I might aim to get some festive lights in my own trees…we shall see.
Sing the Messiah choruses. My church choir will be doing several of these. I don’t think we’re doing the entire Messiah but more of a “greatest hits” version of it, which is probably wise.
Play Christmas carols. This should make my three-times-a-week piano practicing more festive.
Watch my kids in the Christmas pageant. After two years, it is back! I have two children who will be participating. I will also sing in the 7:30 p.m. Christmas Eve service. My family has not reached the stage where I can do the 11 p.m. service — maybe someday.
Bake. Will I be able to find a non-dairy Christmas cookie recipe that doesn’t make me sad? We shall see. Or I’ll just take the hit — the result seems to be that I wake up coughing from the dairy-induced congestion, which isn’t fun, but isn’t the end of the world. Maybe I take one day to eat stuff with butter and then refrain the rest of the time. (And now I will stop writing about this, because middle-aged food issues are pretty close to the most boring topic possible).
Be in a good mood. Ok, this is just a reminder as the kid activities stack up, including early ones which mean all of us are getting less sleep, and as I have been recording in the cold garage because the bathroom renovations are so noisy, and as the two-year-old is being clingy because childcare changes are hard, that this can be a really fun time of the year. I really do want to enjoy it. We only have all of us at the house full-time for three more years or so and I want to really savor this time. The holidays are good for savoring, in so many ways.
How about you — what’s on your holiday fun list?
22 thoughts on “I’m feeling festive…so here’s the 2022 Holiday Fun List”
I have an absolutely delicious molasses spice cookie recipe that has no dairy. It is not a typical frosted christmas cookie but with ginger and clove and nutmeg it makes the house smell amazing. I will send the recipe your way.
@Gillian – ooh, sounds amazing. I’m on it!
Such a lovely post. We are in a difficult period with a new, medically complex grandchild, which made your post even more appreciated. I’ve copied it and changed things — watch our favorite Christmas movies at home, make Christmas gifts with the two older grandkids, and reminding myself to read a fun Christmas book amidst the hospital visits and other busy-ness that goes on.
@Ann – thank you! Congrats on your new grandchild – it may be a challenging holiday season but I hope you can still enjoy some aspects of it, celebrating as you can.
I had to laugh at the secret Santa story! I have 4 siblings so i love hearing your stories about the interactions between your kids.
We do what we call Kris Kindle which is similar to secret Santa. We put all the names in a hat and pull out one each. Just like your kids we all figure out who has who within 5 mins lol. And then there is always some swapping around coz eg “i have an idea for x i know you have x can you swap with me” ” oh i have you so i can’t swap with you”… Fun times
@Kirsty- yep, that is precisely how it went down, and pretty soon everyone was mad at each other. So, everyone buys for everyone. Nothing to argue about there!
Thanks for sharing your list! My family loves Hanna Andersson matching pajamas – maybe you & your crew would as well. They offer seasonal matching pjs as well as all-year ones. Lots of choices! I’ll be ordering ours soon…
@Kim – I’ve heard good things about them so I’ll check them out!
Whew! Lots of stuff! All looks great!! I am sure you will all have a blast. I am a very firm NO on any matching family PJs though. All the power to you guys, but that will never, ever happen at my house. I cringe just thinking about it! haha! So not me!! 😉 Looking forward to enjoying your family PJ photos hopefully on IG though. 🙂
I almost exclusively use coconut oil instead of butter for baking and love it. Not dairy free I just prefer the flavor! So that would be an easy swap if you like a very subtle coconut flavor. You can also use vegetable oil pretty easily.
I’m impressed with all the options for holiday fun in your area. I’m inspired now to find things here. We moved a little over a year ago but all had Covid last Xmas so this will be our first “real” Xmas in our new town.
I have the best non dairy cookie book recommendation: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Her cookbooks and website are the best, so tolerant of mistakes and missed ingredients and substitutions. The gingerbread and chocolate cut out cookies are my go to for cookie cutter cookies
Your list is very impressive-particularly because you have included a number of at-home activities which are easier to pull off than driving a passel of people somewhere in a car. My list:
1. Meet my sister in New York to see a play. She got us tickets to see Moulin Rouge in mid-December.
2. Find some good Christmas-themed board books for my not quite one year old grandson (and perhaps Christmas PJ’s). My husband, kids and I all had matching Pajamagram PJs one year. We took a selfie using a tripod which came out great and became the backdrop for our Christmas card the next year.
3. Start meal-planning, cookie-baking recipe selection and gift planning ASAP for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We are returning home from a 5 and a half week trip this weekend-so the upcoming week will be heavy on list-making. I find that my stress level goes down quite a bit if I get my lists underway the week before Thanksgiving and that it goes up exponentially if I do not.
4. Continue daily physical activity even though it will be getting much colder. I’ve spent the past 3 weeks in Florida-and will sorely miss rolling out of bed and doing my first-thing-in-the-morning walk along a beautiful Gulf of Mexico beach.
5. Pick one anchor special holiday activity. For years when my kids were younger, we went to see The Nutcracker in New York. I need to look at local visitor’s bureau websites to get some ideas. I have been wanting to check out the Morris Arboretum train exhibit for a few years-never seem to get there.
6. Agree 100% on the importance of savoring-I fought the urge to come up with a more creative, longer list. Sometimes, it is all about reading a holiday-themed magazine with a cup of peppermint tea in hand listening to my Spotify Christmas playlist.
@Beth C- great list – I love this!
A few years ago I accompanied my husband on a business trip to NYC. My first time to NYC! While he worked, I visited the Met and had a light lunch, then walked through Central Park to Radio City Music Hall for the Christmas Spectacular. Have you seen it? It is truly spectacular!
My husband also took me on his self-made tour of “Elf” sites: Empire State Building, Macy’s, some pizza place he swore was Ray’s, the skating rink, and we had “the world’s best cup of coffee” while we watched the skaters. Earlier this month our son went with his dad/employer to NYC, so we watched Elf the night before and they went on “the tour” between client visits.
I’d love to know what you do with matching pajamas. Pictures and wear them Christmas Eve night? I just bought some for my kids + grownups (Old Navy’s are relatively reasonable) and am trying to figure out if it’s worth it to keep them!
Some excellent dairy-free holiday cookies can be found in the cookbook BabyCakes by Erin McKenna. Their gingerbread recipe is so good you won’t notice it’s vegan and gluten-free. The sugar cookie recipe is good, too. While you’re in New York you might want to stop by that bakery, now renamed Erin McKenna Bakery in the Lower East Side.
Naturli vegan butter works great as a dairy free substitute in baking. I just sub it in a regular recipe and can barely tell the difference.
Thanks for this! My kids are college-age so they have sadly outgrown many of these, but we started one last year: watch a new (to us) holiday movie with a bingo card. We will have hot cocoa, popcorn and cookies to accompany it and I’m even considering a special cocktail. There are many places online where you can create and customize the cards for free or there are physical sets.
I lobbied for a Hallmark movie but was told they are too cheesy, so last year we watched The Family Stone. It was a lot of fun and included some light-hearted squabbles over some of the the squares such as “is that really a Christmas sweater”?
We spend Christmas in Portugal with my parents (2 weeks of some sun helps me slipping into a pit of despair in February) but are trying to make sure we have fun at home too.
1. Get a tree – we don’t fly until the 23rd so if we get it the first week of december, we’ll enjoy it.
2. See my son in the nativity play – did not expect a Scottish state school to have quite so much Jesus in it, but alas. He’s narrator 24 and he’s got his line down
3. Birthday extravaganza: My husband has to work on my birthday which is after school gets out so my 5 year old and I are going to go into the city for the cool earth sciences museum, conveyer belt sushi restaurant, and vegan cake (I also can’t have dairy). We’ll meet my husband after work to go to the market with the ferris wheel and carousel.
4. Some sort of festive light fun
5. Get out all our Christmas books for the season
6. Into January but still…have a “everyone is skint and sad, let’s have an open house…” Theme TBC, ideas welcome.
Our family of 4, including the 6 and 8 year old, are doing a Frosty 5k night run/walk. We will do it up with the lighted necklaces etc. Also, ice skating and a lighted parade. Breakfast with Santa is a possibility. We always play music and drive around to look at lights.
I was feeling overwhelmed at the thought of all the organising and purchasing I have to do before Christmas but now I’ve made a holiday fun list I’m looking forward to doing some fun activities too!