As much as I love fall (and I do), as soon as Thanksgiving is over, I’m ready to pull out the holiday gear and start decking my halls. Plus, science has proven decorating early actually makes you happier, and I’m not here to argue with science when it comes to holiday cheer.
I don’t have one standout holiday memory from my childhood — well, maybe the year I got the Barbie house at the top of my list — but otherwise, my Christmas memories are a collection of moments now compounded into a general warm and fuzzy feeling I get around the holidays. I want to begin building up moments in my children’s memory too.
Everything surrounding the holidays becomes a little more magical again once you have kids of your own, doesn’t it? Moments like marveling at the holiday lights, decorating the tree together, watching holiday movies favorites through their eyes, and seeing pure joy on their face after opening a gift from the top of their list are part of it.
We put together much of this year’s holiday bucket list with memory-making in mind. We hope it sparks some ideas to capture some of the holiday magic for your family too.
1. Find a fire and get cozy
Whether you have a fireplace, fire pit, or need to seek one out at a cozy bar or restaurant (I think most Panera Breads even have one), something about sitting near a fire says holiday spirit, even if you live in a warm-weather climate.
If you aren’t living in warm weather, try to get outside for that first snowfall. Catch some snowflakes on your tongue, make a snow angel, or go sledding. If the first snow happens at nighttime, take a moment to look out the window with your child and soak in the calming effect of watching it fall.
3. Purge your closets to donate boots, coats, and mittens
The changing weather offers a perfect opportunity to look through last year’s winterwear and decide what to save and what is in good condition to pass along to someone who needs it more. Or while you’re out holiday shopping, grab a new pair of mittens or hat to donate.
4. Arrange a holiday-styled bookshelf
Instagram is full of adorable holiday-styled bookshelf inspiration, and styling your child’s bookshelf is a great way to keep holiday favorites accessible for storytime while doubling as holiday decor. Add felt garland, mini-trees, or a holiday stuffed toy for more texture.
5. Let your kids decorate their own tree
Another thank you to Target for always having cute and affordable Christmas trees in their Wondershop or dollar spot. For me, watching my kids decorate their own trees for their bedrooms makes me feel better about my own urge to rearrange their ornament placement on our living room tree after they go to bed.
6. Plan a pajama holiday movie watch party
Slow down and enjoy the season at home — the tree, the smells, the music, and the company, all in your pajamas! Snuggle up together on the couch and enjoy a holiday favorite from your own childhood.
7. Make something special to share
Drop off holiday cookies or a homemade holiday crafted card to teachers, daycare workers, or the older neighbor who lives alone up your street. Better yet, deliver cookies AND a card.
8. Take a holiday lights walk at the local botanical gardens
Drive-by light gazing is quintessential holiday fun, but for an alternative, try a walking tour at your local botanical gardens. You’ll be enjoying the lights and supporting your community at the same time.
9. Get the kids involved in holiday tasks
Your to-do list is pretty long around the holidays, so put the kids to work like Santa’s little elves. It’s best to accept any task assigned to them will take longer than if you were to do it yourself, but putting on a little holiday music can make it a special shared experience. Stamping the holiday card envelopes or getting pieces of tape to help wrap the gifts are both jobs young kids can handle (probably).
10. Shop a small business for gifts
It’s tough to beat the convenience of Amazon Prime, but there’s something special about supporting small locally-owned businesses. Take advantage of the #SmallBusinessSaturday deals that may be happening in your area the weekend after Thanksgiving and discover unique items you won’t always find on Amazon. Plus, small business gift-wrapping is usually on point.
11. Make an advent countdown calendar of experiences
Friends of mine have made this a new holiday tradition in their house. They string up 25 envelopes and create coupons for each day in December with experiences they know their kids will enjoy — almost like their own holiday season bucket list. Simple excursion experiences like “Take the bus to the bookstore and chose a holiday book” are mixed in with smaller ideas like “Drink hot chocolate in your pajamas” or “Shovel your neighbors sidewalk without telling them.”
What holiday experiences are on your wish list this year?