105 Ways to Give a Book

What To Do For Christmas?

I need help. This Christmas will be the first in many years that we have not spent with extended family, and I don’t know what to do for the day.

It was one thing when the kids were little and would happily play with their toys all day, but now they are ten and thirteen and aren’t really getting toys for Christmas. We had a taste of this two years ago, and the oldest got a little sad waiting to join the grandparents for a late dinner. Now the visit with the grandparents and cousins will be on the 26th and my mother and niece on the 27th and it’s just us on the 25th.

I need some ideas of what to do with the day to keep it fun. We just recently broke the Santa news to great distress in our family, so we could use something to make this holiday nice. Sure, we could sit around watching the fifth season of Lost, but that doesn’t seem very merry. So, I’m looking for suggestions. Maybe what you do. Maybe what you’ve wanted to do. Maybe what you know about it the DC area.

And don’t suggest crashing the White House party, because we’ve all seen how that goes down.

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Sara said...

SInce you all sing so beautifully, would you consider loaning your voices to others that day? A children's or veterans' hospital?

Board games are fun, and you can freshen them by Googling the name of the game and "new rules" or "variation." Or let each family member change one rule in one game. Adding real money (pennies) also ups the ante in any competition.

Cooking something elaborate but not traditional together is great, too. One year, we did a Southern meal of chicken fried steak, gravy, and mashed potatoes followed by pie. Oh. my. word. The mess was unbelievable, but the food was fantastic. Or the Japanese hibachi place near me (twirling knives! flames!) is open on Christmas.

The other thing we love to do is find a neighborhood with outrageous holiday lights and drive around, critiquing them. :)

Anonymous said...

2. A video game that all can participate in and/or one of those games where you pause the DVD to answer.
3. CLUE or LIFE or whatever you all like.
4. ELF. The movie. Or whatever you all like.
5. Pile in the van and go watch SHERLOCK HOLMES together.

beth said...

I second the games suggestion, but add that conversation games are often even more fun. Apples to Apples, Tri-word, etc., games where talking and joking are part of the rules.

Lynn said...

Have you made a gingerbread house this year? You can buy the kits, and then it is just the decorating and eating of it that is fun. Or some other kind of simple baking - cookies, rice krispie treats, popcorn balls, etc. You could have a Christmas movie marathon.

Jennifer Stanton Chapman said...

Volunteer at a shelter serving food to the homeless. When I was in college I started going to one of the big food give aways in Los Angeles on Christmas day. It meant so much to me. Your children are older enough to be useful and they would get a lot out of seeing someone else have a better Christmas because of something they did.

Lynn said...

One more thought... I bought a fun journal for a 13 year old niece this year. The whole thing is a journal of lists. The writer fills in things like favorite foods, places he/she wants to visit, etc. You could of course buy the journal (I think it's called Listography and I found it on Amazon) or you could just create some sort of activity like that with your own lists. That is, if 10 and 13 year olds are willing to do that sort of thing with their parents...

Mareen Hume said...

I'm not sure of the weather where you are, but a picnic followed by board games can be lots of fun.
I like Sara's idea of lending yourselves out, maybe to an old folks home or help give lunch to less fortunate folk.
Failing that, often the simplest things are the most memorable for kids.
Maureen. www.thepizzagang.com

Bridget R. Wilson said...

Playng board games has been suggested many times. You might also consider playing card games. My family loves UNO and Rummy. THere's even a card version of Monopoly now.

Do the kids have a favorite book? What about making a board game based on that book? I had to do this several times in high school and college and it was a blast.

Watching Christmas movies is always a good way to spend the day.

teacherninja said...

If it's family you're missing, it's also a good time to break out the old photos/movies/slideshows and reminisce. And ask around, one of my favorite Thanksgivings was one in which I found myself without family and a bunch of us holiday "orphans" got together at someone's house and each brought a dish. We all talked about our family traditions and everyone only knew one other person in the group but it was actually great fun. Enjoy!

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

I love reading books with my family. This year they are being introduced to Red Ranger Came Calling and my siblings are 16 and 18! We also play board games and watch movies (usually the ones we've recieved as gifts that day). This year, we'll be playing Ticket to Ride since it's our new favorite game and then we're getting together with friends and playing Guesstures.

Bill said...

Apparently, Pam doesn't think my idea of a Die Hard marathon qualifies as a worthy Christmas day activity.

(As for singing, well, two of us sing beautifully.)

CindyD said...

If weather permits, go someplace and take a hike or walk (we're in Arizona and we hiked at a regional park near us on Thanksgiving - met many families doing it as a holiday tradition).
Jigsaw puzzles are good - I bought a couple at garage sales "just in case."
Do you have any friends or elderly acquaintances without family that you could invite to join you at dinner?

EM said...

I like the movie marathon idea, with jammies and popcorn and hot chocolate and all that. Since there are four of you, if each person picks one movie, that's a solid day of cinematic togetherness.

Susan said...

Things that my family has done on Christmas day in the past:

1. Gone to church in the morning instead of ripping into presents, etc.

2. Gone to whatever family friend/appropriate movie was opening on Christmas day in the afternoon. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2432524/five_movies_to_see_on_christmas_day.html?cat=40

3. Put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, one with thousands of pieces. It could be holiday related or just something your kids find interesting. Have it wrapped under the tree.

4. Made gingerbread houses. Easy than it used to be since you can now get kits with the pieces premade. Buy bags of various candies for decorating, and let your kids eat all they want.

5. Visited friends who are also going to be around for Christmas-- plan a casual open house or get together/meal.

jeanreagan said...

No matter the weather, we always do something outdoors--walking to a neighborhood park, sledding nearby, or driving to a more "wildernessy" area. (We live in Utah, so it can be quite cold.) Sometimes another family joins us, but we don't exchange gifts or turn the event into a food extravaganza. Keeping it simple is what makes it special.

Unknown said...

My husband is Jewish, but we celebrate Christmas, so some years we have adopted his "Christmas" tradition of going to the movies then having chinese food! But be warned, the movie theater last year was PACKED!

Kimberly said...

I agree with Kelly - go see Sherlock Holmes. Or any movie, really. Going to a movie on Christmas Day is a favorite activity for my family. The movie theater is one of the few places that will be open and it's delightfully uncrowded on Christmas.

Terry Doherty said...

When we were in DC, we'd go down to Hechts (now Macy's) and look at the stores display ... It was always quiet and peaceful. Then you could grab brunch somewhere.

I like the idea of a movie marathon (I'm with ya' on Die Hard). What about each person picking their favorite picture from a Christmas and then writing something about it (song, poem, story) ... while sipping hot chocolate, of course!

Vivian Mahoney said...

Christmas caroling! Love the idea of going to a hospital or retirement home, etc. Or surprise your neighbors and sing to them!

I'm all for a movie marathon. Or Wii fest.

Play Santa Clause and bring inexpensive gifts to a shelter or children's hospital.

Throw an impromptu potluck gathering with friends--with lots of games and caroling--that way it won't be too much work for any one person. I bet there are other families looking for something fun to do. And if you let the girls help, this will become their party and they'll have fun!

Good luck, Pam! I know you and your family will have a wonderful Christmas!

Anonymous said...

This has been said before but playing card/board games in a festive atmosphere is really fun. We used to have 7-up in champagne glasses, fancy plates of cheese and crackers/cookies, and silly prizes for whoever won the games. Doing crafts can be fun too. Decorating a shoebox with pictures and phrases from magazines to put special treasures in; scrapbooking; or making beaded bracelets/lanyards. If they're both girls it's fun to have a "spa day" with pedicures, etc...

Lara Ivey said...

Hi, Pam!

1. TALK ABOUT YOUR FAMILY TRADITIONS...Take time to talk about what family traditions you have already and what it is about them that you like...what makes them special. While planning for the day, talk about why Christmas is important as it might help to guide your decisions. We actually talk about traditions on our first blog at Grow Up With Books. www.growupwithbooksblog.blogspot.com

Our family tradition is to feed the homeless at our church on Christmas Eve. It truly takes your breath away with how grateful these people are for a warm place to sleep and a homemade meal to eat. See if there is church or outreach facility that is doing the same thing. See how you and your crew could help. It will make the day incredibly meaningful. You could also see if there are any "shut-ins" in the area that you could visit...being their family. Local churches can help with that, too.

Have your girls help to plan the meal...make it fun!

4. MOVIE...whether it's an old one you own, one you rent, or one you go see, a movie just seems to be part of a low-key type day...don't forget the popcorn!

5. LIGHTS...If you haven't already made a trip around your area, map out where all the great lights are. Consider hooking up with another family and pack into the van or suburban. This can be a lot of fun. Come back home for games and hot chocolate or hot cider (or other beverages).

6. SANTA CAN STILL BRING GIFTS...Why not have him bring you a family game...We LOVE games and could play them ALL DAY LONG!!!!!! Wait, we do play them all day long when we are with our family members for all holidays. Our most recent one is COLORKU-it's Sudoku with colored balls!!! Maybe you could get it give it to your family from "Santa." :-)

I look forward to hearing what your day ends up looking like. Keep us posted!

Anonymous said...

Scattergories. Read your favorite parts of "A Christmas Carol" outloud. Break out the video camera and put on a talent show, then post it on youtube. Install Skype on your computer (if you have a webcam) and call all your friends and relatives who have Skype, too. And if it snows, forget all of the above, go sledding and drink cocoa with plenty of marshmallows.

Peaceful Reader said...

We like to do the holiday drive-by as well, looking at everyone else's decorations. Go to the video store days before and find some classic Christmas movies to watch-with popcorn laced with red and green m & m's. Read holiday stories all day. Act out The Grinch story over and over. Go visit at a local hospital or nursing home. Hope the day is merry no matter what you do.

Melissa Wiley said...

Settlers of Catan marathon!

Apples to Apples or Literati.

Make a family video or slide show---that kind of project takes hours, so a holiday is a good day to tackle it.

Read a play out loud together. Shakespeare! Or a melodrama---Christmas a la Little Women?

A Wii tournament or other video game?

Take a family drive, if the weather allows? We have a little mountain/mining town we love to visit on holidays. All our relatives live far away, so it is always "just us" (if you can say that about a family of 8) for the holidays. On Christmas we open presents early, eat strudel in our pajamas, go to the noon Mass, and then come home and play games or watch movies, or else we take a drive and watch the lights come on everywhere. :)

Wishing you a very merry day, Pam!

Melissa Wiley said...

P.S. I am back to say that Sara's suggestion at the top is a wonderful thought. The year my oldest was stuck in the hospital for nine months (she was our only child at the time), holidays were made much more tolerable by the visits from therapy dogs, clowns, singers, etc. Carolers would have been very welcome! We had a guy who used to bring his guitar to the kids' cancer ward twice a week and sing Raffi songs. Meant a whole lot to my toddler. :)