Does anybody else feel a little crazy with their December calendars this year? I’m telling you, I’ve planned for us to attend so many holiday events, my head is spinning. Graham came down with strep throat this week, which brought last night’s plan of a Messiah singalong at UVA to a hard stop. Honestly, I was grateful for the night off. As you scope out your month of merriment, here are ten ways to enjoy the holidays without breaking the bank. Just don’t be like me and do all ten!
1. Make a Gingerbread House
My family loves this annual tradition now in its 9th year! One Sunday in December we hitch up the proverbial sleigh and make our way to the beautiful Boar’s Head Inn for a delightful afternoon at their Gingerbread Workshop. It is all candies and piping and hot cocoa and have the BEST time. But you could just as easily buy a gingerbread house from nearly any grocer (I like Trader Joe’s version) and get to work in the comfort of your own home. Try adding special touches like Cinnamon Toast Crunch for the roof tiles and coconut “snow” on the front stoop.
2. Have Yourself a Crafty Little Christmas
Just a few days ago, a friend and I attended a wreath workshop at Monticello and had so much fun designing a new holiday accessory for our homes. But you don’t have to pay an instructor to have a crafty Christmas. Pinterest is loaded with DIYs for the holidays and I love this article’s project roundup, especially the pegboard Christmas tree to hang your holiday cards.
3. Attend a Christmas Concert
If you happen to be fortunate enough to live in a city with a professional orchestra or choir, you likely have concerts at your fingertips throughout the year. But even those in smaller towns can find a church or organization putting on a show at Christmastime. We’ve attended the free-of-charge Singing Christmas Tree since we moved to Virginia, and plan to go back again to the charming town of Orange to hear the Tree, now in its 34th year.
4. Enjoy a Holiday Open House at Your Local Retailer
Some of the most beautiful Christmas displays can be found at your local boutiques and retail shops, and oftentimes they’ll host an open house to spread some cheer and showcase their products. Check your local family magazine or visit retail websites for an events calendar. I’ll be taking my children to my favorite retailer, Anthropologie, this Saturday for Children’s Holiday Crafting, but other Anthro stores around the US are offering fashions shows, gift wrapping workshops, and ornament making events this month.
5. Get Tickets to a Show
For some of us, The Nutcracker ballet just oozes Christmas. For others, it’s watching Ralphie pine away for his Red Rider BB Gun in A Christmas Story. Whatever gets you into the holiday spirit, check your local theaters, playhouses, and production companies for a show!
6. Find a Light Display
Few things inspire more awe and wonder (or more snickers and chuckles) than a holiday light display. You can certainly pay for these (the best displays in each state are found here), but I love driving through neighborhoods just as much. Especially when I find dueling houses which makes me giggle.
7. Give Back to Your Community
December is a month of giving and what better way to celebrate the season than by offering your time to a worthy cause. On December 16th, my family will be volunteering at the annual wreath laying event at Arlington National Cemetery, but there are wreath laying events at military cemeteries in every state on the same day. You can find out more information here. Many churches are also opening their doors this month to offer meals and shelter for the homeless community. Check your local churches and sign up to volunteer.
8. Attend a Worship Service
I love worshipping during the Advent season because of the beauty this period of waiting evokes. As the Christian calendar moves ever closer to celebrating the birth of Christ, look to your church to provide a retelling of the wondrous story. Don’t have a house of worship to call your own? This month is a great time to visit churches in and around your community. Some services are especially poignant, like Charlottesville’s First Presbyterian Church’s Service of Healing and Wholeness held each year to offer hope and peace to those for whom the holiday season can be painful.
9. Go Caroling
Is there anything as delightful as opening your front door to a group of carolers at Christmastime? Keep this tradition alive by finding local caroling events in your town, or pulling the neighbors together for an evening of caroling and cider.
10. Step into Someone Else’s Tradition
There are holy-days in December in many faith and cultural traditions. Teach your children about how our Jewish friends celebrate Hanukkah by checking books out from the library, making latkes, or playing traditional games. Stepping into another person’s holiday traditions cultivates both appreciation and respect for those whose religious beliefs are different from your own.