Oh my! Tomorrow is Christmas month! How fantastic! I’m really excited. Is it strange that the older I get, the more thrilled I am at the concept of December?!
I wrote this article last year & it was a huge hit — so if you didn’t see it, here it is, in all its glory! Even though I mostly wrote this piece for myself, in the end, I didn’t do a lot of the activities listed. Boo! This year, I will do better!
The inspiration for this article came from something I read in Anthology magazine’s winter edition by Jordan Ferney from Oh Happy Day. It was about creating a personalised advent calendar.
ACTIVITIES ADVENT CALENDAR
When Paul & I got married, I knew I wanted to establish traditions in our family that would help us experience all of the anticipation that makes Christmas so special. Our first year as newlyweds, I started our annual Activities Advent Calendar.
I originally heard about the idea from a friend, but the basic concept is this: you make a to-do list of holiday-centric activities & assign each a specific day to count down from the first to twenty-fifth day of December. Some are grand & complicated, like organising a caroling party with friends. Others are simple & don’t take more than five minutes — like drinking hot cocoa or buying mistletoe at the grocery store.
Check out her article to read the rest!
Secretly, I kinda hate being away from my parents on the 25th of December. My mother absolutely loves Christmas, & even before December 1st rolls around, she’s put up a black Christmas tree, wrapped everything in sight, & is artfully arranging presents. She’s a pro. I can only hope to aspire to her level of Christmas mastery! We have a great time at Christmas. I pretend to help my mother in the kitchen & take portraits with my dad. It’s the best. Being away from them SUCKS!
The point is this: Mike & I are still newly married, & since neither of us have any family in New York City, I feel very strongly that we should create some fun traditions of our own! Mike is not as gung-ho on Christmas as I am — men rarely are, in my experience — but I am still optimistic that I will be able to drag him, kicking & screaming, into some of these activities.
Below is an outline of what I hope to do this coming month. It was compiled with the help of my Facebook & Twitter friends. YAY! I’d love it if you joined in & did some of these activities too! Let me know how you get along!
Put up your tree, & consider doing things a little differently this year! In my parents’ house, we’ve never had a real tree, since my father is allergic. So my mother bought this magnificent black tree, & usually decks it out with white feathers, silver mirrored disco balls, crystals & other marvellous things. She’s using the same tree this year, but it’s accented with red. Red roses, red birds, red berries & strings of pearls. EPIC!
I ordered my tree from Amazon a few days ago — it’s a tall, skinny white one — as well as a bunch of ornaments. I think every tree should have some disco balls on it!
Be sure to decorate your tree while listening to something appropriately Christmas-y, like A Very She & Him Christmas, Sufjan Stevens Presents Songs for Christmas, David Ian: Vintage Christmas, Hipster’s Holiday: Vocal Jazz and R&B Classics, or these MP3s!
Get yourself — & whoever you live with — some rad Christmas pyjamas! Maybe TWO pairs each, so you can rotate them throughout the month! I have a pair of the red & pink-striped thermal long jane pyjamas & a couple of pairs of flannel dreamer pyjamas from Victoria’s Secret & they make me feel perfectly festive (as well as super-cute)!
Plus, it’s important to have something sweet to wear while you unwrap your presents on Christmas morning… Don’t you think?!
Get started on your Christmas cards! Make it your mission to find great notepaper or stationery for writing them. It doesn’t have to have a reindeer on it or anything like that; something simple & chic will do the trick!
I think Christmas is a wonderful time to remember everyone who has been a special part of your year. Start writing your notes to them now. Even a couple of lines thanking them for being in your life will mean so much, & be so appreciated! Post them out as soon as you can, or if you don’t think they’ll get there in time, scan & email them!
Help someone else. December can be a month of joy, but it can also be a time of enormous sadness for people who are less fortunate than us. We’re always able to help others, but somehow it seems easier in December, so start today & see if you can carry the momentum through into the new year!
Have a look around your house, & gather up any clothes, toys or household items you don’t need. Then take them to a women’s shelter or an organisation that helps people. As you look around, remember that coats, blankets, & other warm things are especially important when the temperature drops, & most of us have at least one of these that we could spare without too much trouble.
Decide to do Twelve Dates of Christmas! Yep! The idea is that you & your beloved make time for 12 dates over the month of December. They can be as silly or as elaborate as you like. Maybe some of them can be items from this activity guide, too!
If you need extra inspiration, Marci catalogued all her dates here! I love this idea so much! Thanks, Marci & Naomi!
Make paper snowflakes! It may not be snowing where you are, but snowflakes are a truly fabulous symbol of winter & all things magical. With this in mind, why not sit down tonight with some paper, some scissors, some glue & a whole lot of glitter, & make paper snowflakes?! If you’re feeling really crafty, you can put them on a string & hang them all around the house!
Have your photo taken with Santa! This is one of my new favourite silly holiday traditions. Last year, Chloe & I made our way uptown to Macy’s, where we stood in a crazy long line for the privilege of sitting next to an old guy in a Santa outfit. But it was hilarious, & totally worth the wait!
Pro-tip: If you don’t want to pay $30 for a photo, take your own camera & give it to an “elf” to play photographer! Ding ding ding! Ours turned out pretty well, I think!
Bake cookies! Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the scent of sugary evil wafting through the house. I’m not much in the kitchen, but I refuse to let my lack of ability deter me from having a good time!
Luckily, people who create recipes know that there is a huge piece of the population who just cannot bake. So here are some recipes which sound great, & are simple… Super-chunky chocolate cookies; gingerbread cookies; cinnamon-spiced hot chocolate cookies (yum!); peppermint-chocolate sandwich cookies & chocolate cheesecake candy-cane bars.
I’d be pretty happy to have any of those in my kitchen, wouldn’t you?! Make a shopping list & then get cracking!
Go ice-skating! The concept of ice-skating is still really novel to me, since my first time doing it wasn’t until I was 24 years old! If you’ve never tried before, & are nervous, don’t be! It’s so much fun.
I’m not sure how busy it gets where you are, but I know that in NYC, the rinks start to get absolutely packed with people the closer it gets to the 25th of December. Go early in the month — like on the 9th! — if you can!
Eat an entire box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates! This one doesn’t need much explanation, surely… Pure indulgence!
Go out with your favourite person & drink hot chocolate. If you ask me, there are few things better than spending time with someone who you think is sublime. Add hot chocolate to that combination & you have a recipe for massive success!
Make it your mission to scout out the very, very best hot chocolate in your area, & then make a date. If your search comes up a bit flat, though, don’t despair! MarieBelle Aztec Hot Chocolate comes in a tin, & is one of the BEST EVER hot chocolate experiences. (It’s basically just melted chocolate in a cup. Incroyable!)
Watch Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special! The truth is, I had never even heard of this until someone mentioned it on Facebook! (It’s terrible, I know!) From reading about it, it’s clearly something we ALL need to see! (Cher & Little Richard? Helloooooo, I’m so there!)
Carry chocolate coins in your purse & give them to people who make you smile! You can substitute with candy canes, if you prefer! Um… This is also good if you’re exhausted while out shopping for gifts & need a sugary pick-me-up!
Make a gingerbread house! This is another thing I’ve NEVER done, & as such, totally feel like I’m missing out! If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can make your own from scratch (quite the undertaking!), but if you’re a first-timer like me, you might want to make it easy on yourself & buy a kit! I like the look of this gingerbread house too!
Give yourself a festive manicure! The time is nigh! If you’re not sure what to do, how about red nails with a “snowy” white tip? You could paint snowflakes or gifts on your thumb, or just go for red & white stripes. If you’re good with a nail-art pen, you could even try drawing Rudolph! Oh my!
Plan a little holiday soiree! It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic — maybe you all make & decorate ornaments for one another’s Christmas trees, perhaps you bake cookies, or maybe you drink so many “festive” cocktails that you break into a karaoke version of Don’t Stop Believin’ that shatters some kind of world record. Either way, you can NEVER have too many parties in December!
Wrap all your gifts! I always think it’s nicer to do it at home, rather than having a shop assistant do it for you. You can buy the most amazing holographic paper, crazy springy bows & lovely bits & bobs to put on the top of a parcel if you know where to shop.
Additionally, Matchbook magazine’s December issue has a fantastic wrapping guide starting on page 52! (I love the idea of using newspaper & fancy baubles, or bells or doilies.)
Wrapping is an art-form which requires plenty of practice, so if your first attempts aren’t too gorgeous, don’t worry about it. Making the effort will make people smile either way!
Take a family portrait! …Even if your “family” just consists of you & your dog, or you & your best friend, it doesn’t matter. Ask someone to take your picture, or throw your camera on a tripod & use the self-timer function! Sometimes during the holidays, it can get so crazy that we forget to take photos to preserve the moments (& hold onto the memories!). Don’t let that happen to you this year!
Watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation! I Chevy Chase, & we all know it, so this doesn’t need a lot more said. Though… Perhaps we could add this!
Walk or drive all around your city to see the best Christmas lights! Even the Grinchiest anti-Christmas party-pooper can’t help but smile at the sight of hundreds of Christmas lights. There’s just something beautiful & magical about them which makes us all feel young again. Even if there aren’t many crazy, decked-out houses to be seen in your area, make a pilgrimage to your city’s oversized Christmas tree. Bask in the glow & soak up the atmosphere!
Go all out with your Christmas-themed dressing! Yes! Ugly sweaters? Bust ‘em out! Christmas-themed earrings? Put ‘em on! Anything with a bow on, that makes you look like a present? What are you waiting for?! I’d also recommend dressing up any small animals or children you can find, too! I think Dolly would make a great elf!
Get mistletoe-happy! I’ve never bought mistletoe. In fact, I don’t even think I’ve ever SEEN mistletoe in person! To me, a non-American, it has always just seemed like something from movies! But today is the day — I have officially decided — to buy & hang mistletoe. Then get to smoochin’! (Of course!)
Go out & look at all the Christmas windows. There’s something so lovely about them! They’re so much more special than usual, & the creativity is magnificent. You’ll see animatronic creatures, constantly falling snow & beautiful scenes. There is such an art to window-dressing, & Christmas is when you get to see the best of the best. Have a wander & get inspired!
Watch The Muppet Christmas Carol! I’ve never seen this one either! Can you believe it?! Don’t worry, I’m going to remedy this on Christmas Eve! Oh, & get ready for Santa, of course!
Make your own new tradition today. Maybe that tradition is falling asleep after lunch, or snuggling up together to watch a favourite movie after you’ve unwrapped your gifts. Maybe it’s inviting over all your friends who don’t have family in town this year. Whatever it is, make it something that makes you truly, truly happy.
Have a wonderful holiday season!