Things to do before Christmas: Essential Tips for a Memorable Holiday

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Are you starting to get excited about all the festive things that you need to do before Christmas? There’s something magical about this time of year. I love the beautiful decorations, twinkling lights, and the joy of gift-giving. And while I love the holiday season, it can feel overwhelming to think about all the things to do before Christmas. I’m sure you’ve felt that way in the past too!

One of the first things you can do to ease your holiday stress is to make a list of fun and festive activities to enjoy with family and friends. Each year my family does a Family Activity Advent Calendar with fun things that we do together as a family. Some of our family favorites include building a snowman, checking out Christmas lights around town, and going ice skating. Not only do these activities allow us to embrace the holiday spirit, but they also give us a chance to create lasting memories together. Sit down with your family to decide what activities are most important in your holiday season.

It’s also essential to get started on Christmas preparations early to avoid unnecessary stress. This includes shopping for gifts and organizing decorations well in advance. By planning ahead, you can fully enjoy the magic and joy of the season as it’s happening.

Preparations and Planning

Christmas checklist

Creating a To-Do List

For a less stressful holiday season, start by creating a Christmas to-do list. Jot down everything you need to accomplish, such as buying gifts, planning Christmas meals, decorating the house, and attending holiday events. Having a list can help you to stay organized and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Read also: Christmas Checklist

Budgeting for the Holiday Season

Keep your finances in check during the holiday season by carefully planning your Christmas budget ahead of time. Long before you start spending, allocate funds for gifts, decorations, food, and any other holiday-related expenses. This way, you can enjoy the festive season without worrying about overspending or going into debt.

Setting up a Christmas Countdown

Set up a Christmas countdown! Not only will a countdown can help you to stay on track with your preparations, it’ll also create excitement for your family and remind you how much time is left before the big day arrives. Create a fun countdown calendar or use an app to keep track of the days. This could be as simple as a paper chain.

Wooden Advent Calendar with 24 Drawers, 2023 DIY Advent Calendar Box, Reusable Christmas Countdown…
  • 【Fun Blind Boxes】This wooden advent calendar features 24 drawers that can be filled with surprises like candies, toy cars, hairpins, and jewelry. Every day, you and your loved ones can look forward to opening a drawer and discovering a delightful surprise. Or put notes in drawer, let your kids read the clue then look elsewhere for their daily advent gift.
  • 【Great Craftsmanship】The refillable advent calendar’s drawers have unique and lovely painted patterns that add a touch of charm to your Christmas decoration. The half-moon gap above each grid makes advent calendar boxes easy to open the drawer door and access the items inside.
Juegoal Countdown to Christmas Calendar 2021 Nature Wooden Tree Shape Advent Calendar with 24…
  • Juegoal 2023 Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count the days of Advent in anticipation of Christmas. Both kids and adults will enjoy getting ready for Christmas with this festive countdown calendar.
  • 24 numbered drawers are perfect for placing candy or miniature gifts for kids, add some holiday cheer and more fun to your home. Not defective, this retro advent calendars was using hand make carbonize craft, every advent calendar has unique grain.

Read also: 60+ Amazing Advent Activities for Families

Handling Travel Arrangements

If you have plans to travel during the holiday season, start by researching plane tickets and accommodation options early to find the best deals. It’s also important to double-check your travel documents, such as passports and visas if required, to ensure they are up to date.

With travel comes the possibility of unforeseen events, so decide if you’d like to purchase travel insurance that covers any trip cancellations, medical emergencies, or lost luggage.

By dividing your preparations into manageable tasks and carefully planning my to-do list, budget, countdown, and travel arrangements, you can enjoy the Christmas season without feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

Decorations and Tree

Choose and Decorate a Christmas Tree

When it comes to choosing a Christmas tree, consider whether you want a live tree or an artificial one. I personally love live Christmas trees, but they are not always practical. If we are decorating early, we skip the live tree. Otherwise, our family likes to switch on and off every other year for live trees and fake trees.

After you decide on a tree, plan your decorations.  Begin by adding Christmas lights. Check that all of your Christmas lights are working. Purchase or fix light strands that need a little love. Ensure that the lights are evenly distributed and that the cables are hidden within the tree’s foliage.

Decorate your Christmas tree. This is one of my favorite activities to do as a family. Plan ahead early if you want to change out old tree decorations because after October it can be difficult to find good Christmas decorations in the store. I love a mishmash of decorations and crafts from my kids over the years. But the important thing is to decide ahead of time so you don’t have to run to the store a bunch of times to get things together.

Setting up Christmas Lights

Do you set up Christmas lights? Christmas lights are my favorite holiday decoration. To get started, outline a plan for where you want the lights to be placed, both indoors and outdoors. Here are some tips:

  • Check that all strands are working before hanging them
  • Use clips or hooks to secure the lights and avoid damaging surfaces
  • Aim for an even distribution of lights for a balanced look
  • Check where your outlets are located so you have enough extension cords to run the electrical


Ornaments can create a cozy and festive atmosphere in any space. Follow these steps to make the best use of your holiday ornaments:

  1. Choose a color scheme that complements my existing decor
  2. Incorporate a mix of traditional and personal ornaments
  3. Add garlands or tinsel to create dimension and texture

Beautiful ornaments can create a festive space that’s both inviting and memorable at Christmas time.

Gift Shopping and Wrapping

winter bucket list ideas

Creating a Master Gift List

Before diving into Christmas shopping, create a master gift list. Start by brainstorming all the people you want to buy presents for, including relatives, friends, coworkers, and secret Santa exchanges. Jot down names and interests, plus any specific ideas you might have for gifts. This not only helps you stay organized but also ensures you won’t miss anyone while shopping.

I love these gift list planners.

Shopping Planner: Christmas Edition
  • Designs, CastleDreamer (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Finding the Perfect Gifts

Once you have your list ready, begin the enjoyable, yet sometimes challenging, task of finding the perfect presents for everyone on your list. Keep an eye out for gift ideas throughout the year, but with Christmas approaching, it’s helpful to pay extra attention to sales, promotions and special offers. Browse online gift guides and consider their recommendations, especially for those hard-to-shop-for individuals. In addition, set a budget to prevent overspending during the festive season.

Preparing and Wrapping Gifts

After you’ve purchased all of your Christmas gifts, it’s time for the fun and creative part: wrapping! Gather your supplies, including wrapping paper, ribbons, gift tags, scissors, and tape. For a more eco-friendly option, you can sometimes use reusable fabric gift wraps, like scarf wraps.

Clear a space for wrapping and begin with the larger gifts, ensuring they are fully covered in wrapping paper, neatly sealed using tape, and all edges are crisply folded. Add a personal touch by including decorations, such as gold-sprayed cuttings from the garden, or even handmade gift tags.

For smaller items or gift cards, opt for decorative gift boxes or envelopes, as they not only simplify the wrapping process but also add an extra layer of elegance to the presentation.

Finally, double-check that all battery-operated presents have the necessary batteries included, as there’s nothing worse than receiving a fantastic gift but not being able to enjoy it right away. Parents, you know what having batteries on hand will make your Christmas morning so much easier and less dramatic.

By following these steps, your Christmas gift shopping and wrapping process will be well-organized and efficient, while still ensuring everyone on your list receives thoughtful and beautifully presented gifts.

Need ideas for inexpensive stocking stuffers? Read: The Best $5 Stocking Stuffer Ideas

Holiday Cards

Sending out Christmas Cards

Sending out Christmas cards is a fun and meaningful way to spread holiday cheer. Start by picking the number of cards to send, keeping in mind your time, budget, and how much you actually enjoy sending Christmas cards! Address holiday cards early so they arrive well before the big day. Remember, in these digital days, not every holiday card needs to be sent through the mail.

If you don’t want to send Christmas cards, then don’t! Even a digital card or email can be fun!

Organizing a Secret Santa Event

Organizing a Secret Santa event is a great way to get friends and colleagues into the holiday spirit. Here’s how you might handle the process:

  1. Invite participants and set a budget for the gift.
  2. Draw names or use an online tool to randomly assign Secret Santa pairs.
  3. Clearly communicate important details such as gift exchange date, rules, and suggestions for gifts.
  4. Facilitate the gift exchange, either in person or virtually.

Sharing Holiday Cheer with Others

One of the best parts of the holiday season is the opportunity to perform random acts of kindness. Here are a few ideas:

  • Reach out to someone who might be spending the holidays alone.
  • Volunteer at a local food bank or homeless shelter.
  • Leave a generous tip for hardworking restaurant servers or delivery drivers.
  • Shovel a neighbor’s driveway or walkway after a snowstorm.

Use random acts of kindness as a way to create cherished memories while fostering a festive atmosphere among friends, family, and even complete strangers.

Read also: Random Acts of Kindness for Kids

Planning Christmas Parties

Christmas parties can be a fun part of your holiday season! Start by setting a date and sending out invitations early, so everyone can make plans accordingly. This not only helps to manage the guest list but also ensures that you have enough time to prepare everything.

Decide on a theme or main activity for the party. One of our favorite parties to throw at Christmas time is a gingerbread house party. We invite friends and neighbors and we have kids running around in a sugar-induced craze, but it is one of our family’s favorite things. However, it does take time and effort to plan. Planning ahead for parties will help you feel less stressed during the holidays.

Christmas Movies and Music

A major part of pre-Christmas festivities is indulging in Christmas movies and music. In the weeks leading up to the big day, soak up the season by watching classic films like “A Christmas Carol,” “Elf,” and “Home Alone.” These movies not only get you in the holiday spirit but can also remind you of the magic that comes with the season.

In addition to movies, listen to Christmas music as much as possible. Whether your driving, working, or just relaxing at home, holiday tunes never fail to get you in the holiday mood.

Food and Treats

$5 stocking stuffer ideas

Creating a Delicious Christmas Menu

When planning your Christmas menu, incorporate a variety of dishes to make the holiday meal special. Write down what you would like to serve, when you need to shop for it, and if there are any parts of the meal that you can prepare ahead of time. You will be so grateful to have as much of your Christmas meal pre-planned and prepped before the day-of Christmas.

Shopping for Groceries

Preparing a detailed grocery list is essential before hitting the shops. List all the ingredients you need for the main dish, followed by the side dishes, appetizers, desserts, and drinks. It’s also helpful to add any extras to the list, such as fresh flowers or festive decorations for the table. I make sure to check my list twice and shop early enough to avoid the last-minute rush.

Baking and Enjoying Christmas Treats

One of the best things for me about the Christmas season is the baking! I love making a variety of cookies, treats, and even appetizers that we only eat during the holidays. Write down the things you love like  homemade fudge, gingerbread houses, homemade Chex mix, and cheeseball.

Preparing the food and treats for Christmas is a joyful and delicious part of the holiday season. Plan ahead, use quality ingredients, and enjoy the process of sharing tasty creations with friends and family!

Traditions and Making Memories

Holiday traditions play a significant role in creating cherished memories. Our family does a Family Time Advent Calendar, where we do something together as a family each night. Those activities can range from ice skating, to taste-testing Eggnog. These activities make up the base of our traditions and memory-making moments each holiday season.

Creating a Christmas Bucket List

To make the most out of the holiday season, create a Christmas bucket list to keep track of all the fun activities you want your family to experience. Some ideas to include are:

  • Watching classic Christmas movies
  • Driving to see Christmas lights. Check out these fun 3D holiday light glasses. I picked some up last year for my kids and they LOVED them! It made our holiday light viewing so much fun.
Holiday Eyes(TM) Christmas Glasses for Children 6 Pairs – 4 Styles – Snowflake, Snowman, Reindeer…
  • Only glasses designed especially for children
  • Children’s size cardboard Holographic Christmas Glasses
  • Donating gifts or volunteering for those in need
  • Baking and decorating cookies
  • Attending a live nativity scene. Our family did this a few years ago and although cold, it was so meaningful. The kids still remember the camels and watching the scene.

Not only does the bucket list serve as a fun checklist, but it also ensures that you are making the most of your time before Christmas and creating memories that you’ll treasure for years to come.

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