12 Family Holiday Activities That Are Fun and Affordable

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. It is a time filled with warmth and joy. A time to share with family and make memories that you will cherish for years to come. A time to give to friends, family and to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. It is a time to reflect on the blessings of our lives. If you are looking to make the most of your family time this Christmas, then read on because I am giving you 12 fun and affordable family holiday activities!

Before we get started, I wanted to address the inevitable difference in this 2020 holiday season due to COVID-19. Please note that these activities may or may not be feasible this year outside of your immediate household. I encourage you to follow the guidance of your local leadership. I wish everyone a blessed holiday and good health. And I most especially wish for this pandemic to be behind us in the near future. Know that we can still find the joy in this Christmas season. Let’s look at some ideas to spark that joy!

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1. Have A Holiday Movie Night

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Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Snuggle up in a cozy blanket, get yourselves some hot cocoa (with extra marshmallows, because you know… it’s Christmas) and perhaps some popcorn and put on a holiday themed movie or two. There are so many great movies to choose from, so you may want to put it to a vote or have everyone write out their pick on a piece of paper and draw it from a hat/bowl. My family is scattered throughout the states and we can’t always be together every year, so last year we each chose a favorite holiday movie in early November and watched everyone’s pick through Christmas. Thanks to this great idea from my sister, we could still take comfort in celebrating the holidays together from afar.

Here’s a quick list of some holiday movie ideas:

Netflix’s Klaus is probably my most favorite Christmas movie. If you have not watched it, I highly recommend it! Such a fantastic movie filled with a message of love and acceptance of others, even for all of our differences.

2. Bake And Decorate Christmas Cookies

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Image by ruthieprasil from Pixabay 

Bust out your cookie cutters and let’s bake some cookies! Warm your house with the delicious smell of fresh baked cookies and tap into your creative side with that icing decoration. Make extra and gift them to your neighbors, your friends, or your local shelter! I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t love receiving fresh baked cookies (not a sane person anyway)!

And you don’t just have to leave it at sugar cookies. Growing up, one of my favorite things about this time of year was receiving a tray of assorted cookies made from our wonderfully kind family friend. There are many holiday cookies to pick from if you’re feeling you’d like to try something different!

Get Christmas cookie recipes and inspiration here.

3. Family Secret Santa Gifts

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Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

If you have a large family like me, then you know what it feels like thinking of getting a gift for everyone. A favorite Herron family tradition the last few years has been Secret Santa gifting. We use a fantastic site called Draw Names that allows you to input your name and even your wish list, then matches everyone with a gift recipient to shop for. An optional part of this gifting is specifying a maximum spend so everyone feels comfortable with their gifting budget. My family has loved this Secret Santa idea, because it takes a lot of pressure off and it saves everyone’s pockets.

Even if you still prefer to give gifts for everyone in the family, you could always do this as a fun addition. It’s kind of fun not knowing who your gift is coming from (until you inevitably give it away if you’re anything like me). When it comes to gifts, it is hard for me to keep a secret! My family friends can attest to this very fact when I spilled the beans on my friend’s graduation gift. I thought he knew about the Traeger. Whoops!

4. Decorating Gingerbread Houses With The Family

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Image by Whizartmedia from Pixabay 

Talk about one of the most classic fun and affordable family holiday activities! Along with Christmas cookie baking and decorating, this is one that is especially great for children. What child doesn’t love creating something that they can also eat?! Let’s be real, how many kids have you seen try to eat their PlayDoh? Were you one of them back in the day? This is a no judgement zone, I probably did it too.

Want to know how to make a gingerbread house from scratch? You can find that, here. Find gingerbread house cookie cutters, here. Or if you’d rather go the route of gingerbread house kit, you can find some great options here and here.

5. Take A Drive To See The Holiday Lights

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Image by javvad from Pixabay 

Most cities and towns have at least that one neighborhood known to deck their halls to the max every holiday season. In Seattle, there is a neighborhood on Northeast Park Road just off Ravenna Boulevard known as “Candy Cane Lane” since 1949. Strolling through the neighborhood is completely free, but bring a few cans of food along as there is often a canned food drive at the end of the route.

6. Have A Game Night

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Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay 

Some of my most cherished memories with my family and friends originate from game nights. In fact, one of the earliest memories I have with my husband is laughing uncontrollably as he playfully chased me around the house after I drew him as a steaming poo during our Pictionary game. You can stick with classics like Monopoly, Scrabble, or Pictionary or try other games like Cranium, Munchkin, and Settlers of Catan to name a few. There is always a game to fit any family dynamic. Maybe you’ll create your own memories to last a lifetime (which may or may not involve something as silly as a steaming poo)!

7. Have A Family Cook-Off

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Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay 

One of my favorite of the family holiday activities ideas! On a Herron family trip to Naples, FL in 2018 my sister divided us into two teams to make dinner on two separate nights with Momma Val being the judge. We all had so much fun bonding over a little light-hearted competition. Each team created a three course meal with an appetizer, main course, and dessert. The team was to follow a budget when creating the meal plan and shopping list. I mean you don’t want one team making a filet mignon and lobster while the other is making a burger… that just wouldn’t be fair. Also, not sure who is making a burger for Christmas dinner (but hey, if that’s your thing and you’re going to Gordon Ramsay the heck out of that burger then more power to you my friend.. also maybe send me how you did it)?

In addition to bonding with family, the best thing about this was getting to eat amazing food two nights in a row, and only having to put in the work for one of those nights while sitting back and relaxing for the other. However, we did come to the agreement that the team not cooking would do the clean up afterward. It worked perfectly!

8. Go Sledding/Ice Skating

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

Of course this one is location dependent. If you’re in a place like Phoenix, AZ you’ll probably have a harder time finding a nearby place to go sledding. However, most places will at least have a local skating rink. Whether you’re throwing on your warmest coat and snow pants and grabbing that sled or preparing to fall on your bum while ice skating (if you’re as poorly coordinated as I am), these two family holiday activities are some of the most active that you can do. It’s never a bad idea to get outside and release some energy!

9. Dress It Up For Dinner

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Image by Afishera from Pixabay 

Create a family tradition of dressing it up for Christmas dinner! Ladies, throw on that beautiful dress or romper/jumpsuit in your closet (or make this a reason to get one). Gentleman, bust out those bow ties and dress pants. Or if your preference is a nice pair of jeans and a sweater, go for it. No matter the style you choose, sometimes it’s nice to have a reason to dress up. And with everyone emanating swagger, it’s the perfect opportunity for a family photo session!

10. Have A Holiday Ugly Sweater Party

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Image by ChristianaT from Pixabay 

Whether you make your own ugly sweater or buy one, there are so many options! This is one of the best family holiday activities to bring out everyone’s creative and silly sides. And again, it is the perfect opportunity to forever create a record of the occasion by taking photos!

In 2020, our family got our sweaters from Brave New Look. They have everything from cat sweaters featuring “Meowy Christmas”, sweaters for runners to fire fighters, sweaters honoring nana, sweaters with animals from poodles to a T-Rex, and more. Of course my personal pick was a Yorkie sweater in honor of my dog, Teegan.

Click here for more ugly sweater ideas, including DIY and Amazon picks!

11. Have A Family Sleep Over Under The Tree

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

This is one of the best family holiday activities for those with young kids! I still cherish the memories I share with my siblings of sleeping next to the fireplace and the Christmas tree. Sometimes we would even set up a blanket fort if we were feeling extra ambitious. I also specifically remember explaining to my parents every year that I just didn’t know how all of those tears in my gift’s wrapping paper kept turning up. And I agreed it sure was weird that the tears kept increasing in numbers and getting a little bit larger as we neared Christmas. I’m sure some of those who are parents are probably thinking that this scene sounds all too familiar.

12. Serve Dinner At A Homeless Shelter/Donate

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Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay 

There should always be time to lend a hand to help those in need and Christmas is one of the greatest holidays for reminding us to give back. Take some time out of your holiday plans to make a difference in somebody’s life. Even just donating food, warm clothing, or toys for children can mean the world to the receiving hands! You can also donate your time by serving Christmas dinner at a shelter. Small acts of kindness can go a long way!

Here’s a few ideas for ways to give back to others*:

  • USPS Operation Santa: Many families and children in need of clothing or toys send letters to Santa every year. The USPS sets up a database of these letters where you can choose to fulfill these wishes as Santa for the family/child. You can also choose to send them a letter in addition to the gift.
  • One Simple Wish: Help an orphaned child impacted by foster care, abuse, and neglect. Brighten their Christmas season with a gift of much needed clothing or toys.
  • Pay Away The Layaway: Many stores allow a family to partially purchase items and place them on hold until the entire cost is paid. Pay for a family’s layaway in order for them to take home gifts, school supplies, clothing, books, etc for children in need.
  • Donate To Patients At Seattle Children’s Hospital: Nobody wishes to wake up on Christmas in the hospital. Donate to children going through hardship and not only give them a material gift, but also the gift of a smile.
  • Operation Blessing: Donate to help those affected by natural disaster. Help in providing them needed food, water and medical care.
  • Feeding America: Find your local food bank and help serve a warm meal to those in need.
  • Seek out local charities and ways to volunteer if you’d like to give back to your local community. Another great idea is to give your time and companionship to those in nursing homes without a family to visit. The holidays can feel especially lonely with no one to share it with. Stopping in to visit and share in the holiday spirit can make a world of difference for someone.

*Note: Some of these ways of giving back may not be safe or feasible in the 2020 holiday season due to COVID-19 (i.e. nursing home visits). However, the majority of these options are donation based and do not require contact with others. The giving spirit of Christmas is still alive and needed more than ever in these times of hardship.

What family holiday activities are your favorite?

I hope this post has provided you with some fun and affordable activity ideas for this holiday season! You may even find a new family tradition! Of course there are always many more holiday activities out there. What is your favorite on this list? Do you have some cherished holiday traditions not featured here? Let’s hear it! Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Happiest of holidays to you, my lovely friends!

-xo, Jennifer

“It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree that matters but who’s around it.”

Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas

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