25 Ways to Set the Holiday Mood

Don't let your to-do list steal your holiday spirit. Here are 25 ways to simplify and enrich the season for you and your loved ones.

Display Artful Cards

This year keep cards from cluttering your table by turning them into decor. Use medium and large hole punches to create paper circles, then arrange them on a wooden wreath form. Glue them in place and decorate with ribbon and pom-poms.

Keep a Holiday Scrapbook

Buy a scrapbook as Thanksgiving nears. As the season progresses, tuck in a few photos or cards and jot some notes about the foods you cooked, the presents that were given, and the traditions that were kept.

Dough as Art

Shave cooking prep time by using store-bought dough and invite family over to a cookie-decorating party.


Restore romantic frivolity to your home by hanging mistletoe in a doorway and handing out kisses as people pass under it.

Make a Simple Centerpiece

Greet your holiday hostess with a handmade gift. Decorate the pot of a miniature poinsettia and cover the top with shaved soap or coconut for a snowy effect. Place the flowers under a large, bell-shape jar decked with ribbon.

Let Kids Make Wrapping Paper

Any kid will tell you that the wrapping often is just as much fun as the gift. Get children involved in holiday gift-giving by offering them plain wrapping paper to decorate. Their creative designs promise personal touches no wrapping-paper company can match.


Experience a sense of community by attending a Christmas sing-along. Or organize your own group of carolers and stroll the neighborhood. Set up a time to sing for residents of a nursing home.

Share Some Scents

Make spice bags for simmering as gifts. Place star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peel in empty tea bags. Trim the tops with pinking shears then tie them closed and wrap them creatively.


More likely than not, something this holiday season will remind you of friends or family who are no longer with you to celebrate. Rather than push the sadness aside, remember what made them special and celebrate their impact on your life.


The shopping, baking, wrapping, and entertaining can wait. Let go of that work ethic and take one day to rest.


Catch a snowflake on your tongue. Stop and sit on Santa's lap. Listen for reindeer hooves. Remember what Christmas was like when you were a child, and see it that way again.


Bundle up your family and head outdoors to a holiday festival. Admire the decorations from a blanket-wrapped seat in a horse-drawn carriage, warm your insides with hot cider and cocoa, and wave to strolling carolers.

Reach Out to Old Friends

This year, carve an hour from your schedule to contact a friend who has been on your mind but out of your daily life. Call her out of the blue or buy some pretty stationery and write a letter.

Count Down the Days

Build kids' holiday anticipation with a countdown project that tucks a chocolate kiss and a lip of paper into 12 wrapped and numbered gift boxes. On each slip of paper, write a reason why you love them.

Make a Tree Topper

To make this fancy topper, trace diamond shapes onto stiff paper and cut out five of them. Use a ruler to bend them in half and assemble the piece into a star shape, fastening with tape. Glue into place glitter or shiny pipe cleaners along the edges, roll up a tube to take to the back, and stick it on your tree.

Taste Hot Cocoa

Invite friends over for a hot cocoa tasting party. Stock up on a handful of flavors, then prepare a small buffet of whipped cream, toppings, and cookies.


Treat yourself to a peppermint pedicure at a local day spa or gather your friends over to pamper each other.

Give to Charities

Send a check to a local food pantry, donate new toys and clothes to organizations that help struggling families, or buy pre-bagged holiday meals at the grocery store for people in need. Reach out when you can to make the holidays better for other families.


Give the gift of kindness and joy. As you plan celebrations, try to include someone who might otherwise spend the holiday alone: an elderly relative, a colleague who is new to town, a widowed neighbor, or servicemen and women who are stationed at bases near you but far away from home.


Pick an evening to pack the car with music, cocoa, and family, and drive around town to see outside decorations.

Plan Ahead

Give party nuts a holiday twist by roasting them ahead of time. This prepare-ahead staple makes entertaining easier and can be a simple, tasteful gift for neighbors or colleagues.

Remember Santa's Cookies

Santa doesn't care if they are homemade or store-bought. So humor him, marvel at the crumbs left behind, and don't forget handwritten wish lists. They make great keepsakes for your new scrapbook.


Temper busy preparations by setting aside time to soothe your spirit and celebrate the season's meaning. Build a snowman. Say "Merry Christmas" to passers-by. Go for a walk along a snowy hiking trail.

Kindle a Flame

Candles set a soothing tone, both in our homes and in religious rites.

Start a Tradition

Bring back an old-world tradition your family has lost. Ask relatives how they used to celebrate the holidays.

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