9 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Christmas This Year

These are our favorite budget-friendly ways to make this holiday season extra special.

christmas tree in basket
Photo: Aniko Levai

Every year we're more and more excited to celebrate Christmas. Of course, we cherish the long-standing holiday activities our families do, but this Christmas, we're looking forward to trying a few new ways to celebrate Christmas to add to our fun. You may want to try some of these ideas for your holiday feast and gathering.

Do you love your traditional Christmas dinner but want to try a delicious new menu? Skip the ham or move it to a Christmas Eve meal and experiment with a few new ideas for Christmas Day. You may get some resistance, but with these delicious dishes, the push-back won't last long.

If some family members are on tight budgets, try making a game out of exchanging gifts and filling stockings. Before the family gathering, have each person assigned one recipient to give a gift, and have everyone bring enough of one item for each person's stocking. Lifting financial stress could be the best gift your family gives each other.

This year, try to focus less on buying the latest and greatest decor and gifts and turn your focus to spending more quality time with your family. You might just find that these new ways to celebrate Christmas become yearly traditions.

01 of 09

Start a New Family Tradition

This season, start a new Christmas tradition and involve the whole family. For example, order matching pajamas, start an Advent calendar, or fill a gratitude jar. New family traditions don't have to be expensive or elaborate. All you have to do is carve out a few hours and spend the time doing something fun together.

02 of 09

Serve a Non-Traditional Dinner

It's OK to skip the traditional Christmas ham this year, especially if you're hosting a small group. Instead, opt for something totally different, like a fancy dinner from a local restaurant or a potluck soup buffet. No matter what you serve at Christmas dinner, the most important thing is who's around the table.

03 of 09

Wrap Gifts in Fabric

Wrapping gifts is one of our favorite pre-Christmas traditions. Still, wrapping paper is horrible for the environment because we use so much, and it can't be recycled. Try wrapping your gifts in fabric instead of paper, and you may never look back. If you'd like to switch to fabric gift wrap, invest in a few fabric bags or patterned furoshiki wraps that can be used yearly. Plus, you'll save a fortune not buying new rolls of gift wrap each season!

04 of 09

Host a Virtual Gathering

The best part of the holidays is being with family, but if yours is scattered far and wide and travel isn't possible this year, consider planning a virtual celebration as a way to celebrate Christmas this year. Gather the family on Zoom and have everyone decorate cookies "together" in their homes, or use the Netflix Party app to watch a classic holiday movie together.

05 of 09

Decorate like Grandma

Your grandma's favorite vintage decor trends are back in style—and you should be decorating with them this year. Ceramic Christmas trees have made a huge comeback, and there are some affordable options you can order online. Also, if your grandma displays an elaborate Christmas village every year, you'll love the sentimental aspect of this holiday style.

06 of 09

Give Back

Giving back to the community is a favorite way to celebrate the season. There are many ways to help out around the holidays, whether volunteering at a food bank, participating in an adopt-a-family program, or helping buy or wrap gifts for others. If your family already does one of these traditions, consider adding a second or third! You'll never regret helping more people.

07 of 09

Adopt New Ways to Celebrate Christmas

Everyone celebrates the holiday season differently, and many meaningful traditions are celebrated by different cultures in other parts of the world. This season, learn about your family's heritage and adopt a few customs for your celebration. Of course, you never want to appropriate another culture, but adding a respectful celebration to your holiday plans can be fun and meaningful. For example, take the time to learn the story of Hanukkah and make latkes together as a family, or celebrate your Italian heritage by hosting your first-ever Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.

08 of 09

Play a New Christmas Game

When the weather outside is frightful, finding enough indoor activities to keep the family entertained can be challenging. Of course, you've heard of White Elephant gift exchanges (also known as Yankee Swap), but there are other fun holiday-themed games you can introduce to the family this year.

A favorite is Pass the Present or the Left-Right game. Here's how it works: Everyone brings a small, funny gift (set a low-dollar limit) and wraps it however they like. Then, everyone sits around a table with their gift in front of them as a poem is read out loud (here's one we like). Every time the word 'right' is read, you pass the gift in front of you to the right. You pass to the left when the word 'left' is said. At the end, you unwrap the gift in front of you and guess who brought the gift.

09 of 09

Give Practical Gifts

While it may be fun to pick out luxury gifts, if finances are tight, it may be that your recipient would much rather receive a gift that's helpful to them.

This year, consider a new way to celebrate Christmas. Rather than guess what people want or will use, ask your family members to make a wish list of practical gifts instead. Consider a meal kit subscription service to reduce grocery bills, household tools or kitchen appliances that need to be replaced, or gift cards to save money at most-frequented stores.

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