5 Low-Cost Classic Christmas Activities

5 Low-Cost Classic Christmas Activities via www.angelamaywaller.com

When you think back to the holidays of your youth, what do you remember? Maybe it’s naive on my part, but I’m betting it’s the simple things. The things that didn’t cost a lot of money, the things that meant you were with the people you loved.

My family was financially sound and had everything we needed and practically everything we wanted. I didn’t suffer from poverty or struggle until I was an adult. But even still (and I bet those of you who share my ’70’s upbringing will agree), my parents were very thrifty and frugal and not prone to extravagances.

And you know what? I didn’t miss it. When I remember the holidays, I remember all of the times we had together and the goofy things we all did. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we had family drama just like any other family, but we had fun, too. The fun part is what I remember. Here’s some of the things we did most holiday seasons:

Activity #1: Taking Pictures Together

5 Low-Cost Classic Christmas Activities via www.angelamaywaller.com

Okay, so maybe that only barely counts as an “activity” because the kids are usually only participating under protest. I always was. But there was something about Mom whipping out the camera (complete with those square flash bulbs) that made it all seem festive. Plus, such a great history! I know I was fascinated by all the photos of my parents in their younger days, and now my kids are fascinated by mine.

One thing these pictures were not: professional, styled or staged. They are not beautiful, there is no lens flare, scenic orchard, moustaches or mid-shutter jump for joy. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, just that you don’t need them. Let yourself document your actual family doing actual things, and trust that the joy of seeing those photos later will be worth it.

Updated: In 2019, still so very true. In fact, now having gone through the loss of two parents, I am even more grateful for the pictures I have of them doing things and our family doing things. They are the most treasured of all the photos, even though they’re not usually the prettiest.

Activity #2: Making Gifts Together

5 Low-Cost Classic Christmas Activities via www.angelamaywaller.com

I love making gifts. I have been making gifts since I was in grade-school. I bet you all have, too. I’d like to think my present efforts are better in quality and usefulness to the recipient–at least I hope so! 🙂 The point is that not only is making presents something that is fun and very low- or even no-cost (depending on what you have on hand to make things with), it’s really fun to do together.

My kids had a ball making the homemade wrapping paper that ended up wrapping a grandparent’s gift. It made them feel connected, and part of what we were sending him, even though the gift itself was not handmade. My kids are also enjoying the process of making the gifts that are handmade, and they have enjoyed it every year. They always contribute at least something to the process of each one. Sure, not all our gifts are perfect, but they are so filled with love that the heart shines through. I think that counts for something.

Activity #3: Baking Together

5 Low-Cost Classic Christmas Activities via www.angelamaywaller.com

How many of you bake at Christmas every year? We always do and always have. When I was little my Mom made this Christmas bread with candied fruit in it. In middle school we started making these bran muffins my Dad liked in mass quantities (I’m talking VATS of batter).

As an adult, I make cookies. It doesn’t matter what you make, and it doesn’t have to be baking. Making food together is just one of those things that creates an undeniable bond between you and the people you cook with. What a great thing to share with your family or friends.

Updated: Now, in 2019, that I have found that I am healthier when I avoid sweets, I have generally stopped making cookies and have started experimenting with the idea of savory bites like hors d’oeuvres to be our new holiday food tradition. It’s all what you make of it.

Activity #4: Sharing Music Together

5 Low-Cost Classic Christmas Activities via www.angelamaywaller.com

Growing up I loved playing seasonal music and singing loud and proud with anyone who would join me. I was a decent pianist and an adequate singer, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to share in the joy of doing it together.

Being a child of the 80’s, I have grown up in a culture that shunned the after-dinner singalong. But why is that? When did pulling out a guitar and singing folk songs together become stupid? Because it’s so not stupid. It’s amazing. I think we should do more of it. All the time.

Having times to sing songs together and play music together is so crucial. It’s right up there with cooking together, isn’t it? Having a group of kids put on an impromptu show for you at a dinner party? Priceless (and often hilarious, too). It doesn’t take much, either, just a hint about how fun it would be and bam… off they go. It’s a beautiful thing.

Updated: I’m proud to say that I think this trend is passing. Now, in 2019, more and more of my friends are embracing this time-honored tradition. Thank goodness. It’s also the one kind of music my children will practice for their lessons without me having to nag them. Extra bonus!!

Activity #5: Getting the Tree Together

5 Low-Cost Classic Christmas Activities via www.angelamaywaller.com

For me, this is a touchstone activity for the season. Getting the tree, setting up the tree, trimming the tree. Christmas has officially begun for me when we get the tree.

Growing up, we always, and I mean always, cut a tree at a tree farm. Always. For the record, in my childhood, that tree was a Noble Fir per my Dad’s specifications, thankyouverymuch. As an adult, I’ve gotten trees every which way to sideways, but I always get one. One year in my early 20’s, I couldn’t afford a tree so I decided not to get one. On Christmas Eve I finally couldn’t take it anymore and decided to just get one anyway. I had $10 in my pocket to spend. It was late and everything was closed, but I found a sad little Charlie Brown tree in the parking lot of Safeway with a sign on it saying “free.” That tree was one of the most special I’ve had. So they don’t have to be perfect or expensive..

The point isn’t where you get your tree or how beautiful it is, or even that it’s a tree, specifically. The point is that you have something you do together for the season that’s a tradition for your family.

5 Low-Cost Classic Christmas Activities via www.angelamaywaller.com


You probably already noticed that there’s a lot of togetherness in this post. Yes, that is kind of the point, whether our individual “together” is family, friends, community or some other constellation as yet undiscovered. Our lives are messy, stressful, overburdened and undervalued. But we’re in it together.

I love that. I hope you do, too.

I know I don’t know you all personally, but I want you to know that all of you are a part of my personal “together.” Thank you for being there.

What fun activities did you do as a family growing up?

Love, Angela



2 responses to “5 Low-Cost Classic Christmas Activities”

  1. This all looks so much fun, and I love the old photographs. Makes me feel all nostalgic.

    1. Thank you, Marianne! I kind of got nostalgic, too! ~Angela~

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