Tuesday, December 23, 2014

5 Low-Cost Holiday Family Activities



It can be difficult to find something everyone enjoys doing. Uncle Phil wants to watch the football game while Aunt Linda wants to decorate cookies. You're trying to keep peace without making family time feel like a chore. What can you do to keep everyone happily spending time together without running up a huge credit card bill?

These five activities can help all of you keep the Christmas spirit in your hearts while spending time with your family this holiday season. Best of all, most of these options won't cost you a dime!

1.) Caroling

It's a tradition that spans generations. Family and friends get together to spread joy and good will with cheery music. Caroling is an iconic part of the holiday season. If you live in an area where you know your neighbors and the streets are safe, you can carol in your neighborhood. If you don't, consider making an appointment with an area nursing home or assisted care facility. These homes are often in need of some cheer during the holidays.

You can find sheet music for most holiday classics for free online. You can also find "karaoke" mixes to download onto a smartphone or tablet to help keep your merry ensemble on key. Spending some of your together time practicing is also a good idea. What's important isn't how good you sound, though. It's the fun you have and the joy you spread.

2.) Volunteering

Many churches, food kitchens and other outreach centers offer Christmas dinners for the less fortunate. Spending some of your holiday caring for those who have little-to-nothing can also help keep your family focused on what's really important. After your kids have unwrapped their presents on Christmas morning, consider taking them to help out at a community pantry. It'll help them treasure their gifts all the more.

There are plenty of other causes that could use your help. In the days after Christmas, many animal shelters are overwhelmed with "presents" that didn't quite work out. The overworked volunteers at these shelters need help cleaning up and exercising scared, confused animals. Consider doing some good with your family this Christmas.

3.) Spit-paper

If you'd rather have some light-hearted fun with your family at Christmas, consider this easy game. Sit everyone down in a circle. Each person gets a sticky note or a small piece of scrap paper. On that piece of paper, they write a person's name - a celebrity, a political figure, even a fictional character. Then, everyone passes to the right.

Without looking at it, every player sticks the piece of paper on their forehead. People take turns asking "yes-or-no" questions about themselves to the group, with the objective of guessing their "new" identity. Questions like "Have I ever existed?" or "Have I been alive in the last 100 years?" are good ways to narrow the range of options. It's a fun way to have a conversation about current events in a general, light-hearted way.

4.) Re-watch old family movies

Someone in your family may have a huge cache of old tapes in a closet or basement somewhere. These tapes don't do much besides gather dust for most of the year, but they contain a treasure trove of family memories. If you're like most families, someone recorded treasured times to document them for posterity, but either never watched them or hasn't blown the dust off them in years.

Make this Christmas a time to break that tradition. Pick a year and watch the Christmas or birthday parties. Think back to what life was like then and how much things have changed since. Embarrass the kids a little bit in front of their spouses or significant others. You might find it's a great way to start a new family tradition!

5.) Check out community or school theatre events

There are a great many works of theatre that everyone recognizes as "classics" despite the fact that very few people have seen them. If you asked someone to name a piece of ballet, most might come up with "The Nutcracker." It features songs that nearly everyone knows, like "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies." Yet, despite its fame, most people have never seen it.

Many performing arts schools and amateur dance troupes put on productions of "The Nutcracker" around Christmas-time. This can be a low-cost way to see a high-culture event. The ticket price is usually low and some organizations even offer free admission with a donation of canned goods. You and your family can take in a fancy show while supporting young and emerging artists. Look for posters in your local grocery store or other community establishments.

No matter what you do this holiday season, it'll be made special because you do it together. Have a safe and happy holiday!

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