7 Holiday Traditions to Try This Year – in Lieu of Gifts!

Ryan and I decided pretty early on that we weren’t going to do a traditional gift exchange for Christmas this year. You know that commercial with Steve Carrell as Santa, and it’s all about giving the gift of togetherness? It’s cheesy, but honestly nothing has ever felt more true for the season. So we’re choosing to focus on holiday activities – and little inexpensive “gifts” here and there – that we can enjoy all month and most importantly, together!

7 holiday traditions to try
Perhaps you’re in the same sleigh (I make myself laugh) and are looking for your own unique ways to enjoy this time without breaking the bank, so here’s 7 holiday traditions to try this year!


Use the the money you’d usually spend on each other to give back to a favorite charity! You may even opt to adopt a family or volunteer for a local cause close to your heart. I guarantee this will fill you up way more than Christmas gifts could, particularly in a year with a lot of struggle for many.


Think of this as a grownup advent calendar! Decide who gets even and odd number days – a game of rock, paper, scissors usually does the trick – and fingers crossed, win big! Bonus if you take your earnings, and donate them to a charity of your choice.


Depending on how you do stockings, maybe this still falls under the gifts category so forgive me for cheating a little bit. But, who doesn’t love a stocking full of mini goodies?! It’s a fun way to get creative without breaking the bank. We usually use stockings as an opportunity for funnies, inside jokes, and of course, CANDY. This also is a good way to support small businesses – here’s a few of my affordable Etsy picks!


So many holiday movies, so little time! To help get through all the classics and favorites, write down all the movies on pieces of paper (use cute gift tags for extra cheer!). Fold them all up, stick ’em in a jar, and take turns drawing the movie night holiday movie choice! It’s fun not knowing what movie you’re going to watch, and it helps avoid the inevitable back-and-forth of “What do you want to watch?” “I don’t care, what do you want to watch?” 😉


Indoor dining is still out of the question for a lot of us, so why not bring the experience home? It’s a good excuse to finally try out all those recipes you’ve been saving for years! Put each person in charge of a specific aspect of the meal – drinks, appetizer(s), main course, side(s) and dessert. Even better if you take the opportunity to get dressed up, and take a little break for some dancing in the kitchen to your favorite holiday tunes.


On your mark, get set, BAKE! Thanks to the Great British Bake-Off, we’re ready for our own competition. But with premade kits because there’s zero chance I’m also trying my hand at homemade gingerbread. Just like the show, set a time limit and get to work! You could even have friends or family via Zoom be the judges when finished.


Pick up Starbucks hot chocolate – or any hot beverage of your choice – and take a drive around your neighborhood to look at lights and decorations. It’s social distancing at it’s absolute best. Cozy pajamas are highly recommended!

What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Also, don’t forget that less can be more.

Leave a Comment


  1. 12.9.20

    Yes in these times I think these are wonderful ideas and a better way to celebrate the holiday season.

    Allie of

  2. 12.9.20
    SMD said:

    I love the scratch off idea!

    • 12.9.20
      Karly said:

      We started that tradition a couple years ago – one of our favorites!

  3. 12.2.20
    Alissa said:

    Even though I am a little cranky about holidays I think this is WONDERFUL! Eleanor is definitely getting her first stocking from me and I’m excited about that. I hadn’t even remembered stockings were a thing until your post!

    • 12.4.20
      Karly said:

      Yay! Eleanor will be so excited for a stocking. Finn knows exactly which one is his every year – it’s so cute!

  4. 12.2.20
    Debbie said:

    These are all wonderful ideas! The focus on togetherness is what is really important this year!