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12 Ways To Make Your Holiday Extra Enjoyable

Ahhh...the holidays! They're here! And now, it's time to figure out what the heck is next. You've rushed around for weeks shopping, preparing food, baking cookies, and wrapping presents. Your family is on their way and it's time for the festivities. Whether your traditions are set in stone or you're looking for new ways to enjoy your time with family and friends, check out our 12 ways to make your holidays extra enjoyable.

1. Avoid texting. “Happy Holidays.” That’s right, no texting. Instead of texting “Happy Holidays,” CALL THEM and wish them a Happy Holidays in person. If they aren’t worth calling…don’t spend your precious day texting them.

2. Do something to make your holiday memorable. Last Thanksgiving eve, we went to a friend’s home who was hosting “Pie Night.” Everyone brings a pie…apple pie, pumpkin pie, shepherd’s pie, any kind of pie. Have a cookie night or cookie contest, where everyone brings their favorite cookie. I’m considering hosting a “Paleo” potluck, for my friends with similar dietary needs to mine.

3. Play a game. Games that can handle a lot of players like Dominos or Cards Against Humanity (depending on the kind of family you come from) are great ways to make new family memories. One of my fondest memories is playing Scrabble with my parents when I was a child. A few years ago, I bought my boyfriend Doug "Cards Against Disney" as a gift, and we played a hilarious game with his aunt and uncle.

4. Find a simple, holiday related craft project on Pinterest. Purchase supplies for everyone, and have everyone try to make it. If you're family is more competitive, try setting a timer for 10 minutes less than the directions suggest. See who can get their project to look the most like the picture.

5. Host a cookie decorating contest. Bake sugar cookies ahead of time, and have everyone decorate their cookie. Best looking cookie gets a special prize.

6. Celebrate your holiday in a different location. I took my mother to the beach for Christmas the year after my father passed. I knew she'd be grieving and it would be worse if we stayed home. I drove my father's 1957 Chevy Impala convertible with the top down. We put on Santa hats and drove to the beach for a picnic Christmas dinner. It was a little cold to get in the water, but everything else was perfect. If you're not in a location where there's a beach, perhaps a picnic area in a park or a cabin in the woods will do.

7. Watch Christmas movies. Every year, Doug and I watch holiday classes like “A Christmas Story,” "Elf," "The Santa Clause," and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” We turn on our electric fire place, make a hot cup of hot chocolate in the microwave and then snuggle up, just like they did in the old days, LOL.

8. Go see the holiday lights. Google some of the best places to see Christmas lights in your area, and take the family on a tour. Check to see if any of the locations from TV show Christmas Light Fight. Many tourist attractions that see reduced admissions in the winter months and offer Christmas lights as a means of getting people in the door.

9. Visit a theme park or a zoo. This is pretty easy for me to say in Florida, being 1-2 hours away from the best theme parks in the entire world including Disney, Universal Studios, and Busch Gardens. If you’re not up for the pricey admissions, both Universal and Disney have commercial shopping and hotel areas that are open to the public. Doug used to work at Disney and knows all the cool places to visit, including The Grand Floridian Hotel which boasts a huge gingerbread house.

10. Read a holiday book out loud to your children. Find a Christmas classic and have a story hour. If you have children who are learning how to read, have them read you a story. Here's a list of 25 books if you need a place to start.

11. Volunteer serving Christmas dinner at a local church or food bank. Delivering food to neighbors in need is very satisfying and makes you appreciate the life you have.

12. Make arrangements to have a secret Santa gift exchange. Everyone who wants to participate brings a wrapped gift valued up to $10-20. Everyone draws a number. #1 starts, and chooses a gift and unwraps it. #2 is next, and he/she can either take #1’s gift, or chooses a new gift. If he/she takes #1’s gift, #1 has to draw a new gift. Gifts can only be stolen up to 3 times, so make sure your best “rules follower” is keeping an eye on things. When everyone has gone, #1 can choose from any gift, respecting the “stolen 3 times” rule. Need more ideas? Here are some other gift exchange game ideas.

I hope you enjoyed these ideas...and I hope you'll share some of your ideas with me! Happy Hanukkah, and Merry Christmas!

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