The Only Winter Bucket List You Need to get your Family Feeling Festive for the Holidays
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Winter is coming, and I love a good winter bucket list to get into the holiday spirit. It’s important to me to ensure that I don’t miss out on making memories with those I love. I love all the seasons, but winter is particularly festive with its chilly weather, spicy holiday flavours, social festivities and holiday traditions! Let’s dive into some fun activities included our winter bucket list!
This is the only winter bucket list you will need to get your family feeling festive for the holidays.
Holiday baking is my favourite way to be generous throughout the holidays. It’s also an amazing idea for all of those you want to acknowledge, without significantly increasing the financial burden of expanding your holiday budget.
My favourite way to gift holiday baking is to get one of those cute holiday tins from the dollar store or Amazon and fill it with a few different baked goods.
My criteria for the following recipes is that they are simple, fairly foolproof (I can recreate them and expect a similar result), and they are delicious. I don’t really care about the amount of sugar when it comes to holiday baking…everyone likes to try a few different treats during the holiday season.
My favourite recipes to bake each year are as follows:
- Homemade Tiger Butter;
- Chewy Ginger Cookies;
- Swig Sugar Cookies (for decorating);
- Butter Tarts;
- Candied Pecans;
- and a personal favourite, Peppermint Meltaway Cookies.
One major tip….do not store the Peppermint Meltaway Cookies with the others unless you want EVERYTHING to taste like peppermint forever. Seriously. My husband isn’t keen on peppermint and he the first year I made these peppermint cookies he was upset that the rest of the shortbread I made were peppermint-y, simply because I put them in the same tin. OOPS. Never again!
Another option for those who want to add a bit more variety would be to include some home-seasoned mixed nuts. I love red Thai curry seasoned nuts, but there are many other options out there: candied nuts, onion roasted nuts, ranch nuts, BBQ nuts, you name it!
And finally, a few pieces of equipment that make holiday way more convenient and fun are as follows:
- Silicon Baking Mats (reusable, easy to clean)
- Spring-loaded Festive Cookie Cutters
- Holiday Sprinkles and Icing
- Festive Apron
- I almost forgot Christmas music!
Decorate the Christmas Tree
Decorating the Christmas tree is sacred to me. In fact, I mostly say that because while everyone else’s desire to decorate the Christmas tree fluctuates, I am always an enthusiastic participant. It also usually involves holiday music or movies, which I also love. We’re not super controlling about what the tree looks like. We don’t have a theme. I grew up with a fake tree but the past three years we have gone and cut a fresh tree. My favourite part is the tradition of going to select and cut the tree, and the fresh tree smell. I have lots of ornaments that were handmade by my young niece, from when my husband and I were kids, and when our parents were kids.
Another fun idea, is that a couple years ago now, we did a swap where I traded some of our holiday ornaments for a few of my in-laws ornaments, as well as off my moms tree. So now I have fun mix of elegant ornaments, and really old glass bulbs. we also have a few hand made ornaments (stained glass and painted wood) ornaments from our travels and local arts coops. Finally, our tree is adorned with those frames that have a year and frame for a photograph, so we can look back on the past holiday memories we have. It is special to me that our ornaments tell a story and really bring out the good memories of the holidays.
Pick a Tradition
One of our traditions is to decorate the Christmas tree with family, and once the tree is finished, we all sit down to watch the classic ‘White Christmas”. We turn on some holiday music, get everyone a holiday bevvie and begin to decorate as a wood fire roars in the fireplace.
Everyone does their own part with the tree: My husband and his dad put the tree in the stand so it’s well supported, and put on the lights. My mom in law ‘stuffs’ the tree with ribbon, and I hang most of the ornaments with my niece, but everyone helps with that part. We all comment on each other’s efforts which usually provides for some good laughs! Finally my husband or his dad will place the star on the tree. Creating your own family tradition could be as simple, or as elaborate as pleases you. A couple ideas to give you some inspiration include:
- Unwrap and read a new book for the 12 days of Christmas;
- Decorate your tree with your family and watch a specific movie;
- Go for a drive or a big walk to look for holiday lights on Christmas Eve;
- Build a snowman after the first snowfall;
- Make a variety of holiday cookies and candy with your family to hand deliver to your neighbours and oldest family friends.
Watch Christmas Movies
You know, that classics! Actually, I may get carried away here. I LOVE Christmas movies. Each year the first Christmas movie I’m “allowed” to watch has to be either Die Hard or Trading Spaces. They each are set during winter but are less “Christmas-y” than many of the Hallmark movies.
Once I’ve successfully breached into holiday territory, bring on the rest of them!
It’s kind of funny. Holiday movies are so personal to how you grew up, like Christmas itself. It seems like family has their favourites. Some families will have the movies they watched year after year, and it may be one you never watched more than once! For example, I have heard many people speak fondly of A Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street…but neither were a huge part my holidays growing up. However, I’ll admit, I am wayyyy more festive than the rest of my family. I try to watch any and every holiday/winter movie possible. I am always watching new ones, and have been recently disappointed in the Netflix original Christmas movies. Mostly because they seem geared toward tweens, I think.
Regardless, I have a few of my own favourite holiday movies that I make sure I get to watch every single year:
- Santa Claus is Coming to Town (the old-school stop-action)
- Jack Frost
- The Grinch (the original cartoon version)
- Charlie Brown Christmas,
- Love Actually, and
- It’s a Wonderful Life
I watched Its a Wonderful Life for the first time inmy late 20’s and I feel in love with the message. I will be including it in my annual festivities for years to come. I found this movie as part of my mission to watch all of the holiday movies I could a few years ago, and it is such a beautiful story. If you haven’t seen this at least once, sit down and watch the whole thing. Not in the background, but with intent. Grab a candy cane and a hot chocolate for this holiday classic!
Host a Games Night with your Family and Friends
This could be an adult-only event or fun for the whole family! From Scrabble , Clue or Yahtzee to Cards Against Humanity, Settlers of Catan (my personal favourite) and Connect 4 for real young kids and adults alike!
Create homemade gifts
Pinterest might be the best resource for this one! I love gifts that someone put thought and their own effort into creating. It’s something I treasure. My personal favourite DIY gifts that I have given were homemade bath bombs, tins of various holiday baking, creating collages for print then framing them, and painting. I enjoy painting, and I don’t do it often enough, but I love gifting paintings, because they are totally unique.
Some homemade gift ideas that I would love to create include:
- I would love to get into canning and make pickles, salsa, red pepper jelly and jams;
- Heating pads will with rice and essential oils (I’d have to learn to sew);
- Beeswax candles;
- Etched (wood burned) wooden serving boards;
- Knitted throws, macrame plant hangers, crocheted toques….or anything else with holes in it…because I love how it looks!
Play in the Snow
If you don’t have snow at your fingertips, dedicate a weekend to finding some!
We live in a pretty mild climate in the Pacific Northwest, and on Vancouver Island in particular. We live near mountains, so we can always see if it has snowed up there. If it has, then we know we can go for a drive or a hike to find the snow.
Get bundled up, pack a picnic, and head off on an adventure!
If you do get snow regularly where you live, build a snowman, have a snowball fight, or go sledding. Celebrate the season and make memories best you can. Don’t forget to take pictures!
Practice Gratitude and Generosity
This is the perfect tradition to practice at Christmas, get you in the giving spirit and to teach lessons year round. Last year we were generous with a family we knew. They were three adults that didn’t have much. We said we would like to put together a box of food to bring them so they could prepare a holiday dinner together. A few days before Christmas my brother and I dropped off the box to the family with fixings for dinner and a few wrapped gifts.
We didn’t expect anything in return, and we were happy to brighten someones holiday.
This year my husband is spending his fun money on getting new parts to get a family member’s mountain bike up and running. He enjoys doing it and being generous toward family makes him feel good.
These are just a few examples to show generosity with money, but time is also an overlooked, but valuable thing to give. Whether to make memories with young ones or to help an overwhelmed family member with some yard work.
Time is meaningful and cheap to give if you are looking for ways to be generous without breaking your budget.
The holidays take place during a cold and dreary season. Elderly often are more isolated and can feel lonely this time of year. Make an effort to spend time with those you love.
I love to celebrate the holiday season, and a winter bucket list is a fantastic way to keep yourself looking forward to festivities. When it comes to the winter bucket list, the more people to join you, the merrier! See what you can do with your friends, family, neighbours, and extended family!
Be thoughtful, be thankful, make time, be generous, and make memories this holiday season with your winter bucket list. If you have any ideas to add, or wish to share an experience, I would love to hear your ideas and family traditions in the comments below! I’m always looking for new ways to celebrate the holidays!